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If you have not yet read my previous posts, you may wonder what Brainspotting even is—I direct you to my Brainspotting blog for a more thorough picture of this incredible trauma-healing modality. In a nutshell, however:
Brainspotting is a neurophysiological approach to whole- body and brain healing. It utilizes the phenomenon of “where you look affects how you feel” (David Grand, discover and developer of BSP): using fixed eye positions, focused mindfulness and dual attunement between the provider and client, the most deeply stored trauma “capsules” can be opened, processed safely, and re-filed into long-term memory.
Group-Brainspotting (G-BSP) therapy is based on the understanding that therapy groups offer a conducive environment for personal growth and transformation, reflecting real-world social dynamics. Effective group therapy fosters a sense of belonging, corrective attachment experiences, diverse perspectives, accountability, confidence, and self-discovery. G-BSP integrates a structured approach to cultivate safety and stability within the group, providing a foundation for deep emotional healing and therapeutic opportunities.
Each group session follows a specific outline: 1) Welcome 2) Check-in (on safety issues, feelings today, and any reflections on last session); 3) Theraplay 4) Mindfulness 5) Relaxation 6) The BSP setup 7) Brief sharing and 8) a Grounding game to close.
Theraplay is a treatment approach initially developed to help caregivers and children improve attachment and mental health outcomes. It combines theories like attachment and neurodevelopmental theory. Theraplay focuses on creating a safe structure, promoting engagement and connection, nurturing a sense of worthiness, and
providing challenges for growth. These fundamental processes in any group (child or adult).
Play is important in therapy because it helps us relax and better learn. In G-BSP sessions, groups start with a playful activity like ‘Echo’ or a call and response game. These activities create a cohesive and attuned atmosphere from the beginning. Theraplay also includes engaging games like the ‘Imaginary Ball Toss’ that get clients moving and having fun together. It may take some time for clients to feel comfortable participating, but by the second session, they usually let their guard down and bond over these playful prompts.
Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment with purposeful and nonjudgmental awareness. It involves accepting and acknowledging our experiences
without pushing them away. In the context of Brainspotting (BSP), mindfulness plays a crucial role. Once the focus is set on the issue, mindfulness helps engage the dysregulated parts of the brain, allowing participants to identify and concentrate on the “blocks” or traumatic capsules. By mindfully observing this inner process, the client gains insight into these blocks, resolves them, and releases them. This process helps regulate the system and promotes healing.
In the structure of G-BSP, the second focus in the group is on teaching and practicing mindfulness in preparation for the deep processing they will experience. Simple activities such as mindfully eating chocolate are practiced here. In terms of pacing, the mindful practices seem to be a nice bridge between the play beforehand, and relaxation that follows.
In group Brainspotting (G-BSP), there are some key differences when compared to individual sessions. The therapist takes a more active role in guiding the group and creating attunement among its members. Specific setups are used to frame the work and manage clients’ processing. These setups involve techniques like visualizations, art, and writing to explore the chosen issue.
To find the spot, clients slowly move their gaze from left to center to right while noticing any shifts or sensations (even the slightest tingling in the toes may indicate a
relevant spot), and hold their gaze there. If clients struggle to find the relevant eye position, I will assist with a BSP “wand” (a telescopic pointer used to guide and focus the eyes). Once the eye position is fixed, clients are guided to just keep mindfully witnessing whatever comes up within them from there (memories, emotions, sensations, thoughts, etc), without pushing any of it away. Processing is interrupted periodically for clients to share a word, gesture, or their current level of distress (using the SUDs Scale again). This helps regulate their experience and allows the therapist to address any emerging issues.
Following the BSP processing, clients are prompted to share a little bit about what came up for them. Here we determine if additional grounding is necessary—if any clients are dysregulated we participate in a pattern game such as ‘Alphabet Categories’. Group closes out each week by going around the room, each client stating what they are taking from that session (e.g. “optimism,” or “self-discovery”), and what they’re leaving for the other group members (e.g. self-compassion; hope). Finally, clients are assigned journaling or other homework to deepen the processing they initiated in the group.
In my 6-week cycles of G-BSP, each week introduces a new setup; generally, the first session is used to orient clients to this specialized group, followed by 3 weeks of resourcing/expanding (see prior post), followed by some activated-issue spotting. It is up to the clients as to whether they want to work on one broad issue over the course of that cycle, or do a different issue each week. Because the pace is “low and slow” relative to some individual BSP sessions, it does seem to provide deeper healing if one spends at least 2 sessions on one issue if it’s not resolved after the first.
● Children (with Parents)
● First Responders
● Veterans groups
● Domestic Violence groups
● Natural disaster victims
● Other community groups
Research supports the effectiveness and preference for Brainspotting compared to other trauma therapy modalities. In a 2016 survey following the Newtown-Sandy Hook school shooting, Brainspotting was found to be significantly more effective and preferred by participants compared to Somatic Experiencing, Eye Moment Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Trauma-Focused CBT, and traditional talk therapy. The study revealed that there was a significant need for accessible and effective trauma treatment, especially for those indirectly affected by the tragedy who felt disenfranchised from even seeking help. G-BSP provides a means of extending healing to groups who may not have access to individual therapy for financial reasons as well. Research on G-BSP’s effectiveness shows improvement in participants’ outcomes measured through various assessment tools. In one study with earthquake survivors, participants initially showed some worsening between the first two sessions, but improvement was observed from the second session onwards.
In conclusion, Group-Brainspotting (G-BSP) offers a unique and effective approach to trauma therapy, particularly in settings where individual therapy may be inaccessible. By harnessing the power of group dynamics, G-BSP creates a safe and attuned environment for deep emotional healing. The structured components of G-BSP, including Theraplay, mindfulness, relaxation, and the BSP setup, work together to facilitate healing and promote self-regulation. Research supports the effectiveness of Brainspotting as a trauma therapy modality, and G BSP provides a means to extend its benefits to a wider range of individuals and communities. Whether it’s adults, adolescents, children with parents, or various community groups, G-BSP can offer transformative healing experiences.