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Brainspotting vs EMDR Therapy

Brainspotting vs EMDR Therapy

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EMDR therapy and brainspotting are often incorporated into care for individuals who have been living with untreated psychological trauma. Understanding the similarities and differences between brainspotting vs. EMDR therapy can help you make the most informed decision for yourself or on behalf of a loved one.

What is EMDR Therapy? 

Prior to contrasting and comparing brainspotting vs. EMDR therapy, let’s take a moment to review some basic facts about each technique. We’ll begin with EMDR.

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This form of therapy was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro. 

Shapiro was taking a walk one day when she noticed that her eye movements seemed to help dissipate negative feelings that were associated with unpleasant memories. She followed this initial observation by conducting research and creating the principles for what she originally called “eye movement desensitization.” (“Reprocessing” was added to the name of this intervention in the early 1990s.)

Today, EMDR is used throughout the world to help people eliminate emotional distress that is linked with traumatic memories. Working with a trained therapist, EMDR patients progress through an eight-phase process that involves identifying specific traumatic memories, determining where in the body this trauma is stored, using bilateral rapid eye movements to ease this distress, and associating the memory with a healthier response. 

What is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting, which was developed by therapist David Grand in the early 2000s, is a therapeutic technique that uses slow eye movements and static focus to alleviate emotional or psychological trauma.

Prior to creating brainspotting, Grand used EMDR to help clients who were living with untreated trauma. Initially, he combined elements of EMDR with somatic experiencing (SE) to create a new approach that he called Natural Flow EMDR. 

While working with a trauma survivor, Grand noticed that his client was able to make better progress when holding a fixed gaze instead of engaging in the rapid bilateral eye movements that are central to EMDR. This observation led him to develop brainspotting.

What’s the Difference Between Brainspotting vs. EMDR? 

While there are clearly some obvious similarities between brainspotting vs. EMDR (which we’ll elaborate on in the next section), there are also several important differences between these two techniques. 

If you’re trying to decide which one is right for you or for a loved one, here are some of more significant distinctions between brainspotting vs. EMDR:

  • EMDR employs rapid bilateral (side-to-side) eye movements. Brainspotting uses slow eye tracking, followed by a fixed gaze.
  • EMDR is more widely known than brainspotting. It has also been practiced for a longer period and has been researched more thoroughly.
  • EMDR is a more structured approach than brainspotting, and it involves more direct action on the part of the therapist. 
  • Guided by their therapist, EMDR patients progress through eight phases, with the bilateral eye movements not occurring until the fourth phase. During brainspotting sessions, the therapist helps the client find the appropriate eye position (or brain spot), then lets the client respond according to their specific needs and healing process.
  • EMDR sessions address one specific traumatic memory at a time. Brainspotting sessions take a broader perspective, focusing on the neural networks that are involved in traumatic memories.
  • Some sources indicate that brainspotting is more likely to yield results quicker, but the beneficial effects of EMDR are more likely to last longer.

The best way to determine if EMDR or brainspotting is the right choice for you is to consult with a qualified healthcare provider or contact a reputable mental health treatment center. 

As with so many aspects of trauma treatment, there’s no right or wrong choice when you’re trying to decide between brainspotting vs. EMDR. What’s most important is that you find a provider who can assess the full scope of your needs, then work with you to develop a customized plan. 

Similarities Between Brainspotting and EMDR

The following are examples of characteristics that are shared by both brainspotting and EMDR:

  • Brainspotting and EMDR both use eye movements to ease trauma.
  • Both techniques resulted from unintentional discoveries.
  • Some of the principles of brainspotting originated with EMDR.
  • Brainspotting and EMDR can both be used to treat a variety of conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Brainspotting and EMDR may both be incorporated into treatment at the residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient levels.

Contact Montare Behavioral Health About Our EMDR Therapy Today

If the psychological distress of untreated trauma has been undermining your ability to live a healthier and more satisfying life, Montare is here to help.

Our trauma treatment centers feature a full continuum of care and a wide range of services, including eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. We understand how difficult it can be to live with untreated trauma, and we are committed to developing the customized solutions that will ease your distress and improve your quality of life.  

Throughout your time at Montare Behavioral Health, you will be in a safe space, surrounded by a team of dedicated professionals who will treat you with the respect you deserve. Here, you will be encouraged to play an active role in all aspects of your care, with the goal of empowering you to take ownership of your continued recovery.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please fill out our contact form or call us today.