Category: Therapy

Brainspotting: Questions & Answers

Why use Brainspotting? What does it do?

When we experience an emotionally intense, frightening or traumatic event, it may overwhelm us.  If that overwhelm does not naturally resolve, the experience gets ‘stuck’ in the body (the central nervous system) leaving us overly-sensitive and overly-reactive.  It also then diminishes or distorts our sense of self. 

Brainspotting works with those stuck memories so they can resume being naturally processed and it seeks to repair and strengthen our sense of self.  In the end, you will still have the memories, but they will no longer be as upsetting; you may still have present-day situations which are challenging, but they will no longer be triggering; rather situations will feel more manageable because you will feel more grounded, balanced and empowered.

 

 

 

What issues can Brainspotting be useful for?

Although both EMDR and Brainspotting are best known for resolving traumas and addressing PTSD-like symptoms, they are now being applied to ease anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours.  Most recently, and in concert with positive psychology, both are being applied to enhance peak performance and boost self-confidence and concentration

 

Why use the Bi-lateral sound?

The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.  Our left brain thinks, uses language and solves problems. Our right brain is intuitive, emotional and involved in body functions. When we are overwhelmed with emotion and can’t think straight, our right brain has taken over.  When we are overly analytical and cut off from our emotions, we are stuck in our left brain.  But when we are feeling integrated and performing well, our right and left brains are interacting with each other effectively. The Brainspotting approach uses tactile pulsars or auditory recordings to provide the bilateral movement while finding an eyespot or Brainspot somehow connected to what’s being focussed on and which will enhances processing.

 

What is a “Brainspot?”

A “Brainspot” is the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic or emotionally charged issue within the brain, most likely in the amygdala, the hippocampus, or the orbitofrontal cortex of the limbic system. Located by eye position, paired with externally observed and internally experienced reflexive responses, a Brainspot is actually a physiological subsystem in the body and nervous system holding emotional experience in memory form.

 

How do therapists Identify “Brainspots”?

Brainspotting is usually done with both eyes but may also be done with one. A therapist identifies a Brainspot by waving a pen-shaped object in a specific pattern in front of the patient’s eyes, and when the pen-like object comes across a Brainspot, the deep brain will reflexively signal to the therapist that a Brainspot has been found. This happens outside of the patient’s consciousness. These reflexive signals can include (all without the patient being aware of these happening) an eye twitch, facial tic, brow furrow, facial tic, pupil dilation/constriction, swallows, yawns, coughs, foot movement or body shifting. Among these signals, facial expressions are the strongest indicators of a Brainspot.

The identification of a reflexive response that indicates a Brainspot hints at the somatosensory experience of the trauma, emotional or somatic problem. By finding these Brainspots, the therapist is triggering these somatosensory experiences in the patient. To access the Brainspot and the emotions that can follow, the therapist holds the patient’s eye position while the patient focuses on the experience of the symptom being accessed by the Brainspotting.

The therapist and patient can also work together to find the Brainspots. The patient participates in this by letting the therapist know, during the Brainspotting scan, when he or she feels any heightened intensity, either physically or emotionally.

 

How Does Brainspotting Act as A Healing Agent Against Trauma?

The way that Brainspotting heals is that it helps the person process the trauma, or overhwhelm that lies within him or her. When the therapist accesses a Brainspot, the person experiences the distress that is associated with that Brainspot. The person then experiences the physical or emotional pain that presents itself, and the person can experience it in a safe, comfortable setting in the presence of the therapist. Over time, accessing this trauma in a safe environment will help the brain to break away from the associated trauma.

Within the field of psychology, professionals have come to realize that when someone experiences trauma, whether it be emotional or physical, it is held in the body. This trauma, potentially caused by a variety of events, such as a serious physical illness, acute or chronic pain, or life trauma in general, can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and one way that professionals can help to target and locate that pain is through Brainspotting.  Therapists use Brainspotting to target these areas of trauma stored in the body from previous traumatic experiences.

These traumatic experiences become stored in the body typically because the traumatized person has not had the means to properly deal with the trauma that he or she has experienced. Because the traumatic experiences have not been properly dealt with, they become a part of the person’s “trauma reservoir”, which can manifest in other physical and emotional symptoms.

 

How does a typical session go?

Here is a basic description of how Brainspotting works. The therapist acts as a guide, but you are in charge of your own process. You might begin with a few minutes of relaxed breathing and listening with headphones to BioLateral sound. You pay attention to the place in your body where you feel the most distress. You give a ‘0 to 10’ rating for the level of distress you feel, and then the therapist helps you find an eye position (“Brainspot”) – a point in front of you where the eyes naturally focus when your pain feels the strongest.

