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Brain-Spotting: A Revolutionary Approach to Trauma Healing

As noted in “How to Manage Trauma” from the National Council, 70% or 223.4 million U.S. adults experience trauma. Experiencing one or more traumatic events is a common part of life; many people recover from trauma and move forward. However, for some people, traumatic events can trigger the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thus, when your traumatic experiences harm your well-being, innovative strategies like brain-spotting can play a valuable role in your ability to establish and sustain lasting recovery.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), 5 in 100 or 5% of adults have PTSD in any given year. Yet, you may wonder what types of events can lead to PTSD or the level of distress you are experiencing. Trauma can come in many different forms and is a deeply personal experience that you respond to in unique ways. Some of the things trauma can stem from include:

  • Accidents and natural disasters
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Witnessing violence
  • Exposure to physical, sexual, and or emotional abuse
  • Childhood abuse, maltreatment, and/or neglect
  • Health crises
  • Exposure to war
  • Generational trauma

Your specific experiences with traumatic and stressful life events can make day-to-day life difficult. Feeling overwhelmed in your daily life is understandably frustrating, especially when it impedes your ability to function. You may feel lost on how to move forward and heal from your trauma. Through a diverse array of holistic approaches like brain-spotting, you can discover what types of treatments are best for you and your recovery.

At The Guest House, we believe each client will receive the most benefit from a highly personalized treatment plan. The traumas of life often manifest in a variety of ways, most often surfacing as self-defeating behaviors. Trauma can also trigger the development of substance use disorder (SUD) and other significant mental health challenges.

Moreover, it can be difficult to address those self-defeating behaviors when trauma becomes stuck in your body. Thus, having access to a wide range of innovative therapeutic modalities like brain-spotting can help address your specific needs. Through diverse therapeutic interventions like brain-spotting, you are given the space to build a personalized treatment plan to truly heal.

Yet, you may question what brain-spotting is. How can brain-spotting help you address and recover from trauma? You may even have questions about the concept of trauma being stuck in the body. Learning more about brain-spotting and the mind-body connection will give you more insight into how brain-spotting can support your healing.

What Is Brain-Spotting?

As Frank Corrigan and David Grand note in “Brain-Spotting: Recruiting the Midbrain for Accessing and Healing Sensorimotor Memories of Traumatic Activation,” brain-spotting is a brain-body-based psychotherapy. The brain-based modality of brain-spotting focuses on observing the bodily responses to describing traumatic experiences. Much like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which brain-spotting developed from, brain-spotting focuses on the use of eye movements to desensitize the intensity of distress associated with traumatic memories. Further, brain-spotting presents a resonating spot in your field of vision, highlighting where previously inaccessible traumatic material has been stored.

Furthermore, as the Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) notes, brain-spotting accesses the subcortical brain where traumatic material has been stuck. The subcortical brain is the region that is responsible for things like memory, emotion, motor control, motor learning, and behavior. By understanding the physical and emotional connection found in your distress, you can address and overcome the traumatic roots of your symptoms. Yet, you may question how the processing and release of traumatic material happens in brain-spotting.

As stated in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, brain-spotting explores the way people look or gaze as relational to emotional distress. During a typical brain-spotting session, your clinician will help guide you to a specific eye position that activates a psychophysiological response to a traumatic memory being discussed. The spot in which your eyes lock on acts as a visual point of activation for stuckness. In the context of traumatic experiences, stuckness leaves you feeling like you are unable to escape your pain. Such stuckness can cause you to engage in avoidance and other self-defeating behaviors in an attempt to cope.

As stated in “Traumatic Experiences: Getting Stuck and Unstuck” by Sheila Rauch and Barbara O. Rothbaum, getting stuck in your trauma can leave you feeling haunted by your pain. When you are overwhelmed by your distress, it increases the risk of SUD and PTSD, which harms long-term well-being. To best prevent this, brain-spotting can be used as a therapeutic tool that allows you to become more mindful about your inner experiences. Being mindful of your external and inner experiences gives space for deeper self-awareness and self-understanding. When you know yourself more deeply, you can work through the trauma that once felt so out of reach before.

Meanwhile, you may wonder how brain-spotting is different from other therapies. You may be aware that mental health disorders related to trauma, like PTSD, have long-supported histories with traditional therapies. Some traditional talk therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and EMDR have been great tools for healing from trauma. Thus, what makes brain-spotting a valuable therapeutic tool to support your healing and long-term wellness?

