The Magic Wand – A Brainspotting Therapy Session

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

I would like to tell you about my recent therapy experience. I believe in order to be a good therapist, one should be seeking therapy as needed to deal with their own issues. Even the best therapists need a therapist occasionally! To optimize my emotional and psychological health, I occasionally seek outside help. With this in mind, I saw Clinical Social Worker Ruth B.Z. Thomson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, for a therapy session. She used a therapy technique called “Brainspotting” (BSP) which was new to me and which I was very curious about. 

“Brainspotting is a powerful, focused treatment method that works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body, pain, trauma, disassociation, and a variety of other challenging symptoms. Brainspotting is a simultaneous form of diagnosis and treatment, enhanced with bilateral sound, which is deep, direct, and powerful, yet focused and containing.”

David Grand, Phd, Brainspotting Developer and Trainer

By the way, bi-lateral and BIO-lateral are two different things. It sounds confusing, but here is a way to explain the difference. Also, there is a link between brainspotting and EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).

After filling out forms and consenting to treatment I entered Ruth’s beautifully decorated and comfortable office. She said I could choose any chair to sit on. There were about six chairs. I scanned the room, chose a chair, sat down, and got comfortable. I rearranged the cushions and used a little step stool. She sat across from me. She told me after a brief talking session, I would be listening to music with headphones, and she would use a wand for me to look at and focus on. The wand looked like one of those telescopic back scratchers and it had a dark blue handle.

We chatted for a bit to discuss my issues and then she told me we were going to get started with the brainspotting treatment. She passed me the headphones and made sure I could hear the music in both ears. It was not too loud as she also wanted me to be able to hear her. She said she was going to be watching me and I was to focus on my physical and emotional responses related to the issues I had presented to her with. 

The music she chose for me is called “bilateral” and it’s not exactly music. It was calming peaceful sounds such as chimes, waves, and birds chirping. The sounds alternated between the left and right ears. 

The music was very relaxing and calming. I noticed a yellow “glow” around the wand. (It almost looked like a magic wand!) Ruth held the wand to the left of her, almost at an outstretched arm’s reach, at eye level and I stared at it. She moved the wand slowly and watched my physical reaction. Sometimes I blinked more or fidgeted or took deep breaths. She also watched my facial expressions. 

After a few minutes she moved the wand and asked me to follow it. She moved it to the right of her body. It was about eye level. Very slowly and methodically she would move the wand up or down all the while watching my reaction. 

She asked me what I was feeling and thinking. I shared my thoughts, then she took the wand and moved it back to her right side. 

The music was very calming. I processed some feelings and thoughts. At one point I felt mad, and this was a bit of a revelation. This was good!

She then had me talk it out some more until I was done with my observations and feelings about the issue at hand. 

Then Ruth had me close my eyes and brought the wand closer to me. She had me open my eyes and I followed the wand, and she brought it back to her right then circled downward and back up closer to me. She repeated this closeup – back to the right – downward swoop movement in a fluid moderately paced motion about 4-5 times. It was like drawing a sideways “D” in the air with the wand. We then paused for a bit. 

Photo by Laura Stanley on Pexels.com

She then had me do a relaxing visualization. I found myself on a hammock in Hawaii! All the while the bilateral music played quietly in my ears, alternating between left and right.

After the guided imagery was over, she had me take off my headphones. There was a long pause as we sat in silence. She then asked me for my thoughts. 

I told her I like analogies to explain things when I can’t quite put my feelings and thoughts into words. I told her it felt like I was put into a long, dark tunnel and now I’ve come out of the tunnel and I’m not quite sure where I am. I’m looking around, but I’m not quite sure what just happened and where I ended up. It feels good though. I told her I think it’s going to take me a little while to process what just happened. She agreed and said that it will take a few days for the neural pathways to change. She told me to drink lots of water and gave me a couple pages to read on brainspotting.

As promised, she emailed me this link as an example of bilateral music – 1 HR Bilateral Music Therapy – Relieve Stress, Anxiety, PTSD, Nervousness – EMDR, Brainspotting (best heard with headphones). 

I am hopeful that this treatment will help me with my issue, and I could already tell just a couple hours later that I was already feeling some benefit. 

For more information on brainspotting check out David Grand’s book, Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

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