What if our drug addiction is driven by deep pain that we may not recognise? Brainspotting is an emerging form of psychological therapy for drug addiction, enabling people to access the deep causes that are often hidden from our consciousness.
This article may be helpful you are…
- Curious about therapy for alcoholism, drug addiction or trauma;
- Looking for a private treatment program for drug addiction or trauma;
- Researching therapies that utilise the natural cognitive connection between sight and emotional distress; or
- Interested in emerging psychological therapies like Brainspotting therapy.
Powerful Brainspotting therapy accelerates rehab for drug addiction
Drug addiction can be a heartbreaking experience. If you or someone you love is addicted to prescription medication or illicit drugs, you have likely seen the devastating effects it can have on an individual’s life, relationships, financial situation, productivity and more.
Peter Hayton, the Clinical Director at The Banyans, explains how a new form of psychological therapy, called Brainspotting, has the capacity to free people from their addictions, especially drug addiction.
“No one wants to be addicted to drugs,” Peter says. “If you asked someone if they wanted experience the destructive effects of drug addiction, I doubt many people would say yes.”
So why do people become addicted to drugs?
Peter says that the powerful ability of Brainspotting therapy lies in the fact that it addresses some of the unconscious and unknown drivers of drug addiction.
“In life, we may have been faced with very difficult emotional situations,” Peter empathizes. “To cope with these extremely uncomfortable emotions, our brain has an ability to push them away, and store them in regions of the brain that we are not aware of.”
This area of the brain is called the subcortical region – and we expend up to 90% of our cognitive (another word for “brain” or “thinking”) energy in subcortical processing.
However, these memories are hidden – not forgotten. “We can go on to experience automatic reactions when these suppressed memories or emotions are activated in every day life,” Peter elaborates.
This is the basis for Brainspotting therapy: “Brainspotting therapy uses the connection between our eye movements and the subcortical regions of the brain. We can identify and reprocess the suppressed memories that may be contributing to our addictions without our conscious knowledge.”
Do you know what loads your emotional gun?
Peter describes the experience of addiction like a gun. “If we imagine our experience of addiction and related behaviours as a gun, then engaging in the behavior is the gun going off. We may be able to identify the triggers – or situations that activate us to seek (and use) the drug.”
“To take the metaphor further,” Peter continues, “Brainspotting therapy can help us understand what maybe loading the gun in the first place, without us even knowing it.”
Peter empathizes, saying that some people experiencing drug addiction may be living their daily lives with a loaded gun – hence it takes very little for them to “triggered” and engage in unhelpful and destructive drug use.
Brainspotting may sound like science fiction, but it’s actually very simple.
“Your therapist is there to guide your session and keep you focused, however, all the healing work comes naturally from within you,” Peter confirms. “The brain has a powerful ability to self-scan, and heal itself. Your biology has a built-in motivation to relieve discomfort – both physical and emotional.”
Research has suggested that there is a strong correlation between where we look and how we feel.
The position of eyes (rather than the subject we are looking at) seems to be connected to particular areas of the brain, and can elicit a strong emotional response.
“In a brain spotting session, your therapist will have you look at a pointer. You will be asked to remember a time that you felt significantly distressed and proceeded to engage in drug use,” Peter explains. “From there, your therapist will move the pointer, and ask you where you feel the emotions most strongly.”
When found, this eye position is called the brainspot, and will be held for a period of time. Depending on the guest, the therapist may allow you to process on your own, or may give you some prompts to help you realign and release these powerful, debilitating emotions.
A holistic program can expedite healing.
Peters suggests that the power of Brainspotting therapy at The Banyans comes from the fact that it is not a stand alone therapy. “We partner Brainspotting therapy with a variety of other psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other talking therapies.”
The benefit of a holistic approach? “The guest is able to deeply process all of the underlying contributors to their drug addiction,” Peter says.
“You can leave The Banyans knowing that you have addressed all aspects of your drug addiction, and are leaving free to start fresh.”
If you feel like you are ready to consider a private treatment program for drug addiction, make sure you contact The Banyans today. We are here to help you regain control of your life again.
Read more about drug addiction and the powerful role of Brainspotting treatment
Am I addicted to drugs?
Drug addiction and dependency is one of the leading concerns in Australia. In the past 20 years, the culture surrounding prescription and illicit drug use has changed dramatically, with drug-related deaths reaching a record high in recent years.
When you hear the phrase “drug user”, what type of person do you imagine? Do you think of a “middle aged male who is misusing prescription drugs, especially pain killers like such as benzodiazepines or oxycodone”(Australian Government, 2018)? These are the Australian’s most at risk of experiencing a drug addiction or accidental death from drug overdose.
Prescription medication dependency and illicit drug addiction are putting immense strain on Australian communities. Statistics show that methamphetamine (including ICE) is the most prevalent illicit drug addiction in Australia (excluding alcohol and tobacco), followed by ecstasy and cocaine.
Signs and symptoms of drug addiction
Many people may not understand the severity of their drug addiction or misuse, especially if they remain capable, high functioning professionals.
What are the signs of drug addiction?
- Continuing to take a medication for a health problem that is no longer present.
- An increase in the amount of the drug required before I experience the desired effect.
- Experiencing strange symptoms if the medication or drug wears off. This may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, shakes, irritability or very low mood.
- I feel like I am out of control of my medication use, and feel like I could not stop taking drugs even if I wanted to.
- I need the medication or illicit drug to operate normally, relax, wake up or fall asleep (aside from its intended function).
- I fail to do what is expected of me because of my medication or drug use, or the effects of my drug use (eg. drowsiness, inability to drive, poor memory or concentration).
- Sometimes I lie about, downplay or hide my drug use and/or how I obtain it.
- Finding yourself thinking about when your next dose or “hit” will be, or planning how you will obtain it.
- Combining medications or drugs with alcohol or other drugs to reach the desired effect.
If you relate to three or more of the statements above, it might worth contacting The Banyans to discuss your options for help.
Australian’s over 45 years olds at greater risk
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian’s over the age of 45 are the demographic most likely to be affected by drug addiction. While rates among younger Australians (below 35) are declining, prescription and illicit drug misuse is growing among older Australians.
For more information about the risk of drug addiction in Australia, click here to read our blog on drug addiction and overdose.
Your brain may be trying to protect you.
Our brains have an incredible capacity to protect us from stressful experiences and deeply painful emotions. When we are faced with distressing emotions, feelings or traumatic experiences, we may suppress them as a coping strategy.
Through redirecting our memories to unconscious parts of our brain, we are sheltered from recalling the overwhelming emotion in unhelpful moments.
Hidden but not forgotten.
However, these unconscious memories are still carried in the body and brain until they are resolved. As such, our suppressed moments can contribute to severe psychological distress. This can lead to conditions like depression, anxiety, drug addiction or other disorders.
Research has shown that up to 96% of our daily cognitive processing occurs in the unconscious brain. We are constantly taking in new information, and processing it through the lens of our past experiences – including those unconscious memories we have stored away deep inside.
As a result, we may be engaging in unhelpful behaviors like addiction in response to the effects of those deeply suppressed memories. The longer they remain in our deep brain, the greater likelihood they will contribute to other unhelpful coping strategies, like substance addiction or dependency.
Often, we do not realize that we are carrying these distressing memories, let alone responding to them automatically and subconsciously. Sometimes it can difficult to gain freedom from drug addiction because we are not aware of a root emotional cause.
Brainspotting is a powerful therapy that can help.
Vision is the king of the senses.
Did you know that 60% of our brain function is dedicated to processing visual stimuli?
Controlled by a structure deep inside the brain, this region also relates to feelings of reward, pleasure and habitual behavior. We have previously explained how reward, pleasure and habitual pathway are all connected to addiction. To read more about the powerful role of dopamine (the “pleasure hormone”), click here.
The deep connection between sight and habitual behavior has been significant in the development of effective psychological treatments of drug addiction. For example, research has suggested that visual cues can begin the addiction circuit without the substance being ingested.
To better understand how sight can influence our behaviour, look at the picture of chocolate above.
- Did you have a craving for chocolate before you saw the image?
- Do you have a craving for chocolate now?
- Can you imagine a time when you had some chocolate?
- How did you feel?
- If you think hard, you can maybe even taste it.
Prior to seeing the image of chocolate, you were probably not even thinking about chocolate. The effect of our suppressed memories can be like the effect you just experienced! When you experience a cue – potentially an emotional or physical cue, we suddenly we have a desire for something that we did not have before.
Two therapies that utilize the relationship between behavior, emotion and sight is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and brainspotting therapy.
Brainspotting is a powerful circuit breaker in the drug addiction cycle
Brainspotting is a flexible form of therapy similar to EMDR and other somatic therapies. It based on the principle that that where you look affects how you feel. Brainspotting is particularly effective for treating long-term drug addiction.
Brainspotting provides a window into our unconscious reflexes. It enables identification and awareness of the automatic and unconscious responses that are driving our drug addiction.
What is a “brainspot”?
A brainspot is the eye position that activates the emotions that are connected to your stored, unconscious memory.
In a brainspotting session, your therapist will direct your eye movement with a pointer, while you listen to some very basic audio stimulation. They will ask you to report when you feel like the emotion or distress felt most intense.
When you have identified an eye position that feels particularly strong, the therapist knows that the “brainspot” has been found.
This short, two minute video also explains a brainspot in a clear way.
Finding your brainspots can help release emotional “sticky points”.
Many people describe feeling “stuck” in their addiction cycle. Brainspotting helps you identify these emotional “sticky points”, and help you be free from them.
If the guest does not know why they are stuck in the addiction cycle, it is likely that their sticky points are suppressed emotions. Brainspotting enables the identification of these contributors in a way that cannot be achieved through external, therapist directed treatments for drug addiction.
Your brain has a natural ability to heal from emotional trauma. Often, this requires processing. Brainspotting brings these unresolved issues to your consciousness so that you can reprocess and release them.
What are the benefits of brainspotting for drug addiction treatment?
There are several benefits of brainspotting therapy as a treatment for drug addiction. These include:
- The opportunity for faster results compared to alternative forms of psychological therapy;
- Harness your brain’s natural ability to self-heal;
- Reprocess and acknowledge your internal pain in a way that cannot be directed by a therapist;
- Unlock your unconscious drivers and receive true healing from your addiction;
- Activate the emotional and automatic contributors to addiction, not just the logical side of the brain.
Research into recovery for drug addiction shows that brainspotting therapies can achieve much faster change compared to traditional talking therapies. Some trained brainspotting therapists describe it as a “laser beam therapy”. Brainspotting allows you to focus on a specific unconscious contributor to drug addiction.
The Banyans offers brainspotting therapy for drug addiction
For years, alcohol was viewed as a moral failing, or character flaw. But research has shown that this is not the case. Treatment for addiction requires a multimodal approach that addresses all contributing fctors: including those that are not yet in the guest’s conscious mind.
At The Banyans, our private treatment programs for addiction offer one-on-one, personalised Brainspotting and EMDR treatment with qualified therapists. These therapies are paired with powerful talking therapies and ancillary approaches to ensure the guest receives a strong and comprehensive treatment.
The first step towards freedom from addiction? Make an enquiry to Australia’s best rehab for addiction: The Banyans Health and Wellness.