Differences Between Brain-Spotting and Traditional Therapies

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), psychotherapy or talk therapy is a variety of treatments that focus on helping you change difficult emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Much like brain-spotting, traditional therapies can help you address specific issues like self-defeating thinking and behaviors. However, an important part of treatment is building a plan of care that meets your individual needs. In this way, several interventions can be used or in combination with traditional therapies to support your recovery.

For example, exposure therapy is a type of CBT often used to treat difficulties with anxiety disorders. Through exposure therapy, you learn how to comfort fears associated with symptoms of anxiety. In a supportive environment, you learn how to tolerate your distress until the associated fear dissipates over time. Yet, even though exposure therapy has been incredibly effective for many people with anxiety, each person is different. As Robert W. Motta states in Alternative Therapies for PTSD: The Science of Mind-Body Treatments, prolonged exposure therapy (PE) is often used to help individuals with PTSD revisit their past traumas.

Specifically, PE is an intervention strategy in CBT used to help you gradually approach your trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations. PE is a valuable intervention because the fears attached to trauma lead to trigger avoidance, which can reinforce and perpetuate your distress. Like exposure therapy, however, PE is not an effective approach for everyone, as everyone’s experiences and needs for recovery are unique to them.

For instance, as Motta notes, engaging in PE can lead to intense anxiety, which can increase treatment dropout for individuals who truly need support to lead a fulfilling life. Therefore, access to alternative therapeutic interventions like brain-spotting provides more treatment options to support a diverse array of experiences and needs. Other holistic approaches to care – like mindfulness meditation, yoga, and animal and nature-assisted therapies – provide other avenues for learning how to process and build healthy coping tools for your long-term well-being.

Further, as a mind-body approach, brain-spotting can be used in combination with other traditional talk therapies to support your recovery. Holistic approaches to care allow you to dig deeper into how your specific challenges with trauma impact your life, relationships, and well-being. With more knowledge of alternative interventions, you can understand the value of mind-body approaches like brain-spotting for whole-person recovery.

Benefits of a Mind-Body Approach to Recovery

Mind-body interventions are integrative therapies and practices that focus on the interaction between your brain, mind, body, and behaviors. Brain-body practices and therapies like brain-spotting can have profound positive effects on your physical and psychological well-being. As noted in The New England Journal of Medicine, mind-body practices with guidance and consistent practice can decrease stress and symptoms while increasing your sense of well-being and even your sense of connectedness. Some of the physical ways mind-body practices can support your physical health and well-being through stress reduction include reducing the risk of:

  • Chronic pain
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stomach issues
  • Health condition-related fatigue

Moreover, mind-body therapies and practices can also support your mental well-being through stress reduction. Not only can mind-body practices support improvements with depression and anxiety, but integrative therapies and practices can also support stress reduction in PTSD. According to the Journal of Investigative Medicine, through various mind-body interventions through bodily awareness, you can deepen your self-understanding to reduce stress, improve health outcomes, and improve the quality of your life. Thus, looking at the wide variety of mind-body approaches to care can highlight the value of individual treatment plans to support trauma recovery.

Mind-Body Approaches to Healing

Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process. Therefore, incorporating traditional therapies and therapeutic modalities can give you the treatment plan that best suits you. Listed below are some examples of mind-body approaches that can enhance your awareness and interaction between your mind and bodily functions:

