The right hemisphere, aha! and transformational shift

(Source: McGilchrist p64 – 66)

We are all familiar with the aha! moment and we have all experienced it for ourselves at one time or another. The aha! moment is also one of the most well know right hemisphere functions.

Because art-based coaching gives the right hemisphere a voice and a way of expressing how it pays attention to the world, it means that coaching with art increases the opportunities for transformational shifts to occur.  My own experience of coaching with art also shows that these breakthroughs can happen very quickly and very early on in a coaching programme.

Experiencing the aha!

We experience the aha! moment with our clients when they have moments of everything falling in to place without them having to figure things out in a logical order. They just know! It is one of the most powerful aspects of coaching and is the right-hemisphere mode working: intuitive, subjective, relational, holistic, time free.

Right hemisphere mode

The right hemisphere has the aha! moment because it deduces through recognising patterns and making connections, together with feelings and hunches. It also notices the peripheral and that which is just outside of awareness, allowing wider connections to be made. The right hemisphere sees the conclusion as a whole thing all at once; ‘just knowing’ without reason or facts, giving us insights and the aha! moment.

The left hemisphere, by contrast is logical and linear and reaches conclusions by linking one idea after another. This is extraordinarily beneficial for the development of our knowledge and the creation of the world we live in; however, it can lead the left hemisphere to incorrect conclusions.

Whole brain working

However, once the person has had their aha! moment, the left hemisphere can, if needed, come in with the analysis and planning as the person knows what they want or need to do. The left hemisphere is now working with the new shifted reality. It is also a great example of whole brain working.


These aha! moments can be mini breakthroughs such as remembering someone’s name. However, they can also be extraordinarily transformational, enabling our client to make breakthroughs at a much deeper level, creating insights and emotional shift that can be quite life changing. I have shared a client’s example below of just that. It is taken from my book Coaching Beyond Words – Using Art to Deepen and Enrich Our Conversations, 2019 Routledge

Coaching with art example – the aha! moment & transformational shift

I have shared here Annette’s transformational shift that happened in our final session together. These are Annette’s own reflections on what she experienced.

‘The key moment of this session… was the moment that I instinctively and unconsciously started to paint some blue at the bottom left of the picture.  I had no idea why.  Then I picked up the brush and added little white wavy lines which then became waves in my mind.  It was at that moment that I was struck by a thought that had an almost visceral impact on me.  “I want to be with M by the sea.”   This felt incredibly strong and certain and really took me by surprise!

There was an added sense of feeling like I was coming home…  But actually, on reflection I think this whole image is a ‘coming home’ for me.  Coming home to the real me who has been missing presumed lost for a long time.  WOW – this is quite a profound realisation…

Another light bulb moment:  maybe this is the reason that water has been a recurring theme in my images???  Not because I’m afraid of it, but because I want to be closer to it?’ 










Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *