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What is Bilateral Stimulation and how can it help?

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

How is BLS used in trauma therapy and EMDR.
EMDR: What is Bilateral Stimulation?

In the intricate landscape of the human brain, the left and right hemispheres play distinctive roles in shaping our emotions and experiences. Understanding the interplay between these hemispheres is crucial in comprehending the efficacy of Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) in processing emotions and addressing traumatic memories. This powerful technique, both in and out of therapy, has proven to be a valuable tool in emotional regulation and healing. In this blog, we delve into the science behind how the left and right brain function differently and explore the benefits of BLS in helping individuals process emotions and difficult memories.

The Different Functions of the Left and Right Brain:

The human brain is divided into two hemispheres: the left and the right, connected by the corpus callosum, facilitating communication between the two. Although interconnected, each hemisphere specializes in different cognitive processes.

What are the fuctions of the left and right brain when it come to trauma?

The left brain is generally associated with logical thinking, language processing, and analytical skills. It is the center for verbal communication and rational thought, making it instrumental in problem-solving and decision-making.

On the other hand, the right brain excels in processing emotions, creativity, and intuition. It is responsible for understanding non-verbal cues, recognizing faces, and appreciating art and music. Emotions are predominantly processed in the right hemisphere, particularly in the amygdala, which plays a significant role in emotional responses.

How Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) Aids in Emotional Regulation:

Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) is a therapeutic technique that engages both hemispheres of the brain to facilitate the processing and integration of distressing emotions and memories. By activating neural pathways through rhythmic, alternating stimuli, BLS helps foster communication between the left and right brain, promoting a state of psychological balance and enhancing emotional regulation.

BLS has been widely used in therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Research suggests that BLS may decrease the intensity of emotional responses to distressing memories, making it easier for individuals to explore and process traumatic experiences.

How Bilateral Stimulation is utilized:

1. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing): In EMDR therapy, a trained professional guides the patient through a series of lateral eye movements while focusing on distressing memories. This rhythmic movement mimics the natural eye movements that occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The bilateral stimulation helps the individual process the trauma and reframe their emotional responses.

2. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and some other techniques, individuals use bilateral tapping on specific acupressure points on their body or listen to bilateral music. The rhythmic nature of the tapping or music provides bilateral stimulation, enabling the brain to reprocess distressing memories and emotions in a less overwhelming manner.

Simple Ways to Utilize Bilateral Stimulation for Emotional Processing:

1. Hand Patting: Sit or stand in a comfortable position and gently pat your thighs alternately with both hands. This bilateral stimulation can help in moments of heightened emotional arousal or stress.

2. Finger Tapping: Use your index and middle fingers to tap rhythmically on the opposite hand's palm. This can be done discreetly in public spaces to aid in emotional regulation.

3. Bilateral Music: Listen to bilateral music tracks or nature sounds that pan from left to right, stimulating both hemispheres and promoting relaxation.

4. Drawing or Coloring: Engage in drawing or coloring activities that involve using both hands simultaneously, fostering bilateral stimulation while unleashing creativity.

5. Walking: Walking is a natural way to benefit from bilateral stimulation, as the legs and arms rhythmically move back and forth, and the eyes often shift from left to right as you take in your surroundings.

The human brain's bilateral nature allows us to explore innovative ways to process emotions and address traumatic memories effectively. Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) is a valuable technique that harnesses the power of this natural design, facilitating emotional regulation and healing inside and outside the therapy office. By understanding the distinct functions of the left and right brain and how they collaborate, we can empower ourselves with simple yet effective BLS techniques to embark on a journey of emotional growth and well-being.

At the Gooding Wellness Group in Cold Spring Harbor, we have several EMDR-trained clinicians who utilize BLS to initiate growth and healing. Always remember that seeking professional guidance from a licensed therapist can provide personalized support and ensure safe and effective utilization of bilateral stimulation in processing emotions and trauma.

Gordon Gooding, LCSW - Founder & Director of Gooding Wellness LCSW PC
Liana Ross, LMHC

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