I had the privilege of interviewing Brooke Randolph, a licensed mental health counselor and a Brainspotting trainer. Brooke shares with us her insights and knowledge on Brainspotting. She also gives some advice for those who are considering adoption based on her experience as a single adoptive mom and as a Brainspotting consultant specializing in adoption.
- What is Brainspotting? How does it work?
- How was Brainspotting developed? Who discovered it?
- How can Brainspotting help with anxiety and OCD?
- What happens during and after a Brainspotting session
- Can Brainspotting be used with all ages?
- Brainspotting training
- Comparison between Branspotting and other forms of therapy.
Transcript of Episode 36
Hope for anxiety and OCD, episode 36. On today’s episode, I have an interview with Brooke Randolph who is a brainspotting trainer and therapist. Brainspotting has some similarities to EMDR in that they’re both seeking to work at a brain level to help people heal from internal disturbance. So it was neat to have that conversation and look at some of the similarities and differences.
If you caught our episode with Peyton Garland, which was a personal story where she talks about her experience with OCD and her experience with brainspotting. I know you’re going to want to check out this episode as a follow-up.
Carrie: Brooke, welcome to the show.
Brooke: Thank you.
Carrie: And tell us a little bit about yourself.
Brooke: Well, I am a licensed mental health counselor. So I’m a therapist who lives in Indiana, but I also in licensed in Massachusetts and I run a group practice here in Indianapolis. So we are currently up to 10 clinicians. I am also a single adoptive mom to a 14-year-old boy. So that makes me rugby mom those days of the week.
Carrie: Wow. Okay. I know very well about rugby.
Brooke: I very much enjoy rugby. I like showing it to people. So maybe you can come to a game and I can keep you past that.
Carrie: That would be interesting. How old was your son when you adopted him?
Brooke: He was six.
Carrie: Oh, okay. Awesome. Let me tell you about how this show actually came about. So we had a guest on our show Peyton Garland, and she came out with a book called Not So By Myself about her experience with OCD. And she was sharing about the book and how she went through brainspotting with her therapist, or was still in the process of going through those sessions. And I said, oh wow. I haven’t had anybody on about brainspotting. That would be really fun. So then I found you on Facebook and we got connected. And so we’re here to learn all about brainspotting today, how it can be helpful for anxiety and OCD. I’m super excited about that. So maybe we can just start by, just tell us a little bit about brainspotting even like how you would explain it to a client maybe that was coming in for the first time.
Brooke: Yeah, brainspotting is really exciting. It would be what I call a power therapy that helps us get deeper into the neural networks of the brain. And really what it does is it’s going to allow the brain to heal itself. And as we tune into what’s going on in the brain and what’s going on in the body, the brain is able to lead the processing in a way that’s so much more efficient than when we try to talk through something. Because when we’re talking, we’re really only going towards that neocortex, that front part of the brain. And the neocortex is not involved in regulation, which means it can’t make you feel better. And so when we’re feeling anxious or upset about something, it’s going to be much more effective If we can utilize the parts of the brain that are involved with regulation to help us process those things so that we’re not only doing the processing but also calming the brain and the body at the same time.
Carrie: That’s really good. I like that a lot. We can really get in there. I don’t know if you want to call it defenses in our thinking part of our brain, right? There’s all these layers that protect us maybe from our emotions and keep us from really going there, but when you’re able to find therapies that tap into that like the limbic system response, then that’s a whole different ball game.
Brooke: When I also explained to people, I worked from everything from children who were adopted internationally at young ages to really five functioning achievers. And if these high functioning achievers could have thought their way out of the problem, thought their way out of how they’re feeling, they would have done that. Many of them are much more educated than I am. If they could have thought their way out of it, they would have done it, but they can’t. So we need to go in deeper into the brain.
And then for these other, these kids who may have memories that are not stored in the English language, because they were in another language at that time, or maybe they’re implicit memories that are pre-verbal and you can’t process those things from the neocortex. That requires language. So we need to be able to get more into the body and deeper in the brain.
