Adrift in EFT Waters, using “Learning Anchors” in EFT

Anchoring Our Learning and Growth In EFT

Below is a powerful image created by Cindy Wander, LMFT, LPC, Denver, CO.  She created this on a Sunday recently after helping with Core Skills Weekend #4 (with the author and Lisa Palmer-Olsen).  This is Cindy’s creative way of owning her biggest take-home from the weekend about Step 5 in the model.   She shared with me that,

“I’m putting it on my EFT vision board that is a huge bulletin board hanging over my couch at Regis (so I look at it all the time!).

Great weekend of training!”

EFT Stage 2 by Cindy Wander




Cindy took concepts being explored throughout the weekend on Pursuer Softening, particularly Step 5 and created this image.  She hung the image in our office on her EFT Vision Board.  What a powerful reminder, to “Be Curious and go exploring people’s deeper experience in Step 5,” and then to “Reflect back that experience in an accepting way, heighten and invite them to turn to their partner and ‘share pieces’ of that experience.  This is such a powerful image, I can see Lisa and I integrate this in to further training!  For Cindy, it is what I like to call a “Learning Anchor.”

We all need learning anchors.  It is easy to drift away even in the face of the very primary emotion we invited in to the room or away from exploration of the cycle in to content.  In learning EFT, we go to the Externship, Core Skills, the Summit or elsewhere, and gain powerful experiences, new insights and begin to integrate learning.  There is that high the next week.  We plunge more fully in to the model and get more present in the room.  Our couples and families respond.  We spiral up gaining faith in the approach and our capabilities.  Then, opps, a couple comes in after a bad argument, “Your approach is not working.”  Or a new couple comes in, “Look, we can do the emotion stuff later, right now we need tools we can use RIGHT NOW!”  Or we get caught up in content, triggered by an experience or find ourselves filled with the anxiety that comes with doubt.

Fear Can Block Remembering and Application:  If fear blocks bids for connection, it also blocks our ability often in the moment to access those great learning moments, our community, and our own inner resources.  When we need them most, our own doubts and anxieties often take over.  At those moments, learning anchors can be invaluable.

When I was learning EFT, I had the 9 steps, the key interventions and a favorite quote “A good reflection is a revelation for the client,” taped to the front of my old-school day timer. It sat on my lap or next to me, with my legal pad for notes on top.  I could if lost, look under my note pad and perhaps think about where are we in the model, or what intervention could I resource, or remember (from the quote) that when in doubt, attune (to the couple, a partner, or to my own internal process in the moment).   Later, the sheet evolved, and I’d write reminders about my latest take home from a training or watching one of Sue’s Training tapes or from a couple’s feedback in session.  The sheet taped to my day timer became a learning anchor.   Looking under my legal pad at those steps, the interventions and that quote became a habit.  After a time, it soothed me.  In that soothing or on that page, I often found the freedom to be more present again, to attune back to the couple and relax in to the model and their experience again.

Another learning anchor for me (and have heard from other colleagues works for them) is to somehow bring a “virtual” co-therapist or consultant in to the session.  Now, I don’t mean literally, though that is always a good learning experience.  Rather, this habit for me involves bringing Sue in to the room, a trainer colleague like Lisa Palmer-Olsen, Michael Barnett or Becca Jorgensen, or my post-graduate supervisor, Suzanne in to the room when I am lost or anxious.  Perhaps I find myself caught in content with a couple and realize something has triggered anxiety or frustration in me.  I might imagine that Sue is watching the session and can talk to me.  When I do, often it is as if my heart and mind with that intervention can call up the answer.  In that moment, I’ll hear Sue’s voice saying, “Jim, remember, he’s acting very angry and defensive, but he’s really scared and hurt.  Turn to him, slow down, go beneath the words to the pain…see it, it’s there in his eyes.”  And I am back on track.  In this way, there is a team of consultants available at a moment’s notice (And, watching Sue’s training tapes gives me more substance to call on when I do this).

Some other tools I use or see others using to anchor learning moments and keep the learning community present in my heart and office include:

1)     Sharing the take-away from the morning or afternoon of a training with a colleague within 24 hours can more fully integrate and anchor learning.

2)     Immediately following or as soon as reasonable after a training or supervision experience, I write down a commitment to myself for the next month of therapy, like, “I will pay more attention to emotions and less to content until that becomes a habit.”  And then,

3)     Commit to applying your learning or integration from training by bringing in to your clinical work immediately:  I put it on a post-it on my computer screen, write on the top of my notes each session as a reminder, send myself a voice mail reminder to my office on the way back from the training (so I’ll hear it again in my own words on Monday morning) and/or tell my clients (when appropriate) my goal.  “I am working this month on paying more attention to your emotions.”

