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MY APPROACH

 

Most of us don’t realise that psychotherapies can be broadly divided into right and left-brain psychotherapies. The main difference between these therapies is linked to how they engage the brain and how much emphasis is placed on the body.  

 

Adverse life expediencies and trauma disrupts both brain hemispheres - they can inhibits the left 'thinking brain' and also make us fear and doubt our intuitive reactions which we experience in our bodies (right brain). Both of these functions are important - we have to be able to plan, learn from experience, link cause and effect and anticipate how to deal with the future. And we also need to be able to feel connected to our bodies, and sense and trust our gut reactions and intuition and these are functions of the right brain. 

In my work with clients I believe it's vital to involve both brain hemispheres to allow for a deeper integration between how we think and feel within our bodies, on both the conscious and subconscious levels. This is why I spent the last 17 years learning about different therapeutic approaches so that I could provide my clients with a more holistic mind-body experience within therapy. This way of working can be particularly helpful for those that did not benefit from more traditional therapeutic approaches in the past.

IFS EMDR Brainspotting & CBT Dorset & Lymington

"Neuro-physiotherapy with psychological consequences"

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE

BETWEEN LEFT AND RIGHT BRAIN THERAPIES?

Left-brain Therapies

Talking therapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) are classed as left-brain therapies. This is because they engage the left 'logical' hemisphere of the brain. The left hemisphere is involved in regulation of emotion through rational thought, planning, analysing, problem solving etc.  This part of the brain has the drive to tell our autobiographical stories through a linear sequence of events using language.  Left-brain therapies can be highly effective for people who are experiencing mild to moderate difficulties, and are seeking to gain cognitive understanding of what is happening and wish to learn new life skills on a more conscious level.

If you opt for talking therapy, then cognitive approaches such as CBT and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be particularly helpful in engaging the logical hemisphere. They offer a pragmatic framework that can help to explain how our thinking patterns and behaviours developed and how they contribute to our symptoms. Through becoming 'psychological detectives' the client and the therapist engage in a functional analysis of the presenting symptoms and look for alternative ways of interacting with their thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations as well as the world around them. Many of these techniques are mindfulness-based and aim to create more distance between our thoughts and emotions and therefore increasing our tolerance to negative affect. They also encourage curiosity and compassion towards different parts of ourselves and can help us understand how our early life experiences shaped our beliefs and our rules for living.  Click here if you would like to find out more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapies. 

 

Talking therapies can help us feel good in a way of being 'seen and heard' in our stories, allowing us to understand how our problems developed and giving us practical tools for self-regulation. The downside is that they are limited in their ability to reach deep enough into the right-brain and touch on the root of our traumas and how they are stored in our minds and bodies. This is particularly the case for those who have experienced multiple traumas and early relational injuries. If this is the case, then right-brain therapies might be a better choice. Please read on if you would like to find out more about right-brain therapies.

Right-brain Therapies

The right hemisphere of the brain is involved in regulation through subconscious processing of emotions. Verbal language does not reach this part of the brain. This is because this part of the brain communicates non-verbally through facial expression, body language, imagery, reflexes, urges, bodily sensations etc.  It is also the seat of impulses such as flight, fight and freeze, as well as creativity and intuition. It is also where trauma is stored. In fact, most psychologists now believe that trauma (and difficult experiences) are stored in neural networks as sensory fragments (i.e. visual images, smells, sounds, incomplete impulses to move or to freeze, core beliefs etc.), which means the trauma memory is not stored like a story, but rather by how our five senses were experiencing the situation at the time it was occurring. It is this unprocessed information within neural networks that makes us experience various psychological and somatic symptoms.  

 

The therapies that speak the language of the right-brain include Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR), Brainspotting (BSP), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), Somatic Experiencing, Coherence Therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and many more.

 

These approaches involve guiding clients to focus on an issue that they find disturbing. This could be a past trauma memory, feelings of anxiety, recurrent negative thoughts, a negative core belief or any current psychological or psychosomatic symptom they are bringing to therapy. It is not necessary to understand the origin of the symptom. By focusing on the issue, and simultaneously using specialised techniques, the therapist helps the clients to locate, hold in place, process/ metabolise, and release information that is stuck in maladaptive survival networks within the brain. The result usually is that the client no longer feels activated when thinking about the issue and spontaneous new and more adaptive beliefs emerge as the information is finally linked up with the rest of the brain. This type of focused processing is subconscious and is typically far less activating than just talking about the issues and clients often find the experience positively intriguing - particularly because so much change can happen without our left logical brain fully understanding  how we got there.

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