Carrie: Right. I’m curious for you because I think therapists find different therapies to be trained in. I have a theory on this. I’ve never done any research, but my theory is that we find things either that have helped us. We’ve seen these things, help our clients, or it’s just kind of aligns with our personality.
How did you get involved in training and brainspotting like becoming trained on that?
Brooke: Well, I’ll tell you the story, but it’s probably goes to that part where it aligns with my personality and the deeper I get into brainspotting, the more I recognized that the principal tenants are just right along with my theory of counseling. But for me, I work primarily in adoption and I have these very early trauma, early parental separation kinds of cases. And I knew that there were like our therapies like EMDR that were really effective like we have plenty of research to show that, but also knowing the potential for overwhelm. And I’m very protective of my adoptee clients, especially my young adoptee clients. And so knowing that potential for overwhelm, I was just kind of dragging my feet really on that.
And then someone came and told me about brainspotting and I heard about it from somebody I trusted. And then I went and did a bunch of reading and I immediately started referring my clients to “okay. I think you also need to go do this.” And so here’s somebody locally. We had a few people locally who were already trained. And so why don’t you go do that? And then meet with me every other week and meet with them. And a couple of my clients did try it and one of them just put his foot down and he said, “I’m going to go see anybody else. You need to get trained now.” You know what I said? “I’m going to get trained in this.” I’m definitely like I really believe in it. And he was like “you need to get trained now.”
And what are the DVDs and started from there and did the training at home. And then very quickly helped to bring a trainer to Indianapolis so that we could have a training here and did that. And then just continued from there until the point that now I’m a brain spotting specialist trainer.
Carrie: Wow. So you’re actually training other therapists to do this as well and supervising people that are in that process. That’s pretty awesome. Yeah. It just seemed to fit and it was really helping your clients and then you decided to get trained in that. How exactly does it work? I know that’s a hard question.
Brooke: Yeah. So, I mean, Most people want to compare it to EMDR. Brainspotting was kind of discovered and developed by David Grant who was a master EMDR trainer. So he was very influenced by EMDR, but he was also very influenced by somatic experiencing and insight-oriented relational therapy and some other kinds of things.
And so they all kind of play a role. We get from somatic experiencing is really being aware of the activation in the body. We’re talking about OCD here. And so if we have someone who has some compulsion to pull a hair or to touch something or to turn right, but asking them to really locate where in the body is that starting and turning them into making that brain-body connection.
When you make the comparison with EMDR where they’re using rapid eye movement, brainspotting is actually a fixed eye position. And so one of the ways that I explain to people about this is that a fixed eye position is going to be less activating. And you really just think about it. If you were staring down like this tiger who’s just staring at you, that’s really intense. But if you start to imagine that tiger pacing back and forth in front of you and your eyes have to fall, like suddenly the anxiety starts going up a little bit and people can feel that when I’m presenting at a conference or something then I just demonstrate like walking across the stage like they can feel it like a fixed eye position is less activating than eye movements. And so that’s just part of how we are able to make it. More flexible, less activating. If necessary for people, we can really make adjustments in the moment, which is what I like about it. That we can be very attuned to the specific client and what they need and help them have the processing that they need, whether that’s helping them turn up the activation. For people like me with chronic pain, who’s learned to ignore my body or turning down the activation for people who have just had too much trauma and can’t go all the way into.
Carrie: Yeah. I’m glad that you went into that because when you started explaining it, it sounds like it’s really good for people who have these app reactions with EMDR, where they’re just sobbing uncontrollably and they’re feeling just really intense sensations in their body and have a tendency maybe to want to get out of that. But you’re saying it also works for people that have difficulty accessing maybe body sensations or emotions. It can help them develop that process.
So there are some similar components in terms of it’s a mind, you say it’s a mind, body emotion therapy like you’re making those connections.
