Good Therapy Using Right and Left Brain
25 May 2016

LR brain therapyWhat’s the Right Brain/Left Brain Got to do With Good Therapy?

There’s a lot of talk in the therapy world about the “extra factor” (maybe we should call it the X Factor) that makes counselling sing. I suggest that there is a relationship rhythm between client and therapist that involves two brains…well, if you really want to get technical, it involves four brains!

We each have a brain made up of two brains: right and left. It’s important here to know your right from your left. Left brain activity is rational, methodical, language based, and develops later in children. It is a bit of a sophisticated creature in terms of nutting out technical problems, or getting the detail right. It prefers things to be literal in-your-head and not so emotional. The left brain is logical (Think Pre-frontal Cortex.) It IS important to note that both sides of the brain work together on all these issues, otherwise we’d be dead, but this is about their predominant preferences.

The right brain is a little playful, intuitive, artistic. It is body based rather than head based, loves patterns and metaphors, and feels its way into a problem, sometimes making leaps based on a hunch. It is more closely linked to our emotional state, sometimes labelled the primitive brain. (Think Amygdala and Hippocampus.)

I am suggesting that the most effective work between a counsellor and client is done when both move into a space where they relate right brain to right brain, and then left-brain to left brain. In a rhythm. Some writers suggest that the right brain connection is necessary in order for an effective therapeutic alliance to be built. (Schore etc), and that this is the foundation of all that follows, including deepening empathy. This rhythm is part of what is often termed intersubjectivity, which I will talk about in later blogs.

So what I am saying is that if you want to be effective with clients you need to be conscious of the ways that you can enhance and work effectively with your right brain, and also how you might invite clients to move into the right brain. See future post “How to Counsel Right Brain to Right Brain” for more information.


The benefits?

Greater client engagement. Deeper connection with self and other. More honesty from the client, and thus more effective work. Playful, whole person interventions that flow between you. More hope. Faster access to strengths and the core issues in the client. A feeling of congruence and a shared reality for both of you. The emergence of metaphors which can enliven and inform the work between you. A deepening of the intersubjective space. More feelings in the room. A sense of delight at the end of a hard day’s work.

The costs?

There is less place to hide. You need to give more of yourself. Sometimes you will physically feel like your heart is being cracked open, or you need to access your counter-transference responses and truly own them, wrestle them down to the ground and put up a good fight (or not). It is two-way and all of you is needed in the room. You have less “power-over” the client, and you allow them to lead more. There is less telling and more attending, more uncertainty, more not-knowing…together.

Want to know more? See my future blog posts:

“How to Counsel Right Brain to Right Brain”

“Counselling Right-Left-Right-Left Brain”