  • Mindfulness meditation: The use of various mindfulness techniques to focus on the present moment, accepting any thoughts and feelings that may arise
    • Reduces blood pressure
    • Decreases stomach issues
    • Improves sleep
    • Decreases anxiety and depression
  • Acupuncture: The insertion and removal of specialized needles into specific points on the skin, triggering physical changes and associated psychological changes
    • Decreases various physical pains
      • Chronic pain
        • Lower back pain
        • neck pain
        • Knee pain
      • Migraines
    • Reduces nausea and vomiting
      • After surgery and or chemotherapy
  • Yoga: The use of various postures and breathing techniques to mindfully connect to your body and mind
    • Reduces stress
    • Improves sleep
    • Decreases chronic pain
    • Improves mental health and well-being
      • Depression
      • Anxiety
      • PTSD
      • Calmness
    • Balances menopause symptoms
    • Improves breathing and heart health
    • Increases self-control
  • Aromatherapy: The use of essential oils as a support tool for calm and relaxation
    • Improves sleep
    • Reduces stress
    • Decreases anxiety
    • Reduces chemo-related nausea and vomiting
  • Biofeedback: A self-regulation technique in which you learn how to modify bodily processes to reduce distressing physical responses to negative thoughts and feelings like anger and fear
    • You can learn how to control things like your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and muscle tension
      • Can help with conditions that are typically exacerbated by stress
      • Increases self-awareness of the harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to your physiological responses
        • Addresses mental health and other challenges
          • Anxiety disorder
          • Panic disorder
          • Attention-deficit disorder (ADD)
          • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
      • Decreases stress
      • Reduces chronic pain and muscle tension
      • Decreases physical symptoms
        • Physical cancer symptoms
        • High blood pressure
      • Reduces migraines and tension headaches
      • Improves sleep and digestive issues
  • Deep breathing: A relaxation technique used to help reduce anxiety and stress
    • Can reduce health risks associated with:
      • High blood pressure
      • Heart disease
      • Immune system suppression
      • Anxiety
      • Depression
  • Music therapy (MT): The use of music as an intervention to alleviate distressing feelings and support self-expression and self-understanding
    • Can be incorporated in a variety of ways like listening to music, writing songs, singing, playing instruments, and movement
      • MT is effective for supporting both physical and psychological well-being
        • Decreases physical symptoms
          • Fatigue
          • Pain
          • High blood pressure
        • Improves communication, mobility, coordination, and endurance
        • Enhances memory
        • Encourages the expression of feelings
        • Reduces psychological symptoms
          • Anxiety
          • Stress and distress
          • Depression
  • Art therapy (AT): The use of different art forms to encourage self-expression, self-awareness, and self-understanding for psychological well-being
    • Can support recovery from a variety of difficulties like trauma, illness, and mental well-being
    • Various art forms can include drawing, painting, crafting, sculpting, dancing, movement, and theater
      • Helps with expressing difficult-to-access emotions
      • Improves communication and interactions with others
      • Increases mental health well-being
        • Reduces the severity of symptoms related to
          • Cancer
          • Parkinson’s disease
          • Anxiety disorders
          •  Schizophrenia
        • Support more adaptive coping tools
      • Decreases physical symptoms
        • Chronic pain

With a deeper understanding of the wide range of mind-body therapies, you can see the value of individualized treatment. Moreover, the relationship between your physical and psychological well-being highlights the need for integrative and holistic treatment plans. Now that you have insight into brain-spotting and the concept of mind-body interventions, you can understand the bodily impact of trauma on your well-being.

Supporting Trauma Healing With Brain-Spotting

As noted in the BJPsych Bulletin, trauma – whether threatened physically or socially – arises as a defensive response in the midbrain. Your response to triggers of your trauma then becomes stored in the body beyond your conscious awareness. When trauma gets stuck in the body, it becomes more difficult or unavailable in word-based interventions. As a result, you can become trapped in a cycle of fight, flight, freeze, hide, avoid, attach, submit, and despair in your body and mind.

Therefore, the stuckness of your trauma in your body and the disconnect between your brain and body awareness both highlight the challenges of talk therapy alone for recovery. The use of mind-body therapies like brain-spotting makes awareness of your physiological and emotional responses to traumatic material possible. At the root of healing from trauma is not following one specific path but uncovering support tools that address your specific challenges. With access to a wide range of traditional psychotherapies and therapeutic modalities, you can truly heal as an individual.

Finding Healing at The Guest House

At The Guest House, we know that challenges with self-destructive behaviors and mental health disorders are often rooted in unhealthy coping with trauma and stress. Therefore, we are committed to providing diverse therapy options for your unique experiences and needs. Through our commitment to individualized care, you can take full advantage of a wide range of support services to customize your recovery plan. With access to diverse and innovative modalities like brain-spotting, you have the space to try out different therapies to find the right fit for you.

Moreover, through a holistic approach to treatment and recovery, you will be treated in mind, body, and spirit as a whole person. You can combine traditional therapies like individual therapy and group therapy with a variety of mind-body modalities like meditation, yoga, and conscious-connected breathwork. When recovery is focused on your individualized experiences and needs, you can truly start to heal from your trauma and find lasting recovery to lead a fulfilling life.

Trauma is often rooted in self-defeating behaviors, mental health disorders, and physical health issues. Your trauma can get stuck in your body and manifest in ways that you are not aware are responses to traumatic material. When you are unaware of the mind-body relationship of your trauma, it can be difficult or impossible to access the trauma through word-based interventions like traditional talk therapy. Therefore, innovative mind-body modalities like brain-spotting can give you the space to first uncover the trauma in the body to process and release it. At The Guest House, we are committed to providing customizable recovery plans to support self-awareness and the interconnection of your inner experiences on your recovery journey. Call us at (855) 483-7800 today.