A Deeper Look: Brainspotting Vs. EMDR in Trauma Therapy

In the world of psychotherapy and trauma treatment, numerous therapeutic approaches have emerged, each with its unique methods and philosophies. Two such methods that have gained recognition and popularity are Brainspotting and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). While both are effective tools in addressing trauma and emotional distress, they differ in their approaches and techniques. Here at Authentic Connections Counseling Center in Castle Rock, we offer both methods of treatment and want to inform you on the key differences between Brainspotting and EMDR to help you better understand how each can be utilized to facilitate healing.

Origin and Development:

Let’s begin by delving into the origins of these therapeutic approaches. EMDR, created by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, is based on the idea that traumatic memories can be processed and integrated using bilateral stimulation, typically in the form of eye movements. It is structured and follows a specific eight-phase protocol.

On the other hand, Brainspotting was developed by Dr. David Grand in the early 2000s. It stemmed from EMDR, but it focuses on a more flexible and organic approach. Brainspotting relies on the therapist’s attunement to the client’s unique needs, emphasizing the importance of where the client’s eyes naturally land when processing traumatic experiences.

Mechanism of Action:

EMDR utilizes bilateral stimulation to help clients process and reframe traumatic memories. This can be done through our therapist guiding the client’s eye movements, tapping, or auditory cues, stimulating both hemispheres of the brain. The goal is to desensitize the distressing memory and facilitate reprocessing.

Brainspotting, however, primarily revolves around the concept of “where you look affects how you feel.” Instead of prescribed eye movements, our therapists help the client identify a “brainspot,” which is a specific eye position that corresponds to the emotional or physical experience of the trauma. Our therapist then guides the client to focus on this spot, allowing for deep processing and release of emotional tension.

Flexibility and Customization:

One of the key distinctions between the two approaches is the level of flexibility they offer. EMDR follows a set protocol that guides our therapists through distinct phases, while Brainspotting allows for a more intuitive and client-centered experience.

In EMDR, our therapists and clients work together through eight clearly defined phases, following a structured process. Our therapist’s role is more directive, and there is less room for deviation from the protocol.

Conversely, Brainspotting offers a more flexible, client-driven approach. Our therapist supports the client in exploring their unique emotional landscape and determining the pace of the process. This allows for a deeper connection between the client and our therapist’s and greater adaptability in addressing the client’s needs.

Targeted Issues:

Both Brainspotting and EMDR have been found effective in addressing trauma, but they may be better suited to different types of issues. EMDR is often recommended for clients with specific traumatic memories, such as single incident traumas or phobias. It is particularly useful when the client can identify a specific event or memory causing distress.

In contrast, Brainspotting is known for its efficacy in addressing more complex and diffuse traumas, such as developmental or attachment trauma, where the client may struggle to pinpoint a single traumatic event. The flexibility of Brainspotting allows it to adapt to the client’s unique needs, making it a valuable tool for various issues.

Authentic Connections Counseling Therapist’s Expertise:

The effectiveness of both Brainspotting and EMDR relies on the skill and expertise of the therapist. Therapists practicing EMDR need to complete specialized training to ensure they follow the prescribed protocol correctly. Similarly, Brainspotting requires training and certification to help therapists master the technique. Thankfully, here at Authentic Connections Counseling Center we have multiple trained EMDR specialists and a Brainspotting technician (Mikey Espegren, LPCC) as well! 

While both Brainspotting and EMDR are powerful therapeutic approaches for trauma treatment, they differ significantly in their origins, mechanisms, flexibility, and applicability. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the individual client’s needs and the therapist’s expertise. Our therapists can integrate elements of both approaches to create a personalized treatment plan.

If you’re considering trauma therapy, it’s essential to discuss your specific needs and preferences with one of our qualified therapists to determine which approach aligns best with your healing journey. The good news is that with these innovative techniques, the path to recovery and emotional well-being is more accessible and personalized than ever before. Here at Authentic Connections Counseling Center we are well-equipped to help you process trauma that may still interfere with your daily functioning. We will involve you every step of the way to ensure you feel comfortable and cared for throughout the entire process. We have many therapists who are specialized in these methods and you can choose from once you’re ready to make the phone call, please reach out to us at 720-370-3010 or email us at info@authenticconnectionscounseling.com for more information. The right therapist can make all the difference in your life and overall well-being and we would be honored to be that difference in yours! 

Written By: Mikey Espegren, LPCC