The therapist acts as a support and facilitator in helping you to slowly and safely move through the awareness that unfolds inside after finding the Brainspot. You and the therapist focus deep moment-to-moment attention on the troubles presented by this one neural pathway. What comes up? This is different for every individual and in every session. It may be visual images, memories, a few words, sensations in the body, forgotten sounds, and various feelings.

The point is to allow and witness these natural “leftover” responses from the trauma to surface. The individual is free to just experience the associations or they can share it in words with the therapist as they go along. You may periodically re-rate the distress and shift to another Brainspot. By the end of the session, your rating of the distressed state is most often lower and your “felt sense” of the suffering is lessened. A gentle release of energy happens with the process, which may be felt physically as tingling, slight shaking (like from a chill), or a need to stretch. This is the body’s natural response to “unfreezing” what was held from the past. You are also likely to experience a lasting mental relief upon realizing that this disturbance from long- go is no longer upsetting to you.

An after-sense of change stays with you outside the session in everyday life. When Brainspotting is facilitated within the context of a caring therapeutic relationship, it feels safe, non invasive and contained.

 

The Impact of Brainspotting

Brainspotting does not require “reliving the trauma” as much as it “releases the trauma from the memory.” After a number of Brainspotting sessions, it is possible to no longer see the images of any disturbing traumatic memories or feel the pain, upset and distress from the chronic or acute incidents of trauma. As a result, many signs and symptoms of trauma in the system eg. depressed and fluctuating moods, excessive anxiety, flashbacks, and dissociation – gradually became resolved and disappeared.

Afterwards you can learn to practice paying attention to what is happening inside at each moment (called mindfulness) outside of sessions. This gradually helps to end the need for defensive dissociation (cutting off from feelings, emotions, bodily sensations). An ability to safely re-associate thoughts, feelings and sensations becomes more of a continuous state of being.

If you would like to try Brainspotting, you can book an initial ‘experiential’ session at £25. Fill in the form on the contact page to make a booking.

therapy

Don’t feel like going to therapy? Tell your therapist

There will come a day, after months of waiting, desperate for some kind of help, that you won’t want to do therapy.

This might coincide with the time you decide to stop taking your meds, out of some mixture of not feeling that they’re working anymore, the return of your self-destructive impulses, and your self-reassurance that actually you’re fine.

You will consider not showing up in your counsellor’s office or in the online waiting room.

You’ll try to come up with excuse beyond ‘I don’t have the energy’, ‘I just don’t want to’, and ‘I don’t want to be told that what I’m doing isn’t healthy, because right now I don’t want to be healthy.’

You’ll want to avoid your therapist for all kinds of reasons that you don’t entirely understand.

There will be days when you’re tired of admitting that you’re struggling, tired of being a ‘person in therapy’, and you’ll want to just sack it off and do something fun, ‘normal’.

There’ll be days when you genuinely think you’re doing brilliantly, and really don’t see the point.

There’ll be days when you’re at your lowest, and you can’t stand the idea of having to admit that to the person who’s working hard to help you get better.

These days will come after months on waiting lists, of searching for therapists, of ranting about how much you need some care.

You’ll grumble at yourself for being unappreciative. But the therapy-dread won’t budge.

Sometimes you’ll explain that something came up at the last minute. Other times you’ll push yourself through the dread and get your butt to therapy – usually because you feel too guilty about letting your therapist down rather than any sudden excitement about working on your mental health.

Most of the time, when you do end up going, you’re glad you did afterwards.

Therapy’s a lot like going to the gym.

You know you should go. You know it’s good for you. But you also know it’s bloody hard, and the sweet relief of putting it off and doing something unhealthy instead is brilliant enough to make you think skipping it is a good idea.

But when you do push through, lace up your trainers, and work out, you feel brilliant afterwards.

And it’s the same with therapy.

It’s okay to sometimes dread it. It’s okay to resent having the commitment, especially when you find yourself turning down fun plans because you have an appointment at 6pm.

But it’s the days when you dread it that you likely need therapy the most.

Therapy isn’t easy. It can sometimes feel like a chore, and it’s a weekly reminder that while everyone else seems (emphasis on seems, because it’s rarely the reality) to have everything together and be able to go forth and live without any baggage, you’re reliant on some extra help.

It’s easy to convince yourself not to go.

You focus on the unpleasant bits – the awkwardness, the tears, the frustration of having to put in work when all you want it to just hurry up and be better.

You tell yourself it’s not working. You tell yourself it is working, but you’ve already learnt everything you need.

You bend over backwards to justify not doing therapy, because your brain, as it so often does, tells you not to take care of yourself.