Brooke: Yeah. They say it’s a brain-body, mindfulness-based therapy. I’ll check the website to make sure I got all the words that are in.
Carrie: Do you usually start with some mindfulness activities? Is that part of the preparation before you go in and do the more traumatic work?
Brooke: It completely depends on the client. So one of the principles of brainspotting that I really love is there is no protocol. Because we’re very focused on the client, then a relational attunement and being attuned to the client. Therapy can’t be attunement based if there’s a protocol, if there’s steps that are involved.
And if we’ve decided that these steps are these steps for everyone, then it’s going to miss some people who that might not be because some people are going to need in-between steps and some people are going to need to skip the steps like I was that high achiever or in school and was always frustrated that they were teaching to kind of the lowest common denominator, which is what they have to do.
But for me, It missed things for me. My education wasn’t attuned to me, but I want therapy to always be attuned to my class. So we don’t necessarily have a protocol. And so for some clients, we may be doing mindfulness activities ahead of time. We may be introducing other things. Some people may come in and just start telling us about the presenting problem.
And we already noticed that they’re on a fixed eye position. And so we may just invite them to stay on that spot, whatever it is that they’re looking at it way. And let it go from there. And so that may not be the full set-up necessarily, but they’re getting into it. And so we can kind of work. It’s very flexible. We follow our clients and what they need.
Carrie: It’s very interesting because I think my personality goes to like a “that’s too unstructured for me” like having a little internal moment. I think I really like structured therapies.
Brooke: Do you like it as the therapist or r do you like it as the client?
Carrie: I think I like it both because I think if I’m the client, I want to know where we’re going and what we’re doing. And I want it to kind of have a logical sequence to it and feel like there’s a good beginning, middle and end. And I think even with therapies like EMDR that have protocols, your therapist really has to know how to tailor that to you as the client. Kind of what you’re saying in terms of attunement. I think that you can have attunement with some of those structured therapies, but you just have to be very careful if you find like your therapist that you’re working with is like too rigid. And they’re like, we have to do this now like you said, we have to do this next step. And that next step, you may not be ready for.
Just for the people listening out there, I think you have to communicate and advocate for yourself as well to say “I don’t know something about this. This just doesn’t feel right.” Or maybe I’m just not quite ready for that deeper level of processing things yet. I’ve in my own work over the last probably couple years now, I’ve been incorporating ego state therapy, which has made the EMDR process more tolerable and a lot less in terms of reactions, more attachment, needs getting met.
That’s a whole another story, but this is interesting to me because different people are going to respond to different types of therapies in different ways. And one of the reasons I like to talk about so many different types of therapy on the show is not so we can have a discussion about, oh, this one’s better.
That one’s better, but more like to give people options like here’s your menu because I think a lot of people go into therapy and they’re like, yeah, I tried therapy. I’m like, Yeah but what did you do, like tell me more about that because there are a zillion different therapy techniques out there.
There’s a zillion different therapists personality styles. And it’s very hard to say like, oh, I’ve tried therapy. Like I’ve tried green peas and I don’t like him, you know, there’s just so many options out there. So this is, this was really interesting. I think you’ve kind of, you’ve talked about how.
This is a little bit different form of trauma therapy in a sense you’re kind of combining, like after they find the fixed eye movement, are you combining a little bit of talk therapy like if they want to tell that story or if they’re wanting to talk about the experience or what they’re noticing in their body?
Brooke: Oh, absolutely. I always say to clients, you can talk as much or as little as you want to. And what it looks like is different for each individual based on what they mean. I think as a client myself, I initially was much quieter and would have to say things out loud when I felt like I was like a broken record like you kept coming back to the same thought, but I found that I continue, I’m much more verbal that it kind of keeps pushing me forward. So I think it’s going to be different for people even in different stages.
Carrie: Right. For part of your training or certification process, did you have to have this done to you basically? Did you have a practicum where you practiced on each other?
