Professional Topics: Articles: Sound in EMDR and Other Processes
Bilateral Sound in EMDR, Visualization and Success
Use these guidelines with alternating bilateral sound.
Robert A. Yourell, LMFT
Use bilateral sound such as UpLevel and Personal Journey with these guidelines and exercises. Alternating bilateral sound is for stress management, deep relaxation, visualization body awareness processes and more. Experience a unique, free, bilateral audio meditation space here, and listen to free samples of our Sounds for Inner Space™ here.
We are born to feel balanced and find solutions. Resources within
us can automatically help us do these things. Sometimes, we need help
to activate these inner processes to resolve personal problems, to
stop anxiety, or to meet a great personal challenge.
As a therapist, I have seen people make wonderful changes in
their lives and personalities by doing mental exercises that restore,
evoke and orchestrate these inner resources. I am impressed with the
power of sound to make these exercises more effective.
Mental exercises with Psych Innovations sounds have helped problems
such as these: An upcoming court appearance was making Mandy very anxious.
Paul was sick of the tiresome arguments at home. Mary’s emotional
reactions were making her too inflexible and were threatening her dreams
If you become uncomfortable using the exercise or recording,
stop. Some people find that before they can enjoy processes that can
help them relax or increase awareness, they must get assistance from
Do not drive or do any dangerous activity such as using a sharp object
or a machine while listening to recordings that can help you relax.
No recording here is offered as a treatment of any medical or psychiatric
condition. People use their minds with the intention of improving their
well being. People use sounds such as music or voice to help in this.
But no one should make claims as to exactly what these things will
do for you. You are unique.
If you have or suspect that you may have a psychiatric condition,
consult an appropriate mental health professional before listening
to recordings that may cause relaxation or increased awareness, such
as Psych Innovations recordings. Ask them if you are ready for such
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.
Access Your Inner Resources
Your inner resources normally keep you in balance and solve problems,
but some experiences can leave these resources unable to fully do their
job. This can cause you to feel stuck, anxious, or out of control.
I have been surprised at how much improvement so many people
have gotten from a relatively small amount of time doing mental exercises.
It troubles me to think of the millions of people who would be better
off if they knew the right exercise for the problem that is holding
them back. I want our families, schools and mental health professionals
to help people understand and use these processes.
Inner resources include factors such as the brain's ability to
activate all of its areas and to allow its regions to communicate fully
with one another. Inner resources include an effective self-image,
creative problem solving, confidence necessary to be assertive, the
ability to regain full functioning after a troubling experience, and
freedom from healthy psychological defenses that can allow us to learn
and interact meaningfully.
For example, many people who have experienced psychological trauma
are left with less activity in some areas of their brains. Without
a brain scan, they would not know that, but they certainly know if
they are dissatisfied with their success and ability to sleep, or are
troubled by panic attacks.
Another good example is that of a person with attention deficit
disorder. While mental exercises are unlikely ever to cure ADD, the
psychological hardship and negative mental habits that can result from
being a person with ADD can come a long way with the help of inner
EMDR-Inspired Sound, Bilateral Sound, and Brain Hemisphere Synchrony
The definition of EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing,
explains that EMDR is a method of psychotherapy that has a number of
steps requiring the help of a therapist. This means that you could
say there is no such thing as self-EMDR. However, many people who have
experienced EMDR come to think of the core experience as being one
they can derive on their own.
Because I don't want to abuse the term EMDR, I call these methods "EMDR-inspired" and
the core experience that people seek "processing" or "reprocessing."
Reprocessing happens when you experience a state of mind that
allows you to change a negative reaction or emotional symptom that
has been stuck for some reason. The experience often feels like a deep
mental release or reclaimed freedom. Sometimes people even describe
it as a spiritual experience.
The reprocessing experience can come from focusing on a disturbing
feeling or memory while doing something to activate both sides of the
brain. One way to activate both brain hemispheres is to experience
a sound that moves repeatedly from ear to ear. I call this bilateral
sound. Musicians or audiophiles might call it a panning sound.
Therapies and personal development processes that get the left
and right brain hemispheres working together have been around for some
time. As a therapist who studied and used hypnosis, mental processing,
body psychotherapy, and other methods since the 1970’s, I noticed
that dramatic improvements often came when the therapy method had a
way to promote collaboration of the brain hemispheres. I believe this
is a key ingredient needed to bring out the potential of many approaches
to therapy and personal development.
Many people in the field of biofeedback or neurofeedback believe
it comes from hemispheric synchrony, where activity and frequency of
both brain hemispheres is in a close relationship.
