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What Is The Difference Between EMDR And Brainspotting?

In the realm of trauma therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Brainspotting stand out as two prominent methodologies. Though both aim to alleviate trauma-related distress, they employ distinct approaches tailored to diverse needs and preferences. But what are the differences?

What Is EMDR?

EMDR, pioneered by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, relies on bilateral stimulation to aid in processing traumatic memories. This stimulation, often in the form of eye movements, taps, or sounds, is believed to facilitate the reprocessing of distressing experiences stored in the brain, thereby reducing their emotional intensity.

What Is Brainspotting?

In contrast, Brainspotting, developed by David Grand in 2003, deviates from the use of bilateral stimulation and instead focuses on identifying and processing "brainspots" - specific points in an individual's visual field that correspond to areas of emotional activation. These spots are thought to directly access neural networks associated with trauma, enabling targeted processing and resolution.

How are EMDR and Brainspotting Different?


Accessing & Processing Memories

One notable distinction between EMDR and Brainspotting lies in their approach to accessing and processing traumatic memories. While EMDR utilizes external stimuli to initiate processing, Brainspotting emphasizes internal exploration, encouraging clients to delve into their sensations and emotions while maintaining focus on identified brainspots.

Therapist Involvement

Furthermore, the level of client involvement and direction varies between the two methods. In EMDR, therapists play an active role in guiding clients through processing phases and facilitating bilateral stimulation. Conversely, Brainspotting encourages greater autonomy and self-directed exploration, with therapists serving as supportive guides rather than directors.

Treatment Session Structure

Additionally, the structure of treatment sessions differs between EMDR and Brainspotting. EMDR typically adheres to a structured protocol comprising distinct phases, with each session targeting specific memories or issues. Conversely, Brainspotting sessions are more fluid and adaptable, allowing for organic processing based on individual needs and responses.


Despite their differences, both EMDR and Brainspotting have demonstrated efficacy in treating trauma-related conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The choice between the two often hinges on factors such as client preferences, therapeutic objectives, and therapist assessment.


EMDR and Brainspotting share the overarching goal of trauma resolution but diverge in their techniques, approaches, and client involvement levels. By understanding these distinctions, individuals seeking therapy can make informed decisions and select the method that aligns best with their needs and preferences.

Brainspotting Therapy in LA

If you would like to learn more about brainspotting therapy, please contact us. At The Holding Space, we offer brainspotting therapy in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. 

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