Brainspotting conversation

8th December 2023


The piece is a transcript of a conversation held between two person-centred therapists. One of the therapists is also a practitioner of Brainspotting, a trauma therapy developed by David Grand that utilizes the natural phenomenon whereby eye positions correspond to the position where key information in the deep brain is stored. It is a somatic approach so the client processes mindfully from activations felt within the body. The two person-centred therapists are great friends, and the conversation came a few days after the Brainspotting practitioner had conducted a session with her peer. The conversation takes several directions, firstly exploring hypothetically an alternative name for Brainspotting, secondly feeding into the debate amongst the person-centred community about whether Brainspotting, as an offer, fits well within a pluralistic person-centred approach and additionally the link between drugs and alcohol with the Brainspotting approach


Peer: So, a different name to try to express Brainspotting in some way? For me, it almost felt like I was on a bit of a journey, and I was travelling, and I didn’t know where I was going or what to expect. There’s all sorts of feelings and emotions and stuff coming up. So almost if you think of it as like “travelling therapy”. But then obviously, you know, some people might think of it like packing your bags and stuff like that. But you almost are packing everything in and going on a journey even through you’re Brainspotting from one place. What also comes up for me is that it kind of does resonate with Yung, whereas you know, the subconscious, the unconscious and that you delve into kind of elements – it  could almost be like Dream State because you’re so focused on one space, that when I had that experience with you I was going into other realms, consciously or unconsciously, I didn’t know where I was going, or where it was taking me.  It’s that powerful moment of knowing, actually, you’re with one person – so two people together when I experience something that I don’t think I’ve experienced before. It can almost feel like – as an ex-drug or alcohol user, all those kind of monster drugs – it kind of took me to a place of, ‘Oh, I’m exploring other realms here – this is quite wonderful, but not being under the influence and it seemed very sexy for me because I wasn’t out of control. I was also extremely vulnerable and was not aware of where I was going, where I was heading, what journey I’m going to go on to, where I’m going to go next within a split second or a moment? So, yeah. Okay. ‘Journey therapy’. Yeah. I don’t know. But it’s something in that context because it’s so wide and open. The journey, I think, is it I think? 


BSPT Yeah, you’re wanting a name to capture that journey. 


Peer Yeah, and I think even with the person centred approach, there is an element of that where you’re actually being held by someone and not being nudged or pushed any way that you don’t want to go in. But yet, I can also see a beautiful mountain where I want to climb and jump off the side of it, and there’s a beautiful waterfall and feeling free about diving in and just feeling better. You know, that’s kind of what happened for me with brainspotting, it went from one state to another very quickly. Before I could get myself back. Yeah. So, I could be in the sadness because I was being held, I wasn’t on my own. Just talking about it is passionate in itself. 


BSPT This is really rich and it’s really, wow! 


Peer Yeah. I know! That’s what it did for me it, I suppose, and maybe that’s us being in tune. Our relationship, which is important as we know, as friends, but also is that we have to think of ourselves as client therapy or client therapists, but we know what we’re doing in the sense of holding each other and being with each other. 


BSPT yeah, the genuineness, the authenticity, the congruence. I’m still still true to our friendship. 


Peer Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I don’t think it changes. When I go home and sit there and talk to the cat asking him ‘I’m wondering how you’re feeling today, I’m wondering what’s going on for you today?’ The cat’s sitting there like, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. What has happened to us as people in our existing environments, like friends, family we’ve adapted to being the best self. 


BSPT It’s really affirming to hear you describe it as this journey, but within the presence of somebody that’s very holding. Yeah, and relational as most trauma is experienced in a lonely state and to go back there in that space together. Oh, I’m so, so moved by this. I started as a Brainspotter and then to find out that I must put it on hold whilst on the course. To then hear you describe it as something that’s very relational and very person-centred, well, I am really moved. 


Peer And I can see that. I can hear it. It was just one session. It still really resonates. I still feel really connected to that. And what came of it and that there was no expectation. So, I think that was lovely. The warmth was there when we started – like the reassurance, saying just take care of yourself wherever it might go or look after yourself in this kind of like, you know, as if to say like what most people would say if saying goodbye to children, they’re going off travelling just like, look after yourself, make sure you take care of yourself, whatever may happen just experience whatever you have to experience. And that is an analogy. It was welcome. I will eventually have more and even just that; it does feel like something that could definitely be part of my toolkit eventually. 


BSPT Yeah, yeah. I would also love that. I would love it if you were part of that community as well. 


Peer I’m kind of definitely interested in the near future and I think will be part of that. There’s a depth of creativity to it. I think that depth of creativity comes from wherever you take yourself. I can’t be impressed or led or controlled in any way – you find your own route and you find you fight through your fears and yet your existence, your immortality to a point. You know, almost cosmic in some ways. You know, maybe it does feel like that. It was kind of going on and on. And I think that can also be really inclusive to people who necessarily might like that. And that just being another part to my skill set.

It’s like safe tripping. 


BSPT: Like what drugs bring? Within a held environment?


Peer Yea I suppose in some regard, it does feel like that, and that’s why it felt familiar when we did it. And then I said that it felt like a bit of a trip. I was experiencing sensations and visuals. Yes, it’s drug free, alcohol free. It’s not being controlled and not being governed. You’re not being told what to do or think or feel, you’re taking yourself somewhere. So hence the brain and the kind of aspects to it where it can open up and invite and you can explore things where it can be kind of quite magical and also really, really painful. Hmm. But you’re not sure if you want to get yourself out of that pain. And when you feel like you want to stay in it, you need to be reassured to some degree that someone’s there for you who will help holding in some sort of way. Yeah, because I can sit alone and kind of cry occasionally and be a bit tearful. But is it deep enough for me to go? You know, I still sort of struggle with that. And I’m also aware that actually even us as knowledgeable as we are about the drugs or LSD or ketamine, all sorts of kind of stuff’s coming up. And for all the therapies, alternative therapies to help people tackle depression and the way of being in trauma, that actually for someone who’s been clean a long time or like, Oh, I don’t know if I like that, but that’s completely changed. My mind is completely changed in that I’d actually favour it. And that means feeling more that is inclusive. We need to work with people that actually some things worked for this person. That’s not an addict or alcoholic. But you actually see what we can do with some LSD or something. 


BSPT I am thinking of the healing properties of mushrooms, for example. Yeah, yeah. It’s the access point to some of those really deep, deep places through mushrooms or LSD or whatever to try to bring those up in the in the presence of an attuned other that is really, sort of really, really deep, deep, deep, deep healing. 


Peer the brain spotting experience for me- it tapped into that kind of element because I have experience of LSD, I have had mushrooms. I’ve been taking drugs and drinking all sorts of cocktails of all sorts of whatever it is to change the way I feel and to bring the up and down and screaming about whatever it is. But with our experience of the brainspotting, it did feel as if I was going somewhere to a kind of place that was opening up my senses and my conscious mind and unconscious without being under the influence. And I did feel so unsafe because I wasn’t sure what I was going to. That’s an experience in itself. Yeah, but also safe because I wasn’t alone to go back to that emotion. 


BSPT I almost wish that we were in the room because I just feel such a need to give you such a big hug. So I just thank you so much for this conversation. 


Peer No problem. You know what? I felt more in tune with just letting go and letting be than in talk therapy. And I can be guarded and don’t go to the places with my usual therapist. And I still struggle with that. But within the Brainspotting side of things I was allowed to just go with whatever was coming up for me, and I just felt like that concentration or that settling in that space was just, yeah. Let me do that.