If you live with anxiety, PTSD, phobias, and similar issues, you’re probably eager to learn more about effective ways to find healing.
In the past, therapists often struggled to know how to help clients whose traumatic histories and anxiety proved resistant to traditional therapy. Standard talk therapy didn’t always help clients make the breakthroughs they needed. Little was known about how the brain itself stores and processes these emotions.
Several decades ago, however, researchers and therapists began to discover exciting new information. They found ways to address the roots of emotional struggles at their core: the brain’s amygdala region. Helping clients work through trauma, fear, and anxiety became possible more than anyone realized.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and Brainspotting are the official names of these relatively new treatment options. While similar, they have critical differences.
EMDR developed in the 1980s when therapists began to find that it was helpful for their clients suffering from PTSD due to sexual assault or combat experience. It relies upon bilateral stimulation to help re-process traumatic or anxiety-creating memories in the brain.
Bilateral stimulation means that both hemispheres of the brain receive input, alternating quickly from one side to the other. Experts initially accomplished this through rapid movements of the eye from side to side. The therapist can use their finger or a pointer moving back and forth to achieve this, or clients can track a moving light across a screen.
The same treatment can occur with other bilateral stimulation, however. Patients can use headphones to provide alternating auditory tones or hold gentle vibrating devices in each hand. Some people find these options to be less stimulating because they can close their eyes.
The EMDR process allows individuals a nonverbal, effective way to re-process the painful memories stored in the amygdala. This part of the brain is responsible for controlling the fight, flight, or freeze reaction that seeks to protect us. EMDR helps release these memories and helps people shed their anxiety symptoms.
Some individuals consider Brainspotting a child of EMDR. Rather than relying on bilateral stimulation with eye movement it uses bilateral music. Therapists then work with the client to identify the specific topic and sensation in their body. Once that has happened they find a brain spot that increases the sensation. So, “where you look affects how you feel.”
Similar to EMDR, Brainspotting does not require a great deal of talking through issues to resolve them. Rather, once the therapist and client identify a spot, they allow the brain’s neurological connections to reprocess the event on its own.
Therapists find that brainspotting is more flexible and adaptable than EMDR is. Likewise, some clients prefer it for this reason.
Which Is Right for You?
Both of these therapeutic approaches offer tremendous benefits to those with mental health issues. They’re not only appropriate for anxiety and PTSD but also depression.
Therapy rooted in the biophysiological responses of the body offers deep nuances that go beyond talk therapy. The human body is an intricately connected system of thoughts, emotions, and physical reactions. What happens in one system affects all of the others. This dynamic is one reason behind the effectiveness of these approaches.
As a therapist trained in EMDR and certified in Brainspotting, I am skilled at working with clients to evaluate which approach is right for you. I have seen both methods help clients make remarkable breakthroughs and find healing.
Everyone’s situation is unique and calls for careful evaluation of the right therapeutic approach, of course. I invite you to contact my office or visit my Brainspotting page to find out more.