EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach developed to help people heal from trauma or adversities such as issues of abuse, bullying, domestic violence, grief/loss, attachment wounds, abandonment, PTSD, and many other complicated life issues. EMDR therapy is now validated as an evidence-based approach and included in SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. In addition, EMDR therapy has been validated by over 20 randomized controlled clinical trials.
EMDR therapy integrates elements of many traditional psychological orientations and is based on the adaptive information processing model (AIP). The AIP model hypothesizes that there is an inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Whenever a reminder of the traumatic or adverse event comes up, those pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can continue to be triggered. According to Dr. Shapiro, many emotional problems and disorders are manifestations of these unprocessed trauma memories that are stored in the brain. EMDR therapy works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and as a result alleviating the emotional and psychological disorders.
Brainspotting grew out of the work from early EMDR founding providers. As a new interaction, it is even more powerful and more flexible than the previous EMDR methods. Due to the flexibility, how it works for each client may look slightly differently. In a nutshell, here’s how it works: The therapist and client work together to find the “brainspot” or eye position that corresponds with a specific emotional response or incident. Once on that “target,” the therapist and client simply allow the client’s brain to make the connections needed to continue processing the traumatic event. This works a little differently for each client; however, Brainspotting also allows the therapist to utilize resources in session if it ever feels too intense for a client without stopping the process.
Overall, Brainspotting tends to yield faster and deeper results over standard EMDR methods. This seems to happen because Brainspotting is much more adaptable. Therapists can be flexible with the approach, thus finding the right iteration for you and your needs. EMDR might be better known because has been around for a longer period of time, but Brainspotting is quickly gaining major momentum. It is less likely to overstimulate, which makes it a great fit for individuals (at any age) who struggle with feeling overwhelmed. Plus, Brainspotting doesn’t require much conversation. You can talk as little or as much as you want with this type of therapy—so it is especially useful for those who don’t want to talk to a therapist.