Remember that when this happens, it’s not the logical part of your brain that’s talking, or the part that actually cares about your wellbeing.

It’s the bit you’re working on, the bit with the destructive impulses, and the patterns that you’re trying to break down, and all the negative stuff.

This bit of your brain doesn’t want what’s best for you.

It wants you to sit out therapy so it can step in and make you feel rubbish, uninterrupted. It’ll tell you you’re a mess because you need therapy, and that you should feel guilty because you didn’t go, and that you don’t need therapy all in one spiral of crap thoughts.

That part of your brain can be tricky to ignore. But you have to try to drown it out.

Remind yourself that just like working on your physical health, working on your mental health gets easier as you go – but you have to keep going. Otherwise you don’t get the benefits, and it seems like a massive waste of time.

Know that pre-therapy dread is normal, but remember how much more positive and equipped you feel after a session.

If you find yourself dreading it week in, week out, and end up miserable after every session, that’s a sign you may need to change things up and talk to your doctor about getting a different therapist.

But if it’s just the occasional pre-therapy dread, don’t worry too much – you’re not failing and you’re not being unappreciative, it’s just that natural human impulse we all have to avoid doing something we know is good for us because it requires some effort.

Push through. Force yourself to do therapy even when you’re really not feeling keen, because at the end of the session, you’ll be glad you did.

And hey, feel free to bring all these feelings up in your therapy session. That’s kind of what it’s there for.

This article is part of Getting Better, a weekly series about a journey through getting help with mental health. 

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2017/08/07/sometimes-youll-dread-therapy-6833162/#ixzz4pOEImUG4

Brainspotting

I recognise I have a naturally skeptical part of me. So when I met with Mark Grixti (Chartered Clinical Psychologist, Systemic Therapist and EMDR Consultant) and he started to talk about Brainspotting, a new approach which he said had transformed his practice, I raised my eyebrows. Brain? Spotting? It was a new therapy discovered by one on the most experienced EMDR practitioners, David Grand, Ph.D, he explained. He had been using it very successfully with his clients. He was one of 9000 practitioners worldwide and he was now the UK trainer. I listened to him go on to describe how it worked with great enthusiasm. 

He suggested the best way to understand how it worked, was to experience it first hand and come to the next training. Since luckily I also have a very curious part, I signed up straight away. I bought David Grand’s book and I set off to London with a slight sense of trepidation. I read it acted in deep and primitive areas of the brain. That it provided direct access to the autonomic and limbic systems of the central nervous system. I knew it was going to be different to my previous training. Thankfully, there was an excited part of me that was very keen to experience this new approach for myself and learn it so I could also use it with my clients.

The training was very intense. I, and a group of other highly experienced psychologists, psychiatrists, EMDR practitioners and psychotherapists, all went through the training and practiced Brainspotting on each other. We all experienced the power of this approach. This was beyond EMDR, a proven evidence based technique already used within the NHS. It followed the client, it worked in a very focused way with the field of vision and the body via the limbic and deep brain; our “unconscious processes” in the language I was more familiar with. It stressed what had been told to me by Mark; that where we look changes how we feel. 

I will admit to having a profound experience. I had a shift in an issue I had previously worked on for several years in therapy. The shift happened over the course of the training and I noticed it consolidating in the weeks that followed as the processing continued. I felt differently. As I kept bringing the issue to mind, there seemed to be less of a reaction in my mind and body than there had been.

I went back to my practice and began to notice how my clients seemed to focus on one spot as they spoke; “gaze spotting” as David Grand, the founder described it. So I used the technique with my clients, I worked with these “Brainspots”. I followed their process, through the body. I have since been privileged to witness some powerful experiences and results. 

Let me be clear, I don’t believe in magical cures and this is not, as no therapy approach can be, a cure all, quick fix to every problem with every person. What it can offer is a different, deeper, often faster way of processing a range of issues within a safe and trusting therapeutic relationship. It offers the potential to access the unconscious or “out of awareness” deeply held thoughts and feelings. Such processing, or as Freud called it ‘working through’ can take longer with purely talking therapies that work with and process more directly through the Neo-Cortical, analytical, or conscious parts of the brain. It is a different way to get in touch with our feelings in an embodied way; a deep and focused means of accessing emotions safely within the therapeutic relationship. It can also help to promote self regulation through working at the edges of the “Window of Tolerance” (as described by Daniel Siegel). 

I invite clients to experience this technique and use it when I feel that perhaps a person feels stuck or when they find it hard to be in their bodies and access deeper, unconscious feelings. 

If you are interested to find out more or experience Brainspotting, please get in touch. I’d be very happy to discuss it further and/or to give a demonstration during an initial session.

claire@brightontalktherapy.com

+44 7557 656960

What is Group Therapy?