4)     If you are called to a particular art form, you might consider tethering your learning to that art form.  Cindy likes images, so she creates comic strips that apply EFT learnings, collages, and images like the one above that she can put somewhere as a reminder.

5)     In terms of art, I resonate with music and movies a lot.  Some of you know, I may share a piece of song in training.  The song, “I Won’t Give Up,” by Jason Mraz, was first shared with me by a withdrawer fighting for his marriage after he had an affair.  He played it to me and asked me not to give up in him and he would not give up on healing the damage of the affair.  To this day, in a tough session (particularly with a withdrawn partner), I can call this song up in my heart, calm down and get present again.  The same can be done with a learning moment.  We can call up a song, a poem, a movie scene, something from art that helps the limbic system and our cognitive mind integrate the learning.  I listened to that song repeatedly for several months and used it in training that helped me anchor the experience and integrate it.

6)     Create a vision board or integration board in your office and add to it, develop it, as a living process as you learn.  When something becomes a habit, you can take it and put it on your “success chest” or some other place and then replace it with a new learning or ah-ha moment.

7)     I have an “EFT Hope Chest.”  It’s literally a small treasure chest some colleagues gave me once as a thank you.  When I get a nice card saying thanks from clients or friends I put them in there.  Also, when I overcome a barrier in my own learning of EFT, or when I first got to a Bonding Event for example, I write down something about that experience.

  1. Reminder of what it was like before I made this leap or integration.
  2. The struggle to get there, and all the doubts I had.
  3. The moment just before the leap, what courage, calm or connection did I call on to leap or integrate new learning in the room.
  4. What it was like to leap and be successful.
  5. And a comment to my future self, encouraging more leaping, more stretching and integrating.  

I put this in the chest and if having a very, very bad day or in doubt, I will pull out a reminder from the past about how basically, “Every thing easy, starts out difficult.”  But the resource is from my own learning experience, and the voice of an early me gently reminds me, “You’ve been here before, you are just learning, keep going, you’ll get there.”

Of course, there are tons of techniques from education to anchor in, to remember, such as creating a mnemonic for remembering the steps or interventions like ROY G BIV for the visible light spectrum.  The Hand Dance is a kinetic learning anchor that one can recall and resource in session (in a first session with a reactive couple, I may visualize cradling them in my arms while welcoming to the safety of the office – as in the hand dance).  Thanks to Lisa, Mark and Marlene for this wonderful learning anchor.  

A phrase is often helpful, like stay near tears and fears, to integrate and remember.  We can repeat the phrase to slow down and to remind ourselves of what we are doing when we are successful.

And Hold Me Tight® can be a learning anchor for couples.  They may get lost in the dance between sessions.  One male withdrawer told me that HMT was such a powerful reading experience, so moving to him, that during recent escalations of the negative cycle, “Just seeing Hold Me Tight® on the kitchen counter changes things for me.”  He said it takes him out of himself briefly, just long enough, “That I can at least try to reach her and keep the cycle from spinning out of control.”

Cindy created a quite powerful visual way, created a take home visual.  I imagine in the process of doing so, she anchors the take away in to her heart and mind more deeply.  And the visual above her couch in the office reminds her to go there when in doubt or distress.

At the process level, what touches me about Cindy’s learning process is her active commitment to learning.  She said to me in an e-mail, “Jim, I am compelled to create these images after a core skills weekend.  I can’t help myself, it is so important to do for me.”  There are many ways to learn.  And EFT is a model that seems simple on the surface, but demands much of us.  When you get a gem in training, an “ah-ha”, or have a shift at a Dig-In, you might consider creating a learning anchor.  Pick the most salient one to your current development.  We can commit to that by creating the anchor and coming back to it when we start to drift from the model in to content, back in to an old model, or in to our own doubts and frustrations.  An anchor limits drifting, staying with the model may be the most important anchor of all.  Have fun creating your own anchors and please e-mail me here with your examples.  Many of my favorite anchors came from a participant in training.

Learning anchors and the effort that goes in to them also tells our cognitive mind that this EFT learning process is a priority and the whole brain involved in the learning process.  The measure of an anchor lies in it’s ability to organize our learning, solidify a learning experience, and/or help us in times of doubt or distress in session.

Thank you Cindy for letting me share this image with the EFT Learning Community!

You can visit Cindy’s website at

And special thanks to all the participants in Core Skills Plus Denver from which this learning emerged, the safety you create with each other and the support is inspiring.


Copyright, 2013, Jim Thomas, LMFT, All Rights Reserved, Use by Permission Only