Brooke: Yeah that’s built into all the trainings. All the phase training and all the speciality trainings all have kind of demos and practicums and debrief from there s we have that opportunity to experience it. And we really do encourage therapists to do their own work and to continue to do their own work. And so finding whether that’s a practice partner or a peer support group, or just finding your own brainspotting therapist and sticking with that.
Carrie: Yeah. That’s definitely so valuable and something that really helps us grow as therapists is to be the client for a period, for a season and come back around to it when we need to, as things come up in our personal lives or our professional life. Probably one of the biggest variables that’s made me a better clinician. I’d say getting my own therapy.
So, can you talk with us a little bit more specifically about how you’ve seen maybe this be helpful, brainspotting for anxiety and OCD?
Brooke: Yeah, I mean, in general, it’s just going to help lower that activation and we can see that pretty immediately. OCD, there are setups and discussions around that particularly. And what we’re doing allowing the brain to process, but also giving the brain something new. The brain is holding on to that obsession or that compulsion because it feels good in some way.
And so until we get something that’s better, it’s going to have a hard time letting go of that. You can think of that similarly to like any kind of addiction. If I really like eating Stroop waffles, my son really likes eating Stroop waffles. And to just say, I’m never going to do this again is hard, but when you say like, I have this thing, that’s better but I’m going to have this really sweet mango and not only does it taste good, but then I feel better and I have more energy. And once your brain can recognize that, it’s a lot easier to let go of what might be overly sugary or something that may be beneficial for you. I mean, that’s a fluff example.
Carrie: Sure. Well, I think it’s important for people to understand that our brains do change, can change and do change over time. And that we may be kind of stuck in this well-worn neural pathway that’s not working for us, a maladaptive neural network. And we can make changes to that and forge a new path in our brain. It’s not easy. It takes some time and practice just kind of like walking through a new path in the woods takes time and practice and intentionality, but it can happen. So that’s part of this process.
Brooke: We know neuroplasticity. And this just seems to be a faster way to get to it, but even then when we can’t always explain it to see the changes that come about and how it seems so much easier to do something different suddenly after doing brain spotting.
Carrie: Do you find that people pursue this after having received some talk therapy at times and feeling like, yeah, I’ve kind of talked maybe through some of my traumas, but I don’t really feel like they’re fully processed or I’m still having the effects of some of them.
Brooke: Yeah. I think if the people who are looking for brainspotting, it’s either because they’ve tried something and it’s not answering everything for them or someone else’s recommending it to them. Generally, although I do have people who are just doing an internet search and come up and they’re like, oh, so I read this thing on your website.
Yeah. And that sounds really interesting. Let’s can we do that? Yes, of course. You know, so I think there’s probably lots of ways, but it’s not as well known at this point. Most people are going to come at it after they’ve tried other things.
Carrie: Great. Do you know, like when brainspotting was developed?
Brooke: in 2003.
Carrie: Okay. So it’s a newer form of therapy maybe that hasn’t had as much research as other things.
Brooke: Right. I mean, research takes a lot of time and a lot of money, the library of researches is smaller. This, you know, it’s much more experiential colloquially, all kinds of spreading kind of that way. Grassroots at this point.
Carrie: Okay. And you said the brainspotting can be used with all ages.
Brooke: In fact, Monica Bauman from Austria recently wrote a book. She wrote it in English, Brainspotting with Children and Adolescents. And in that book, she tells this amazing story about working with an infant.
Brooke: And it’s an amazing, beautiful story.
Carrie: So towards the end of every podcast, I like to ask our guests to share a story of hope, which is a time in which you received hope from God or another person.
Brooke: That’s a great question. I think I have moments of hope most days. I think, you know, looking at the possibility. Some recent ones would just be conversations.
I’m having with people who are for me, the National Association of Adoptees and Parents. And they’re wanting to get me as part of their committee. And like, these are all the different ways that you can make a difference like that to me has a lot of hope in that. We’re looking at that, looking at the vaccine, coming out for adolescents next. For my family, that’s really helpful. My son is really looking forward to that. It will probably be the first time he’s gotten a shot that I won’t have to have held him down because he believes in that. So that’s hope. And for us, that’s hope that we may be able to travel again. And just all the things that we are looking forward to.
