HEY SHAUNA ART THERAPY BRAINSPOTTING
Brainspotting (BSP) is designed as a therapeutic tool that can be integrated into many of the healing modalities. If this is something you’d like to explore together, it can be integrated with an art therapy session, talk session, or done on it’s own. You can book a session through my online calendar, or if you have any questions please ask them.
BSP gives us access to both our brain AND our bodies …similar to bilateral stimulation (and Bilateral Drawing). It is a tool that helps us to locate, process, and release… all sorts of emotion, trauma, and body-based experiences.
The goal is to bypass the conscious thinking processes of the neocortex (our “thinky” brain) to get to the deeper more emotional and body-based processes from the sub-cortical part of the brain.
A neuroscience-informed practice
Brainspotting (BSP) works with locating gaze spots (brainspots) outside of our body …in our visual field… that connect with and “light up” pathways to deeper (older, subcortical) parts of our brain. The parts that hold unprocessed trauma – and an assortment of other unresolved, unprocessed bits & bobs…fragments, chunks, and shards. The parts of our brain where our fight, flight, shutdown/freeze responses happen.
“We don’t need to know WHAT it is, to know THAT it is”
Opening up these pathways and connections to our unresolved stories… feelings… blocks… while at the same time keeping our neocortex online (our “thinky” brain… that plans, responds, decides, intellectualizes, organizes) – allows us to process, release, and move through (finally) what hasn’t thus far …been processed, released, and moved through.
In contrast to… what happens when we experience dysregulation in situations where our bodies default to fight, flight, shutdown/freeze responses and our neocortex goes offline (in an effort to save energy/resources and protect ourselves from threat), and we aren’t able to fully process what we’re experiencing.
We already know how
Brainspotting is something that our bodies and brains already know how to do …we do it all the time.
If I was to ask about your 15th birthday party, it’s very likely that your eyes would move to different spots around your visual field (the room you’re in, the space around you) …as your brain tries to locate that memory. And those “spots” that you intuitively land on, are essentially brainspots… gaze spots. And this is where Brainspotting roots itself …in something that our brains already know how to do… find these spots, these connections. And when we add the container (therapist, co-regulation, witnessing/holding, intention, mindfulness, somatic awareness/guidance, space and time) …the shifts that we experience are profound.
For anyone who is already working with me, or who is familiar with art/somatic/body-based therapies …this protocol makes SO much sense alongside and in collaboration with art therapy. It fits.
It’s another way for us to bring our bodies into the conversation of our healing. We CANNOT think ourselves well, we have to tap into something deeper… our deeper brain, the wisdom of our bodies.
A general idea of what Brainspotting can look like in a session:
- You will identify a topic, experience, or concern that you’d like to focus on for the session.
- We’ll check in to see what’s happening for you emotionally, and inside your body (if you’re able to do that)…and identify an activation “level”.
- We’ll locate a brainspot (this is a collaborative process).
- Then, you will look at that spot …for however much time feels right for you, in that moment.
- We’ll see where it takes you, allowing the process to unfold organically. Giving your brain the time and space that it needs, to do the processing and releasing that it inherently knows how to do.
An introduction to the process that you can try on your own.
- With your eyes closed, think about something that has emotion attached to it (nothing too big or heavy for this particular activity). Maybe something that is mildly irritating, or exciting.
- Notice any feelings that come up for you …and also any physical sensations (eg: feeling warm/cold in a certain area of your body, maybe your heart rate increases or slows down, your shoulders drop a little, maybe you feel some pressure, weight, or tightness somewhere).
- Now, open your eyes …and at roughly eye level, for about 5 seconds in each spot: (1) look a little to your left, (2) look straight ahead, and (3) look a little to your right. Pausing after each 5-sec gaze to check-in with your emotions and body sensations again, to see if you notice any shifts, changes.
- This may (or may not) give you a tiny peek into the theory of “where we look affects how we feel”. If not… know that each day, moment, session can be very different… so if your experience is more neutral (you don’t notice any changes/shifts), on this day, in this moment …you’re not doing it wrong!
Brainspotting & Neurodivergence
This practice/protocol is rooted in honouring difference …there are no “norms” to bump into here, and the “space” and experience is very much open to creative curiosity.
- There are no “right” or “wrong” brainspots, and there are multiple possible access points to finding/choosing your spot(s).
- This is space that values stepping into agency, choice, preference, curiosity …which is where we build self trust, and learn ways to show up for ourselves (and our divergences) that FEEL supportive.
- This is a space and protocol that accommodates as much or as little talking as fits for you. Talking is not required.
- There is no “right” or “wrong” way for you to participate in this process. There is room, and an open invitation, to see where your brain takes you.
Brainspotting & Bilateral Sounds
BSP is even more powerful when used in combination with bilateral sound… sound tracks as a source of bilateral stimulation (and alternative to EMDR). For online sessions, this would be something you would setup at your end, listening through headphones at a low volume (so that you can still hear my voice throughout our session).
These sound tracks can be used by clients during sessions, and in between sessions for those that find it helpful/supportive.
- Stream David Grand’s BioLateral Sounds on Spotify (or I can send you downloadable audio files).
- Bilateral songs and sound tracks by Indigenous artists who have given their permission for use with BSP (audio files can be downloaded from this page).
That may feel helpful in understanding the process.
- Intro conversation by Mary Elkin (BSP trainer & counsellor)
- Sketch animation by Dr. Mark Grixti
- What is a Brainspot (David Grand)
- Why choose Brainspotting (David Grand)
- Brainspotting Canada resource list (articles, bilateral sound tracks)