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How To Use Art To Get Both Sides Of The Brain To Heal Anxiety, Depression & Trauma

Written by: Carey MacCarthy, MA, ATR, LPCC, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Have you ever wondered how you can use art in your practice, classroom, or for yourself to calm anxiety and feel focused and alert?

The Difference in the Work of the Right and Left Hemispheres of the Brain.

After the last few years everyone’s brains have been wired to be on hyperalert creating anxiety and a wide range of emotional and physical reactions. The good news is that you can actually begin to rewire your brain to feel calm again using art to stimulate both sides of the brain, called bilateral stimulation.

So, What is bilateral stimulation and why is it important?

Bilateral stimulation refers to the use of a stimulus that is presented to both sides of the body. Because the right brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa, stimulating both sides of the body stimulates both sides of the brain. Neuroscientists assert after 25 years of research that it is imperative to access both sides of the brain in the treatment of trauma.

The Bilateral Scribble technique was developed by my former professor, colleague and co-author, Linda Chapman, board Certified, registered art therapist, through 35 years of scientific research at UCSF’s pediatric trauma unit.

THE BI-LATERAL SCRIBBLE is a very effective sensory-motor technique that engages both sides of the brain, incorporating drawing on both sides of the body, tactile stimulation, and auditory processing.

Bilateral Scribble also offers the opportunity to assess a person’s fine and gross motor development, eye-hand coordination, and motor planning. The kinesthetic aspect of the scribbling activates the lower structures of the right brain and stimulates the formulation of imagery. The bilateral stimulation and eye movements bring the hemispheres of the brain into better synchrony.

The reason Art Therapy is so effective is because art engages the imagination, which is a right brain activity, also where trauma is stored. Imagery and art accesses the trauma in the right brain, while also engaging emotional expression and verbalization, which is a left brain activity. This left brain/right brain activity combined with art and creativity facilitates communication between both sides of the brain, creating cortical consolidation ‒ a reorganization process in which memories from recently learned experiences are transformed into long-term memory. This reorganization process elicits structural and chemical changes in the nervous system, known as neurogenesis ‒ the strengthening of synaptic connections between neurons and the growth of new neural pathways.

And this is why talk therapy alone often doesn’t work in trauma symptom reduction.

Talk therapy only accesses the left brain, and does not access the right brain where trauma is actually stored.

The Bilateral Scribble technique is just a small part of our evidence-based START UP! Art Therapy Whole Brain Healing System, that rewires the brain from anxiety, depression, trauma, suicidal ideation, ADD/ADHD and many other issues, in a culturally competent way. Children and adults, alike become calm, alert and focused. It is easy, it requires no skill and is FUN!

A recent START UP! Art Therapy trainee recently shared her success story after using the Bilateral Scribble for only a few sessions with her 16-year-old male patient, being seen for severe trauma, which affected his speech. She had commented to him that she noticed he was able to express himself more fluidly using more complex and lengthy sentences, (as trauma often disrupts speech capacity). He replied, “It’s that Scribble thing you have me doing that is helping me.”

This profound improvement in this patient’s speech was only after just a few sessions of doing only the Bilateral Scribble technique. And this technique is just the tip of the iceberg! You can imagine the results after learning & using the entire START UP! Art Therapy Whole Brain Healing System™ from beginning to end!

The bilateral scribble can be adapted to children, adolescents, adults, elders of ALL Ages and ALL Cultures. and can be done 1:1 and in small or large groups such as group therapy or within the classroom.

The bilateral Scribble creates the left/right brain integration needed for healing to begin, however, the START UP! Art Therapy Whole Brain Healing System™, in its entirety, not only incorporates the left/right brain integration but also utilizes bottom-up approach, rewiring the brain PERMANENTLY, so you, your clients, and students will feel calm, focused, happy, and ready for anything!

By using both sides of the body to create imagery, and engaging auditory processing, stimulates the neurogenesis process, rebuilding neural pathways, leading to repair and resilience.

Get your FREE video on the Bilateral Scribble technique that will get you amazing results in just 5 minutes, AND also learn more on how you can get our entire unique proprietary START UP! Art Therapy Whole Brain Healing System™, not found anywhere else, so you can help your clients, students, and yourself ‒ thrive for life!

I look forward to seeing you in my 3-day START UP! Art Therapy to rewire your brain whole brain healing system training system!

Healing Made FUN!


So get out there and heal the people…

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Carey MacCarthy, MA, ATR, LPCC, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Carey MacCarthy, MA, ATR, LPCC, is a recognized trauma expert, and registered Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, presenter, researcher, and author. In the Art Therapy field since 2001, she has trained mental health professionals, coaches, and educators, and has healed thousands of patients from diverse populations, specializing in child and adolescent trauma, and Intergenerational and Historical trauma with Native Americans. She is the co-author of START UP! A School-Based Arts Curriculum for Native American Youth and ALL Cultures: Interventions for Development and Learning (2017).






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