Carrie: Do you have any advice for people that might be looking into adoption as an option?
Brooke: Yeah, start your therapy. Now my recommendation, and really explore that and explore what is bringing you to adoption and get lots of different perspectives, because I think there are some messages out there. And if we are in a silo, you may not realize how very different other perspectives can be.
Carrie: That’s good. That’s good to have just kind of a well-rounded perspective on adoption. Do you say that and, sorry, this is an interest of mine only because I’ve been a former foster parent. So would you say start your therapy now because these kids are dealing with so much emotional baggage or they’re bringing that with them and that’s really going to trigger up your own emotional baggage.
Brooke: Yes, absolutely. So you, as a parent, whether that’s an adoptive parent or a foster parent. I’d probably say any parents, but you need to be working through things so that you can best show up for your kids. You can’t lead them to any kind of healing that you haven’t been able to find for yourself, that if you are struggling with being impatient. I mean how you’re what were you going to teach your kids patience. Finding those things and also absolutely. You said it wonderfully like they’re going to stir up anything that’s unprocessed in you. And I would say anything in everything. Kids and partners are really great at helping us reveal our areas in need of growth.
But just also, you know, adaptive parenting and foster parenting is really advance, It’s therapeutic parenting. It is hard and you need support and they have additional layers and additional issues that continue throughout their development and for you to be able to show up and help them with those things. You’ve gotta be able to take yourself out of that equation. You can’t be taking it personally. In one of my presentations, I talk about how, whenever my son in early ages would say like, you’re not my real mom, but I never took that personally because it wasn’t about me. I was literally about how he was feeling in that moment.
But now when he tells me you’re the best mommy ever. I don’t take that personally either because I also need to look and see that, where is this coming from. And is this actually a sentiment, or maybe he’s saying it because he has a need to connect and can I meet him where he needs to connect and again hearing the needs behind everything.
Carrie: Or he’s trying to butter you up really well for something.
Brooke: For Sure. That may also be it. He is amazing at like getting that voice to change when he needs something. And in some ways that’s really effective. And so just kind of rewarding that, wow, I see that you can use such a kind respectful voice when you want this and helping them see that, Hey, you can do this.
Carrie: Awesome. Well, we will put links in the show notes to your practice and where people can contact you and find out a little bit more about you. So since you’re licensed in two states, I assume you’re doing some online therapy as well.
Brooke: Yes right now, I am completely virtual, so I’m doing all of my work on telehealth.
Okay. For now. And for the foreseeable future, we’ll just kind of take it step by step and see what the future brings.
Carrie: Gotcha. As so many therapists are doing right now. So it makes sense. Well, thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight with us on brainspotting. And it was a good learning experience for me as well, to just see how things compare to what I’m doing and who knows, you never know, I may end up getting trained in that too one day.
Brooke: Yeah, of course. I think having an awareness of lots of different tools and theories is always beneficial. And then also finding those things that you really connect with that you guys have into and know really, really well is really important.
Carrie: I definitely agree with that.
I feel like in this short amount of time that I’ve had this podcast, we’ve been able to cover several different forms of therapy, which has been really neat because I love letting people know that there are treatment options. That’s part of increasing.
I am working on making our website a great resource, not just for our podcast to host the show notes, but also to have blogs and other articles that are helpful for individuals on there.
If there is a topic that we haven’t covered on the podcast, or you don’t see on the blog anywhere, feel free to reach out. I would love to hear your show suggestions or article suggestions. You can do that through the contact page of our website www.hopeforanxietyandocd.com anytime. While you’re there, feel free to subscribe to our email lists to keep up with what’s going on with the podcast. Thank you so much for listening.
Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By The Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing was completed by Benjamin Bynam.
Until next time it may be comforted by God’s great love for you.