Professional Counseling, Therapy and Psychiatry
I don’t mean to say self-use of inner processing is a magic wand
for every problem. Most people would benefit from time with the right
psychotherapist, even if they don’t have a psychiatric disorder.
Even problems that make a jump in progress through a mental process
often have other aspects that take much more work to resolve.
Consider these reasons for a good assessment and sessions with
the right mental health professional:
1) The person and those around them may not understand the problem
or the available resources well enough.
Nonetheless, self-applied methods have proven valuable for so
many people that I encourage people to learn and use them. I also use
them as part of my work as a therapist. This helps people progress
more quickly in counseling, and gives them tools for future challenges.
2) The problems may be the kind that can’t be untangled from
inside, and require a dedicated person as a guide.
3) The problems may be too serious or immediate.
4) The problems may require referral for medical treatment because
of a physical problem such as a metabolic disorder that a medical person
would know to investigate. For example, some depressed people have
thyroid trouble, but don’t know it.
5) Progress will be faster and have more scope with specialized
A Key Ingredient in Reprocessing: State Shifting
There is another important missing ingredient that can make personal
development or therapy more effective. It has to do with the person’s
state of mind. In psychological methods that tend to gain a rapid improvement
in symptoms, and that tend to cause a long-lasting improvement, I saw
another pattern. They begin by having the client tune into the problem,
and then shift to a more balanced or positive state of mind and body
within a fairly short period of time.
TFT (Thought Field Therapy), EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
and EMDR are examples of therapy methods that bring hemispheric synchrony
and state shifting together.
Previous therapies that began getting results that appeared to
resemble those of methods such as EMDR, TFT, and EFT did not appear
to be as consistent in doing so. I came to believe that the difference
was they had not systematically applied the two ingredients of brain
hemisphere activation and state shifting.
Brainwave Entrainment: Binaural Beat and Pulsing Sound
Your brainwave frequencies help produce your state of mind. A
visual or sound pulse that matches a brainwave frequency encourages
your brain to produce more of that frequency. This is called entrainment.
Entrainment of brainwave frequencies is used for meditation,
relaxation, and even alertness. The Personal Journey recording includes
a brainwave frequency that fosters a meditative state of mind. It is
a low frequency that is good for (among other things) creative problem
solving while on the border between consciousness and sleep.
Some people feel that reprocessing a painful issue is easier
with a low entrainment frequency such as the one in Personal Journey.
I have much experience using recordings for EMDR-inspired sound
processes, and was the first to develop a sound for this purpose. That
sound, UpLevel, is used around the world.
The Psych Innovations recordings that provide bilateral sound
are UpLevel, Personal Journey and EvoLucid. These recordings provide
a stable sound environment that allows the listener to use them for
the length of time they prefer. They do not have a melody, so the listener
will not tire of them after repeated listening. Each recording has
different qualities discussed at PsychInnovations.com.
We have received many wonderful compliments and stories about our
bilateral recordings. Another source of such sound is Neurotek,
which provides machines such as the AudioScan™ and EyeScan™ that
are expensive compared to our recordings, and which provides
simpler souns with little esthetic quality. David Grand's BioLateral™
sounds have been compared with our bilateral sounds, but they
do not have the compelling type of stereo (side to side) shifting
quality that we value. Numerous people have written to
us about their preference for the qualities of our bilateral
sounds (see left sidebar for testimonials).
To Use Psych Innovations Bilateral Sound
First step: Focus on the first step of the exercise before actually
listening to the recording. This can make a real difference, probably
because it helps you get your initial mental focus, and thus increases
the desirable state shift.
Stereo: For best results, use stereo headphones on a stereo unit.
External stereo speakers will work almost as well, but the stereo separation
is not as compelling.
Volume: Play the recording at a low volume, a good bit less than
you might use for music listening. This prevents the sound from being
too dominant, and distracting, and makes your mental processing more
effective. As your senses open, the recording may seem to increase
in volume. Adjust the volume for comfort.
Attention: Sometimes it can be helpful to follow the sound from
side to side with attention.
Non-Effort: When a mental exercise tells you to just pay attention
to something, practice doing this without trying to control anything.
This helps you activate inner resources that are at their best when
you are not trying to do anything.
One of the most helpful parts of the mental exercises is when
you focus your awareness on a feeling. With bilateral sound, as the
feeling eases, it may give way to other feelings that are very valuable
to target with your awareness. It is easier to sense those feelings
when you are not mentally busy. That is why the exercises shift from
an activity such as mental rehearsal, to periods of simply paying attention.
