Learning EFT: The RISSSC Approach

RISSSC Acronym Applied to Learning EFT For Therapists:

An adaptation from the RISSSC intervention commonly used in EFT.  This serves as a guide for studying and learning EFT for therapists first presented by Jim Thomas at the Ottawa EFT Externship, September 2010.  Jim encouraged attendees to view this acronym as a reminder and a way to focus their learning journey at the process level:

Review, review, review (your sessions and training tapes)

Immerse in the Model

Simplify your Focus (All is attachment and attachment emotions)

Slow Down and Attend to the Present (to emotions and attachment dance)

Stretch Ourselves Emotionally (in and out of therapy sessions)

Commit to the Model, Commit to EFT Interventions

First shared in Ottawa, at the EFT Externship with Dr. Sue Johnson, Sue’s response was “wonderful, this really captures key elements in the process of learning EFT and making the model our own as clinicians.  Jim’s has captured this with simple reminders.  Therapists, at ‘RISSSC’ for drifting away from the model, can use this acronym to remind themselves of ways to focus and deepen their learning.”

Reviewing is essential for adult learners.  Taping sessions for our own review allows us to watch ourselves in action. We can ask important questions when reviewing our work and make observations – when am I using EFT interventions, when do I drift away from EFT interventions?  or Where are there openings in to Primary Emotion that I may have missed? Also, we can review training tapes of Sue  Johnson or EFT Trainers and look at how they work with the model.

Immersion requires us to “go all in” with the model.  It is too tempting for us when we know other models and have other options to escape or exit from the model when things get tough or we are too hesitant, anxious, lost or tired.  To immerse means to go all in by reading about the model, attending trainings, getting supervision, setting up a consult group, taking advantage of the In Session series, reading the list serve and the ICEEFT newsletter and increasing our own attachment focus and language.

Simplify from a learning perspective refers to simplifying our focus in the room and beyond.  Our task, though complex on the surface, remains simple.  We learn to prioritize emotions and emotional material in session.  We adopt an attachment focus when dealing with relational distress.  We come back repeatedly to these matters of the heart. As Gail Palmer, EFT Trainer, says, “We pay attention to what happens to couples or family members when they connect, what they do when disconnected and how this plays out in their cycle, everything else is noise.”

Slowing down allows me as a clinician to breathe in session.  I can even say it out loud to a couple who are getting caught in their cycle or lost in content.  “Can we slow down here, I want to really get what you are saying,” or “It is so important that I understand what is happening right now, can we slow down and focus on what you just said?” There is freedom in moving slower as a therapist and as Lisa Palmer-Olsen, EFT Trainer often says, “EFT is a model that works faster when we move slower.”

Stretch Ourselves Emotionally is really the big bonus of being an attachment-based, emotionally focused therapist.  Just about everyone who discovers this model has some blind spots emotionally, some feelings we can attend to more easily than others, and affect that is more comfortable to have within ourselves.  The EFT Journey as a therapist will push or pull us out of our comfort zone.  We might need to delve in to sadness more or understand shame (theirs and/or ours).  Fear may be something we have denied or been flooded by personally.  So how do I sit with client’s fear?  What does that look like to stand in the fire emotionally with someone’s pain.  Recently, I sat in the room with a family who had lost a child, suddenly and in horrific circumstances.  It had taken months for us to get to this place, and then the father began to share pain that he’d hidden in the effort to be there for everyone else (and to protect his own heart).  I felt the tears in my own eyes as everyone in this chaotic, angry, previously distant family got absorbed in this new expression of deep emotion.  Their father, husband, brother, came to life and in that sorrow, they connected at a new level.  “Look daddy, Mr. Jim is crying too,” the young surviving sister said.  “I know honey, that’s because he’s in this with us.”  Stretching can be scary and finding oneself in new emotional depths with people can feel overwhelming.  Trusting emotions includes trusting our own and our human capacity to grow our heart more over time.

Commit to the model means for me to not allow exits and to trust in emotion and attachment.  I am not creating something, we are uncovering something together with the couple or family.  We peel back the mud, the yuck, the negative cycle to find what was always there.  But they will not go there without the faith and confidence of the therapist. There is a certain audacity to being an emotionally focused therapist.  One can see it watching Sue in action.  There are those moments where she does commit, like in pursuer softenings or withdrawer re-engagment when we do prompt the reach.  We stand beside them saying in essence, “You worked so hard to get to this place where your longing is competing with your fear to come out and express.  Yes, feel the fear and reach out from that longing to your lover.  Look at her, what do you see in her eyes as you tell her for the first time, I need you so much…”

So, if you like, give it a try.  Review, review, review your work and others work, while immersing yourself in the model. Slow down in session, simplify your focus and stretch emotionally, even when it might be scary or painful.  And commit to the model, pick a couple and just do EFT with them.  See what happens, I think you’ll find it to be liberating and energizing.

Copyright, Jim Thomas, 2010 

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