Group psychotherapy, like Individual therapy,  can help with a wide range of emotional difficulties. It is however particularly suited to anyone wishing to gain insight and improve the way they relate to others. Being in a therapy group offers an opportunity to explore the types of interaction we may tend to get into with other people. It offers the chance to find out how we are seen by others through receiving feedback from the group. A therapy group can be seen as a microcosm of society.  It can not only help us to learn how we relate to others, it can offer an opportunity to examine and understand the impact upon us of the relationships we have with each of the groups we find ourselves in such as our families, work, organisations and the wider community.

 
Group Therapy: Frequently Asked Questions

 

Is group therapy suitable for the difficulties I am facing? 

Group Therapy can help people with a wide variety of difficulties and problems ranging from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or just feeling stuck. Groups are particularly helpful for addressing interpersonal difficulties with, for example, family members, friends, in intimate relationships and in social groups.

How might a group help me?

Many people find the group a source of support as they come to realise that they are not alone with their problems. People discover their strengths as they find they can help, as well as be helped, by others. Each group member can learn from the number of different perspectives and personal experiences available within the group. Over time, greater awareness of oneself and others develop through group interaction. All these things can provide the basis for long-term change in how one thinks, feels and behaves in life.

Group therapy sounds interesting but the idea scares me. Does this rule me out?

Not at all. The idea feels daunting to most people initially. Your individual appointment with the group therapist will help you work out whether your fears are likely to be overwhelming and whether they are balanced by some hope and interest in what a group can offer.

How is group therapy different from support groups and self-help groups?

Therapy groups are different from support and self-help groups in that they not only help people cope with their problems, but also provide for change and growth. Support groups help people cope with difficult situations at various times but are usually geared toward alleviating symptoms. Self-help groups usually focus on a particular shared symptom or situation and are usually not led by a trained therapist.

It’s hard to imagine what a group would be like. Can you give me an idea?

The groups meet weekly in the group therapy room. Each group meets for one-and-a-half hours. There are a maximum of eight people and a minimum of three people in each group, a mixture of men and women, with a variety of problems.

We sit together in a circle of chairs. There is no agenda or structure for each meeting. People do not take turns. Group members are encouraged to put into words their thoughts and feelings at their own pace. Usually common themes develop as one person’s issues will set off thoughts and ideas in others. The focus shifts between talking about particular problems outside the group, problems in the past, to interpersonal issues in relation to the group and between group members.

What is the group therapist’s role?

It is the responsibility of the therapist to ensure the safe and therapeutic facilitation of the group. The main focus is on building safety and trust in the group. The therapist will also help people work through difficulties with other members, which do occur from time to time. The group therapists role may be more active or may take more of a back seat depending on the needs of a particular group or individual.

I’m worried that I might meet someone I know in the group. Is that a problem?

The group therapist tries to ensure that group members do not know each other. Although group members often form close relationships during their time in the group, everyone makes a commitment not to develop friendships or intimate relationships outside the group while they are attending therapy. This is important for therapeutic safety, to avoid subgroups or breaching the confidentiality of the group setting, which is very important. However, inevitably members may bump into each other or see each other around and group members are encouraged to bring such incidents back to the group for discussion.

Are there any eligibility criteria?

Some problems are not suitable for group treatment, but its best to talk this through with a therapist or the group therapist.

What commitment is required from me?

Joining a group is a commitment, with members needing to take responsibility for attending the group each week and being on time. As sometimes happens in individual therapy, group therapy can be uncomfortable or challenging at times and sometimes leads to thoughts of dropping out or leaving. However, being able to talk about frustrations and stick with the group through such difficult times can be very beneficial

How do I go about joining a group and how much does it cost?

Each group therapy session costs £20 and the initial half hour meeting would be charged at £10.

If you are interested to find out more, please do get in touch.

 

What is Brainspotting?

Norman Doidge, MD. FRCPC, author of “The Brain That Changes Itself”:

“David Grand is one of the most important and effective psychological trauma therapists now practicing, and his development of Brainspotting is a very important leap forward in helping people resolve trauma. Brainspotting is a remarkable, sophisticated, flexible addition to the therapeutic toolkit of any psychotherapist. I know because I use it regularly and find that, combined with the psychoanalytic approaches I normally practice, the results are astonishingly helpful. Using it, one becomes amazed at the extent to which our traumas can be detected in our ordinary facial and eye reflexes and how, by using these windows to inner mental states, many traumas and symptoms can be rapidly relieved. Grand writes clearly, and the cases, dramatic as they are, are not exaggerated.”

From the founder of Brainspotting, David Grand, Psychotherapist: