San Diego Brainspotting
with San Diego Therapist Susannah Muller

Neuro Performance Training for Sports with Brainspotting

Using Neuroscience to Overcome Mental Blocks, Injuries/Concussions & To Expand Peak Performance
Results usually seen in 10-12 Sessions

From Weekend Warriors to Student-Athletes to Elite/Professional Athletes -- Neuro Performance Training for Sports Utilizes Neuroscience-Based Methods to:
  • Overcome mental blocks, slumps, the yips, freezing, balking, performance anxiety, etc.
  • Improve recovery from physical injuries, particularly head injuries or concussions.
  • Develop a neuro-physiological cue to get “into the zone” that can be accessed easily any time.
  • Expand and enhance peak performance, even for the athlete who is performing well.
  • Make an athlete mentally tougher and more resilient.
Sports Psychology

Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting is Revolutionary Sports Psychology: It Works!
Traditional sports psychology struggles to help athletes suffering from slumps, mental blocks, the yips or freezing, etc.  It also often fails to help athletes who have completely recovered from a physical injury but can’t regain their prior performance level, or who have seemed unable to perform as they used to for no apparent reason.  Traditional sports psychology fails because it only addresses the surface (conscious) symptoms and fails to clear out the unconscious material holding an athlete back.  (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports)

Neuro Performance Training (“NPT”) for Sports with Brainspotting (“BSP”) is different, and it works.
How is NPT/BSP different?

1. NPT/BSP Uniquely Utilizes the Brain/Body Connection to Optimize Performance.

Brainspotting principle: “What’s in the brain is in the body and what’s in the body is in the brain.”- David Grand, Phd.

The brain sends messages via the spinal cord to peripheral nerves throughout the body that serve to control the muscles and internal organs. In this way, the brain and the body are one integrated unit in the comprehensive nervous system. (David Grand, Phd). That is why it’s important to optimize the efficiency of the brain’s communication with the body, in addition to training the body for sports performance.  Brainspotting does exactly this by clearing out maladaptations in the neuro pathways. (Grand, D., Phd., 2013).

Sports Psychology

As a fundamental part of our survival drive, the primitive part of the brain is constantly unconsciously scanning the environment for threats.  For example, if a baseball came at your head from the side and your peripheral vision could sense it, you would instantly and involuntarily duck. Your unconscious brain processes the information received from your sight without your awareness and before you can think about it. The amygdala in the deep subcortical brain reacts to perceived threats within 1 second of the feedback from one of our senses indicating a threat. (Carter, R. (2014) Frances, P. Hiriani, S., John, K., Warren, (Eds)R., The Human Brain Book). This can be very helpful, but it can also inhibit performance.

For example, just as a child who puts their hand on the hot stove will immediately pull it backward and then be cautious of touching hot stoves, a pitcher who got hit in the face with a line drive may find herself reflexively ducking any time the ball comes her way, no matter the speed of the ball. (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports.) She cannot help her body’s reaction.  Her deep subcortical brain needs to “un-learn” that maladaptive reaction because she cannot avoid softballs being thrown her way.  Neuro performance training with Brainspotting de-conditions those maladaptive neuro pathways causing that reaction, releasing her from that reflexive action and allowing her to control her movements and perform more freely. (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports)

2. Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting Correctly Identifies What is a Symptom and What is the Cause and Uses Neuroscientific Methods to Clear Out the Causes. 

NPT/BSP uses neurobiological tools that allow us to process experiences and symptoms not typically within the conscious mind. As many athletes will tell you, these problems do not resolve from thinking about it or trying to figure it out. Physically practicing more will also not overcome them.  NPT with Brainspotting accesses and directly targets the problems in the neuro pathways of the unconscious brain that are causing the performance problems. (Grand, D., Phd, 2013; Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports)

Dr. David Grand’s revolutionary research found that:

  • The Cause. Mental blocks in performance result from bad experiences or upsetting incidents which alter the athlete’s unconscious brain and nervous system, creating maladaptations in the neuro pathways which impede performance without the athlete being aware of it. (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports; Grand, D., Phd, 2013)
    • On an unconscious level, the brain-body is diverting energy to a self-protective stance, inhibiting free movement. (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports.)
    • For more neuroscience on how the brain is unable to fully process these negative, upsetting events and how that causes maladaptations in neuro pathways: Explanation of How These Negative Experiences Unconsciously Impede Performance.
Sports Psychology
  • Any Upsetting Experience. The roots of the performance problem are upsetting incidents or negative experiences that cause pain -mentally or physically.  (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports) Often referred to as “trauma,” in this context it is broadly defined as anything that has been significantly physically or emotionally upsetting to the individual. (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports)
    • For example, events where the athlete experienced:
      • Perceived Failures/Disappointments
      • Embarrassment/Humiliation/Shame
      • Criticism from self, coaches, parents, teammates, internet trolls, fans, etc., or
      • Physical Injuries (even small ones)
  • It can be Physical and/or Mental.  The upsetting experience may be (a) mental, (b) physical or (c) both.  The brain treats both the same way and does not distinguish between them. (Scaer, R., MD)
  • Secondary or Vicarious Trauma. Even witnessing another athlete’s failure or injury or being “chewed out” can contribute to this. Your brain reacts with mirror neurons to what you perceive. Your brain is now aware of the possibility of that happening and will unconsciously protect against it. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports; Roberts, P. LCSW).
  • Everyone Experiences This Type of “Trauma.”  Everyone experiences ups and downs in daily life, including frequent negative experiences. But for an athlete competing in sports, the exposure to physical and emotional trauma is even greater. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

General Life Examples: 

  • A relationship breakup/big fight 
  • A sprain or broken bone
  • Parents divorcing 
  • Death of family, friend or pet
  • Being bullied, abused or harassed 
  • Being embarrassed in front of the class
  • Family problems or conflicts
  • Work or school problems or conflicts
  • Life transitions
  • Losing friendships
  • Loss of a job
  • Failing/Doing Poorly on an exam
  • Minor car or bike accident
  • Medical Procedures
  • Surgery.  We take it for granted, but it is a major trauma to the body to be cut open. Further, because of the anesthesia, we don’t consciously recall the physical trauma of it, but the unconscious brain does remember.  (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).
  • Sports Related Examples.  Athletes are tough – mentally and physically.  They’re good at using positive thinking to overcome disappointments, “failures,” etc.. However, unconsciouslytheir body remembers the upsetting experience, and the resulting maladaptations accumulate in the athlete’s neuro pathways despite the ways the athlete may use conscious thinking to deal with it.  This is the unconscious self-protection mechanism gone awry. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports; Grand, D., Phd, 2013).

Examples: 

  • Physical injury or getting “shaken up”
  • Seeing someone else injured
  • Having a bad practice or competition
  • Being benched or cut from the team
  • Losing a race or doing worse than expected 
  • Making a mistake in competition 
  • Self-criticism, or criticism from others (coaches, parents, teammates, internet trolls, fans, etc.)
  • Being yelled at, or being yelled at in front of teammates
  • Seeing a teammate being yelled at or criticized
  • Being disqualified
  • Shrugged Off But Not Forgotten.  The bad experience may have happened in an instant and be dismissed by the athlete shortly after, seemingly easily forgotten, but the body keeps the score in your unconscious.  (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

Examples

  • A hard tackle in football
  • Falls on the ice or court, etc.
  • A “near-miss” collision/hit/fall/mistake
  • Feeling “off” as executing a skill
  • An equipment failure 
  • Collision at home plate
  • Survival Mechanism. When one of these negative experiences happens, the survival mechanism of the subcortical brain kicks in automatically, creating self-protective neurophysiology to prevent a reoccurrence.  This is an automatic reaction, outside of our control. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).
    • More specifically, it creates maladaptive neuro pathways in the brain and nervous system as the unconscious brain seeks to prevent that bad experience from happening again.
  • Accumulation Causes Problems with Performance. Over time, these maladaptations accumulate until they become noticeable through poor performance or performance blocks. (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports.)
  • Conscious Efforts Don’t Work to Remedy It. The performance blocks cannot be resolved by improved self-talk, concentration, mental imagery, or relaxation (traditional sports psychology methods) or by physically practicing more. You cannot condition over the maladaptations. They need to be accessed, processed, released and rewritten to be cleared out.  (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports.)
  • The Symptoms -- What We Notice. The performance anxiety, loss of confidence, tentativeness, negative self-talk, and body tension consciously experienced by the athlete are actually symptoms of these unconsciously accumulated, upsetting, negative experiences, that go away once the roots of the problem are eliminated.  (Grand, D., Phd, & Goldberg, A., Ed.D., This is Your Brain on Sports.)

    3. NPT/BSP Offers a Unique Process that Directly Targets the Roots of the Problem by Accessing the Subcortical Brain.

Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting is a leading-edge technique to de-condition the specific maladaptations in the neuro pathways that are interfering with performance by causing unconscious guarding instincts to kick-in. This is done by locating a Brainspot through eye position and reflexive cues from the deep subcortical brain. (Grand, D. Phd; 2013)

Sports Psychology

The athlete’s continued focus on the Brainspot as they process puts the athlete in a gently altered mental state by accessing the subcortical brain, which allows the athlete to uncover the unconscious material that is interfering with their performance and bring it to consciousness where it can be processed and released. This process is enhanced by listening to Biolateral Sound, which gently alternates between stimulating the right and left hemispheres of the brain.  The Biolateral Sound helps to stimulate the deep brain and also helps the brain to integrate the changes being made.  Many people also report it is calming.  (See below for more explanation of how Brainspotting works).

NPT/BSP is unique in sports psychology because it makes it easy for the athlete to access their subcortical brain, bringing the unconscious material to consciousness where it can be processed and released. (Grand, D. Phd, Brainspotting The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change.)

4. NPT/BSP Stops the Athlete’s Brain from Getting Hijacked and Allows the Coaches to Effectively Train & Condition the Athlete. 

Whenever the primitive brain senses a threat, it hijacks the athlete’s neuro pathways for self-protection (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).  The more the negative experiences accumulate, the more heightened the primitive brain’s sensitivity and the more strongly it reacts, until the problems become noticeable in performance and execution.  (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

Sports Psychology

Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting de-conditions the athlete’s specific neuro pathways related to automatic self-protective response and the performance blocks  (Grand, D., Phd, 2013). This process allowes the coaches and trainers to train and condition the athlete to his/her prime without any unconscious material getting in the way.

Once the maladaptive neuro pathways have been de-conditioned, the brain no longer gets hijacked by them and the athlete is able to utilize the neuro pathways conditioned through training and practice (Grand, D., Phd, 2013).  The de-conditioning releases the instinctive guarding mechanism, enabling the athlete to have free movement, which is crucial to good performance (Grand, D., Phd, 2013). This change could be the difference between 4th place off the podium and first place.

Brainspotting “de-conditions” the maladaptive neuro pathways, clearing out neuro pathways so they can be useful to the athlete in their performance.  De-conditioning allows the brain and nervous system to function at a higher level. This improves the athlete’s performance because the energy is no longer being diverted for self-protection (Grand, D., Phd, 2013), As a result, the athlete has more neuro-physiological and mental resources available.


Thus, after NPT/BSP the athlete can perform better in the moment, using the neuro pathways conditioned through training and “positive reps,” without the baggage of the past weighing him or her down.

How does Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting work?

          Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting is different from Brainspotting in regular clinical work, though the basics are the same. The neuro performance training for sports with Brainspotting is a more vigorous, assertive and proactive methodology with a more set structure. 

Sports Psychology

Finding and Accessing a Brainspot.
The brain is the most complex organ in the body and the eyes are the second most complex organ in the body.  Visual processing in the brain is linked to at least 60% of the brain.  Ninety percent (90%) of the information transmitted to the brain is from sight, which takes in information both consciously and unconsciously. (BrainFacts.org). Brainspotting utilizes the connection between the brain’s processing mechanism and sight to identify a “Brainspot.”

A Brainspot is not a single spot in the brain.  It is the eye position that connects to the neural network of activity in the brain that holds the “trauma capsule” with all the unprocessed trauma.  (Grand, D., Phd, Brainspotting; Levine, P. Phd). A Brainspot is actually a physiological subsystem in the brain and nervous system holding emotional experience in memory form. (Grand, D. Phd.)

The athlete and therapist work together to locate a Brainspot and to activate the trauma memory network where the bad experiences are held in the unconscious brain. This is done by activating the athlete around the issue and finding reflexive cues from athlete’s body indicating where a Brainspot is located as the athlete moves their eyes across the visual field. (Grand, D. Phd).

By gazing at the Brainspot, the athlete helps his/her brain to maintain its focus on the neural problem areas and begin to process the stored information about the negative experience. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

The Athlete’s Job: Focused Mindfulness.
The athlete’s job is be an observer with relaxed curiosity, following his or her internal experience wherever it leads. The athlete is guided to uncritically observe, step by step, what they experience, including memories, thoughts, emotions, or sensations in their body.  (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

  • Because of the Brainspot, the mindfulness is very precisely targeted on the maladaptations that need to be de-conditioned. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports; Grand, D., Phd, 2013)
  • The deep subcortical brain de-conditioning doesn’t happen in a cognitive, linear fashion.  “[I]ts complexity is way beyond the reach and comprehension of our conscious awareness.” (David Grand, Phd).
  • The athlete frequently does not understand the connections the deep brain is making during processing because it is not happening in the rational part of the brain.  But it’s not necessary to understand it for it to work. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting “Processing”. 
As you maintain the Brainspot eye position and follow your drifting mind, you will enter into an altered state or trance and in that state, “your brain processes and releases deeply and thoroughly whatever is blocking or bothering you.” (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

Everyone experiences processing in their own unique way.  Memories or emotions may come up, or muscles may twitch or move. It can be intense at times. As the issues that have knotted the athlete’s performance begin to release through processing, the athlete’s distress level diminishes. Depending on the session length, processing may last 15 minutes to over an hour.

Neuro Performance Training with Brainspotting --  Results.
NPT/BSP is a state-of-the-art neuroscientific method of “de-conditioning” the maladaptive neuro pathways deep in the subcortical brain and nervous system of athletes so that they can perform optimally. (Grand, D., Phd., 2013)

Some of the neurophysiological and performance results of the NPT/BSP program include the following:

  • NPT/BSP clears out the maladaptations in the neuro pathways that hijack the brain and impede performance. (Grand, D., Phd, 2013; Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports.)In order to perform at their highest level, athletes need as many neuro pathways as possible. It makes them more resourceful and better able to react and adapt. (Roberts, P. LCSW)
  • The body’s homeostasis can be reset to a calmer state of functioning. (Robert Scaer, M.D.; David Grand, Phd).  In this calmer physical and mental state, the athlete can recover/detox better and can perform better.
  • NPT/BSP clears out the trauma memory network which holds all the negative experiences in a connected neural network in the unconscious. (David Grand, Phd, 2010).  Once cleared out, there are many positive effects. 
    • Creates a mentally tougher and more resilient athlete since the past negative events no longer unconsciously influence reaction to current events. (Roberts, P. LCSW)
    • Upcoming Events (Competitions or Games) no longer create such an intense response for the athlete. (Grand, 2013).
  • The NPT/BSP program also eliminates the tension, negative thinking, performance anxiety, tentativeness and other issues the athlete experiences when having difficulty with performance, which are symptoms of the unconsciously held negative experiences. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).
  • Most athletes also notice it has the effect of creating better quality sleep and an improved, positive mindset. (Roberts, P. LCSW)
  • The NPT/BSP program results in the athlete’s ability to be relaxed, calm and focused before and during the performance, which is crucial to success in any sport. (Grand, D., Phd., & Goldberg, A., Ed.D, This is Your Brain on Sports).

Injury/Concussion Recovery.
More on how NPT/BSP can help with recovery from injuries and concussions.

“Even an athlete who is at the top of their game has some unresolved trauma silently, negatively affecting their performance.” – David, Grand, Phd.

Expanding Peak Performance: (1) Creating a Neuro-Physiological Cue to be “In the Zone;” (2) Clearing Unconscious Maladapations and (3) Clearing Worst Case Scenario/What Ifs from Causing an Unconscius Self-Protective Reaction.
More on how NPT/BSP can expand peak performance and create a neuro-physiological cue for being "in the zone".

Sports Psychology


“Brain-based principles of body-based memory, the neurosensitization and cue-related anxiety from the trauma literature clearly prove that the yips come from post-traumatic stress syndrome. And Brainspotting has shown to be dramatically effective in mitigating, and even healing, this vexing syndrome.”

- Robert Scaer, MD, author of “The Body Bears the Burden,” “The Trauma Spectrum,” and co-author of “8 Keys to Brain- Body Balance.”

Susannah Muller, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #49050
San Diego Brainspotting
5230 Carroll Canyon Rd., Suite 314, San Diego, CA 92121
(619) 787-2743

Important Disclaimer: For my protection and yours, I want you to know the following information:
The ideas, procedures and suggestions on this site are not intended as a substitute for consultation with your
professional medical health care provider. The information on this web site is of a general nature only, and
may not to be used treat or diagnose any particular disease or any particular person. Viewing this web site
does not constitute a professional relationship or professional advice or services.

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