Because inner resources are mostly automatic, these awareness periods
are very important for the inner processing.
Safety: If you become uncomfortable using the exercise or recording,
stop. Some people may not be able to enjoy processes that can help
them relax or increase awareness until they get assistance from a therapist.
If you have or suspect that you may have a psychiatric condition, consult
an appropriate mental health professional before listening to Psych
Innovations recordings or any other recordings that may cause relaxation
or increased awareness. Psych Innovations does not offer any recordings
for treatment of any medical or psychiatric condition.
Time: Allow yourself time for your mind to wander or provide
images, ideas or new awareness during the exercise. Inner resources
of yours that are blocked or dormant can need some time for you to
foster them. The creative problem solving intelligence of your subconscious
mind can become more useful to you as you come to recognize it and
practice eliciting it.
Users find that at a certain point they may simply feel finished.
That’s a fine time to stop. It’s as if the mind says, “That’s
it for now, time to stop.”
Otherwise, you may stop the recording when you complete an exercise,
or continue for a while because you are enjoying a state of mind that
feels productive or restful. For free-form processes, you may want
to set a timer.
Simply Relaxing: With the exception of Personal Journey (which
includes a relaxing brainwave sound), it usually isn’t helpful
to use bilateral sound just to relax without any guidelines. Use bilateral
sound recordings with exercises such as those described in this article.
Other processes: You can use alternating bilateral sound to enhance
processes or mental exercises from sources other than this article
or PsychInnovations.com. Bilateral sound helps with exercises for reprocessing,
deep relaxation, visualization, mental rehearsal, and body awareness.
You can even use it along with recorded guided processes. (However
if the recording has music, it may be out of tune with the bilateral
You can use two players both connected to one set of headphones
with a “Y” adapter. Staff at any electronics store can
assist you with this simple connection.
“Self-EMDR” Sound: If you know EMDR, you will find that the
bilateral sound recordings are perfect for EMDR-inspired processes, or
for guiding others in such processes. See the “EMDR-Inspired Self
Regular use has helped many people continue or enhance their
own personal growth. Some EMDR therapists recommend that their clients
do this in some cases to become less vulnerable to emotional triggers,
or for other personal growth work between or after the therapy sessions.
Some therapists listen to alternating bilateral sounds such as
UpLevel before sessions, or even during sessions along with clients.
They tell me it helps them stay tuned in to the client and be more
creative. When I do not quite feel that I am in the right state of
mind to conduct EMDR, hypnosis or to work with an especially sensitive
person, I do this for one to five minutes just before the session.
It makes a dramatic difference for me.
You may use any Psych Innovations bilateral (stereo panning)
recording, or any other bilateral recording intended for reprocessing
with these exercises.
Unless you have experience with deep relaxation, visualization
or awareness processes, do these exercises in the order suggested,
and no more than one a day until you have completed the series. Set
an alarm or timer so you can adhere to the time limits. There are more
exercises and ideas at PsychInnovations.com.
The first time you do this process, limit yourself to five minutes.
Personal Journey is especially good with this exercise, because it
includes a theta brainwave binaural entrainment frequency, and a very
light bilateral sound. You can use this exercise to make sure you are
comfortable with your recording and bilateral sound, and as a relaxation
exercise. People typically do a relaxation exercise for five to twenty
minutes. This is not a reprocessing exercise.
If you become uncomfortable, stop and re-read the cautions on page one.
1. For two minutes, pay attention to the sounds. (If you are using Personal
Journey, attend to the warbling sound that resembles ringing crystal goblets.
Notice how it gradually speeds and slows.)
2. For another three minutes, let your mind drift freely without focusing on
3. Remove the headphones and relax for a while.
Energy Balance: Body Awakening
For this process, the term "energy" actually means anything you feel
in your body. This includes any sense of warmth, tingling, vibration, flow,
aliveness or emotion.
1. Scan your body with your mind. Notice where you feel the most and least
energy in your body. If you draw a blank, notice obvious feelings such as the
air moving through your nose, the feeling of sitting or lying on the surface
you are on, etc.
2. Notice the area in your body where you are the least aware of anything.
If it's hard to choose, select any area in your back.
3. Notice where your not-very-feeling area meets an area in your body where
you feel something (energy, or something obvious.) In other words, just like
you can visit the boundary between two countries, focus your mind on the boundary
between the more energized or feeling area, and the less energized or less
4. Notice another area of feeling or energy that meets the not-so-feeling area.
Focus on where these areas meet, just like you did for the first meeting or
5. Imagine that you can place your awareness on both of those meeting places.
This is like focusing on the boundaries on two sides of a country that has
a country on each side of it, when the country in the middle has it’s
lights turned off.
