What’s With the Reptile?

The Science of Counseling Tour

Are you thinking counseling theory must seem like a lot of "mumbo jumbo"? At myShrink we believe a neuroscience approach is one way to inspire more people to take up therapy as a means to make deep and lasting changes in their lives.

myShrink content is based on insights derived from two distinct fields of study: neuroscience and child development.

These fields have seen incredible growth in the last few years. They have simplified our understanding how change occurs in the brain and made this information more accessible and user friendly for everyone.

One of the main insights to come out of this research is the distinction between the right brain and the left brain. Each side of the brain processes information in a completely different way. This knowledge has important implications for counseling, and leads to no less than a paradigm shift in the way counseling will be done in the years ahead.

A Preview of the Science of Counseling Tour

It's a common belief that because the mind is so powerful we should be able to change ourselves just by thinking the right thoughts.

"Just say no!" and "Just do it!" are the ultimate expressions of this belief.

But fifty years of research in child development, refined and confirmed in the labs of neuroscience, have given us a new paradigm of personal change.

This paradigm does not deny the power of the intellect, the "left brain". It simply recognizes that what we are and how we behave today are a result of early childhood experiences encoded by the brain into learned patterns of behaviour. 

These patterns are regulated, unconsciously, by the "right brain".

In the new paradigm, personal change, especially at the deepest level, is achieved through a "re-setting" or "rewiring" of these unconscious patterns. This is most effectively accomplished through an empathetic relationship with a professional counselor.

This paradigm shift, based on body-mind research and theory, has been quietly growing for several years. With new advances in brain imaging, it's time has come. In fact, I have a hard time curbing our enthusiasm!

What's with the Reptile?

You've probably noticed our little reptile throughout the site. He's here to illustrate a very important fact that's relevant to counseling, and frankly to any personal change you undertake.

The reptilian brain influences our behaviour, our emotions, and the way we feel about ourselves in ways that are largely outside our awareness. In fact, almost everyone underestimates the influence of the reptilian brain.

The reptilian brain (comprising the brainstem and spinal cord) in combination with our limbic system is in effect where the personality resides: our idiosyncracies, our way of being with others, who you are emotionally and behaviourally. Much of what goes on in counseling appears to be profoundly conditioned and influenced by these "primitive" structures.

And guess what?

The reptilian brain and limbic system form the biological infrastructure of the right brain. Now the right brain, as opposed to the logical, thinking left-brain, determines the nature and quality of your connection with your therapist. Without bringing the right brain into your counseling you cannot achieve the deeper changes that effective counseling can make possible.

You see, you need to access the right brain in order to modify the neuropathways that 'remember' what we learned in infancy about relating to others.

New connections in the brain mean new ways of being with yourself and others. New ways of acting and reacting naturally and instinctively become available.

So how do we access the right brain?

The right brain is involved in many processes but the important ones are: empathic attunement, emotion, bodily sensations, and perhaps humour, thrown in for good measure!

Counseling and the Right Brain

You see, the story you tell your therapist about yourself is important, but if you don't include the underlying emotional energy in the telling then you're not accessing the brain systems where meaningful and lasting change occurs.

This is the reason why myShrink stresses the importance of a good working relationship with your therapist.

This is why counseling is uniquely important. Changes in your habitual, restricted reactions to circumstances, and in particular your way of being with others, cannot be achieved on your own. The underlying neuronal imprinting can be altered only by reproducing the conditions in which it was originally laid down. For most people the crucial conditions are found in the mother-child relationship of their infancy.

So if your counseling includes working with the emotions (including the physical responses associated with those emotions) that arise in the context of a safe relationship with the therapist, then you're definitely on the right road to well-being!

Are you taking the Science of Counseling Tour?

Click on the Right Brain link below:

What's with the Reptile?
The Right Brain
Implicit Memory

Procedural Memory

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