brainspotting, brainspotting what is brainspotting?

Brainspotting was created in 2003 by clinical social worker David Grand. While conducting eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) he found that certain spots in the visual field appeared to be specifically linked to a person’s internal emotional experience. He called these “brain spots” and believed that they enabled the client to access emotions at a subcortical level. Like EMDR, brainspotting has been primarily used to treat trauma, but it claims to do so at an even faster rate. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Brainspotting and how does it work?

Brainspotting is a brief mind-body therapy. Although you may see gains from brainspotting after one session, at least four to six hour-long sessions are likely needed for optimal effectiveness.

Here are the basic principles you need to know:

Brain/Body activation

Brainspotting posits that identifying a brainspot in the visual field activates the parts of the nervous system that hold traumatic memories and other emotions. Further, by concentrating on the particular brainspot, it is hypothesized that the individual processes and releases neurophysiological sources of pain, trauma, and other problematic symptoms. While understanding all the parts of the activated neural pathway may require an advanced medical degree, preliminary research does suggest that the theory behind brainspotting may be structurally sound.

Dual attunement

Dual attunement refers to the coordinated role that the client and therapist play in brainspotting. The therapist will instruct the client to follow a pointer (or finger) across their visual field. While the therapist is observing the client for cues of distress, the client pays close attention to what is happening inside of them. When a brain spot is discovered, the therapist helps the client focus on it and process the related emotions.

Focused mindfulness

Focused mindfulness is when an individual concentrates on a brain spot while remaining open and withholding judgment and expectation. This can be difficult due to the flood of emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations that may accompany the activation process. When executed successfully, focused mindfulness leads to a deeper level of processing and healing.

Inside and outside window

Outside window is a technique when a therapist looks for physical cues of discomfort from the client while sweeping across their visual field. The therapist must be highly observant during this process. The signs of strain that the client displays indicate to the therapist the possible location of a brainspot.

Inside window refers to a client finding their own brainspot by recognizing increased levels of distress when concentrating on a certain point in their visual field.

Bilateral sounds

Similar to EMDR, brainspotting uses bilateral sounds to enhance the activation process. Bilateral sounds are usually music or tones that alternate between each ear to activate both hemispheres of the brain. It is thought these sounds help to decrease the fight or flight response and engage the calming parasympathetic nervous system.

Minimal therapist intervention

Brainspotting uses less therapist intervention than EMDR. It is thought that the activation process can facilitate healing on its own. Verbal processing of thoughts and feelings is indeed implemented, but more so at the end of a session rather than intertwined throughout. The therapist’s role is still important, especially in providing guidance, processing feelings, and creating the appropriate atmosphere. However, clients should not expect the therapist to play as dominant a role as in traditional talk therapy.

Resource spotting

Resource spotting occurs when a client is asked to recognize spots in their visual field where they feel most calm, grounded, and peaceful. These spots are found the same way as a person identifies brainspots. Resource spotting can be used as a balm to counteract the challenges of coping with difficult emotions brought about by the activation process.

Is Brainspotting therapy legitimate?

As with any new type of treatment, high-quality research on brainspotting lags behind anecdotal evidence praising its effectiveness. As such, it is not yet listed as an evidence-based practice by the American Psychological Association.

That said, several studies point to the potential of brainspotting as a viable treatment for several types of problems.

  • Brainspotting was found to be more effective than cognitive-behavioral therapy-and as effective as EMDR-in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. However, this study has yet to be published in any scientific journal and is only listed on the brainspotting website.

  • Brainspotting also claims to help reduce physical pain and sports performance anxiety but there is only anecdotal evidence to support these assertions.

Training resources

As a newer therapy, training in brainspotting is not as pervasive as some other treatments, such as EMDR.

You will find that most of the resources are directly linked to creator David Grand, Ph.D. and his close collaborators.

  • If you want to become a certified brainspotting practitioner you need to go through the training offered by Brainspotting Trainings, LLC. You can find the necessary information here.

  • PESI also offers a six-hour digital seminar on brainspotting presented by creator David Grand, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Grand explains the complexities of brainspotting in a comprehensive 25-minute video.

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Brainspotting is a brief and highly specialized therapy primarily used for treating trauma. Although it shares similarities to EMDR, it relies more on neurophysiological activation than therapist intervention. It is also quite new and its efficacy has yet to be fully established.


If you would like more information about brainspotting and other relevant psychotherapies, Theraplatform, an all-in-one teletherapy, practice management, and electronic documentation software for clinicians, has what you need. Try a 30-day free trial of Theraplatform today. No credit card required. Cancel anytime.


Anderegg, J. (2015). Effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder.

Corrigan, F., & Grand, D. (2013). Brainspotting: recruiting the midbrain for accessing and healing sensorimotor memories of traumatic activation. Medical hypotheses, 80(6), 759–766.

D'Antoni, F., Matiz, A., Fabbro, F., & Crescentini, C. (2022). Psychotherapeutic Techniques for Distressing Memories: A Comparative Study between EMDR, Brainspotting, and Body Scan Meditation. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(3), 1142.

Gurda, Kjerstin. (2015). Emerging Trauma Therapies: Critical Analysis and Discussion of Three Novel Approaches. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 24. 773-793.

Hildebrand, A., Grand, D., & Stemmler, M. (2017). Brainspotting – the efficacy of a new therapy approach for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in comparison to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 5.

Muller, R.T. (2023, March 20). Brainspotting: A Possible Treatment for Trauma? Psychology Today.

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