6. Invite those meeting places to soften up, invite them to allow the energy
or feeling from the feeling areas to flow across the not-so-feeling areas.
Keep inviting this and watch what happens.
7. If nothing happens after three minutes, end the exercise or simply relax
for three minutes before ending the exercise. (And try it again another day.)
8. If you begin to get energy or feeling into the area, continue as long as
you like. When you feel ready, invite the energy to circulate through your
body. Invite it to give you a feeling of balance throughout your body.
9. Imagine that some of this energy expands from your body to form a well-knit
wetsuit (like surfers wear.) Imagine that it can hold your energy in just the
right shape to help you feel balanced. Imagine it sends energy into all your
organs and bones, which focus and circulate it through your body.
10. Enjoy this (for three minutes the first time you do it) until you feel
finished. Then remove the headphones and relax for a while.
Solution Seeding: Unconscious Resources
This exercise is intended to help you program your subconscious mind to work
on a problem in the background while you do other activities. It elicits the
resources of both brain hemispheres to generate intuitive, creative ideas and
1. Before listening to the recording, select a problem to work on. Review the
details: your desires, discomforts, and resources that may pertain to the problem.
2. Listen to the recording for one minute while you focus on the problem, and
the side to side movement of the sounds. Don't engage in any willful mental
activity or problem solving. Let any thoughts, feelings or images simply flow
through your mind without engaging them.
3. Notice how you can shift you awareness from thoughts you have about the
problem, to feelings you have about it. Shift back and forth for one minute.
4. (Skip this step the first time through this exercise.) Ask yourself, "What
would be the best way I could feel, that would being out the best in me for
this problem, whatever the answer may be." Search for any hint of that
feeling and invite it to come to the foreground and amplify. Focus on that
feeling for one minute.
5. Ask your mind to give you an image that somehow comes from the problem.
Don't push it, just invite it and wait.
6. If one comes, notice everything you can about it. If no image comes, relax
and end the exercise when you wish.
7. Invite the image to gradually change into an image that will somehow be
more useful to you. Don't push it, just invite it and wait.
8. If it shifts, notice the details. If it doesn't shift, ask your subconscious
to create a good shift in how you understand the problem, and to do this in
the background as you go about your day. Do the exercise again and you are
likely to see progress.
9. Allow your mind to drift in the background tones for a little while.
10. Remove the headphones and trust that your subconscious mind will continue
to work on the problem in the background.
This is a basic reprocessing exercise. Done regularly, however, it may provide
more progress than you would expect. Read it through a couple of times before
1. Do not start listening to the recording until are instructed to (in step
four). However, you should listen to make sure in advance that the headphones
are playing, that the volume is low, and that both sides are alternating. The
player must be able to play in stereo (allowing the sound to pan from side
to side). This way, you will be prepared to put the headphones on and begin
2. Select a “target” for your awareness. It can be a mildly troubling
memory such as a minor embarrassment or irritation, it can be a physical tension
from stress, or a feeling of being stressed, impatient or ashamed. Do not select
anything too serious or disturbing, or anything connected with experiences
that were traumatic or were very hard on your self esteem.
3. Focus your awareness on the target with no expectation or purpose in mind.
If you find yourself doing more than that, simply stop and pay attention to
4. Begin listening to the recording. Spend about thirty seconds following the
sound with your awareness while, as best you can, keeping the target in your
awareness as well.
5. Mentally scan your body and notice any changes. If the first target has
come to feel more intense, go back and repeat the two-steps of following the
sound while paying attention to the target as in the last step, and then scanning
your body, until the sensation is less intense.
However, if you think you may become too uncomfortable, or you don’t
sense that the target will become less intense, then end the exercise and take
some time to relax. In the future, select a less disturbing target.
6. Once the target feels less intense, or you simply feel finished, end the
exercise and give yourself some time to contemplate the experience.
7. After you have done this exercise twice, add these steps before ending the
exercise: See if there is another target (thought, memory or sensation) that
has come forward and seems to be related to the first target. Make this your
new target and focus on the sound as in steps four and five.
8. Spend a minute imagining what it might be like if you were in the perfect
state of mind to cope most effectively with the issue according to the highest
values and compassion.
9. Process any targets that arise from the previous step just as you have the
other targets as in steps four and five.
10. If you wish, allow your mind to relax and flow. When you are ready, end
the exercise and give yourself some time to contemplate the experience.
© Robert Yourell, 2005