Trauma can leave deep scars on the mind and body. Living with trauma can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Whether it stems from a single traumatic event or prolonged exposure to upsetting circumstances, the impact can be serious and long-lasting. In search of help for their trauma, individuals often turn to treatment centers and therapies to find relief from the symptoms that accompany trauma-related disorders. Two such approaches, brainspotting and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), have gained importance in the field of trauma therapy. While both treat trauma and its aftermath, they differ in their techniques and methodologies. When it comes to brainspotting vs EMDR, which is right for you? Aliya Health Group is here to help you decide.
What Is EMDR?
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, commonly known as EMDR, is a psychotherapy approach developed by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. EMDR therapy is guided by the adaptive information processing theory, which describes that traumatic memories cause emotional distress because they were never fully processed and released. Instead, they’ve gotten stuck in the brain, causing negative beliefs and intense emotional responses. The brain continues attempts at reprocessing certain emotions, images, thoughts, or beliefs associated with the traumatic event. This is why, years later, you can re-experience trauma symptoms.
EMDR is used to treat trauma-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Some therapists also use EMDR for OCD symptoms. The benefit lies in the relief EMDR can provide for underlying issues that fuel compulsive and unhealthy coping behaviors. Since its discovery, EMDR has gained steady popularity, with famous people like Prince Harry sharing that it helped him process childhood trauma after losing his mother to a car accident at a young age.
Unlike traditional talk therapy, EMDR incorporates specific techniques that trigger the brain’s natural healing process. Sessions are conducted by licensed mental health professionals who have undergone specialized training with EMDR equipment. While recalling a traumatic event, the therapist guides you through sets of bilateral stimulation, which can include eye movements and an EMDR light bar, as well as audio cues using EMDR tappers or EMDR buzzers. As you move through the process, your brain can reprocess how the memory is stored. This reduces the distress associated with the memory and instills positive thoughts and emotions instead. Your EMDR therapist is with you the entire session to facilitate the treatment.
What Is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting was developed as an offshoot of EMDR by clinical social worker David Grand, PhD, in 2003. While treating patients with EMDR, he noticed their eyes would flutter when they stared at certain areas in their field of vision. That spot, which he coined the “brainspot,” is believed to be a point of unresolved trauma that can be processed and released to ease distressing symptoms.
Trained mental health professionals use brainspotting to treat trauma-related disorders like PTSD, anxiety, phobias, and other emotional disturbances. The benefits of brainspotting also include anyone experiencing performance anxiety, chronic pain, or issues related to personal growth and self-improvement.
The main difference between brainspotting vs EMDR is the fixed-gaze position. During a brainspotting session, a trained therapist will identify and access brainspots through eye positioning and somatic awareness (noises). With focused mindfulness and bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or hearing cues, the therapist helps the patient process the targeted trauma, leading to resolution and emotional release.
What Are My Options for Trauma Recovery?
When it comes to recovering from trauma, there are various options available that can lead to healing and relief from upsetting symptoms.
- Trauma Therapy
One option for trauma recovery is seeking support from mental health professionals who specialize in trauma therapy. These professionals, such as psychologists, counselors, or therapists, are trained to provide evidence-based treatments tailored to address the unique needs of individuals affected by trauma. Therapy sessions offer a safe and confidential space to explore experiences, process emotions, and develop coping strategies to manage symptoms.
- Peer Support
In addition to professional therapy, individuals may also find support through peer groups or support networks. Connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas can provide validation, understanding, and a sense of belonging. Peer support groups offer opportunities to share experiences, receive encouragement, and learn from others’ coping strategies.
Self-care practices play a crucial role in trauma recovery, promoting overall well-being and resilience. Engaging in activities such as exercise, mindfulness meditation, journaling, and creative expression can help individuals manage stress, regulate emotions, and cultivate a sense of empowerment. Developing a self-care routine that puts physical, emotional, and spiritual health first is essential for long-term healing and recovery.
- Alternative Therapies
Some individuals may benefit from complementary and alternative therapies alongside traditional psychotherapy like EMDR and brainspotting. These may include techniques such as yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and art therapy.
It’s important to remember that trauma recovery is a unique and individualized process. What works for one person may not work for another. Exploring different options and finding what resonates best with your needs and preferences is key to finding effective trauma support and healing.
What Are the Benefits of Working with Mental Health Professionals?
Brainspotting and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are quickly becoming the standards in treating trauma. Since trauma can play a significant role in substance use, many people choose to seek help from mental health professionals at a treatment center. These professionals have specialized training and expertise in addressing trauma-related issues. They can provide tailored treatment plans to meet each person’s unique needs.
Therapists and counselors create a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore their experiences and emotions, fostering healing and growth. Through evidence-based practices such as EMDR and brainspotting, trauma therapists help clients process traumatic memories, develop coping skills, and reclaim their lives from the grips of distressing memories.
Mental Health Treatment at Aliya Health Group
Aliya Health Group is well known for its trauma-focused approach to substance abuse treatment. Many of our addiction professionals are trained in EMDR, brainspotting, and other trauma therapies, and all our treatment methods are steeped in an evidence-based approach.
Levels of care and highlights of our treatment centers include:
- Drug and alcohol detox
- Residential treatment programs
- Partial hospitalization
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Outpatient programs
- Sober-living residences
- Continuing care
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis)
- Individual, group, and family therapy
- Holistic therapies
We all deserve to live a life where we feel emotionally safe. You shouldn’t feel the need to self-medicate or do therapies like EMDR at home. Contact our recovery centers today to learn more!
- The AIP Model of EMDR Therapy and Pathogenic Memories – PMC (nih.gov)
- EMDR in the Treatment of Adolescent Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Case Study | Springer Publishing
- Prince Harry raises awareness of EMDR – EMDR Association UK – Overcoming trauma with expert help
- David Grand, PhD – Brainspotting