Anchors and the Elman-Turner Induction

In this entry, I'm going to address one of the most common tools I use, anchors, and a particular protocol I use, the Elman-Turner Induction.

Here's the short of it

Anchoring is a term from Neurolinguistic Programming. Basically, what it means is something like bookmarking a psychological state or feeling. Why would you bookmark it? So you can get back to it easily, like you might bookmark a page of a book or a website that you want to return to.

In hypnosis, you can bookmark/anchor a state pretty easily, and that anchor can be a tool for having more control over how you feel or what your mind does. For instance, suppose we anchor feeling focused and oriented toward learning. You could use it when you want to study. Or say we anchored a charismatic or empowered feeling. Maybe you could use it when you’re about to do some public speaking. Or say we anchored a relaxed, chilled out kind of feeling. You can use the cue for the anchor to let your unconscious know that now is a time you can feel relaxed and at ease.

This last thing is very helpful, especially if someone’s suffering from anxiety. An anchor won’t address the underlying cause of the anxiety, but it will help put the brakes on it. Frankly, it’s useful for nearly any kind of clinically significant distress. And…

Anchors can also be useful for getting into a hypnotic state. Which is how we get to the Elman-Turner induction.

Elman and Turner
There was this hypnotherapist (and all around interesting character) named Dave Elman. He developed an induction -- a protocol for helping someone get into a hypnotic state -- that works pretty consistently and makes it pretty easy to go to different "levels" of trance state.

Then another hypnotherapist and student of his came along, Maureen Turner, and she added anchors to the induction, making it considerably easier to return different levels of trance state.

Voila. The Elman-Turner Induction was born!

I learned this process from Maureen Turner and find it immensely helpful for a variety of situations.

Why this is helpful
When I recommend we do the Elman Turner Induction to someone, it's for at least one of two reasons--usually both.

First reason: they could benefit from having more relaxation skills or inner resourcing.
Because of the anchor. Imagine you suddenly have the ability to tell your unconscious that it’s time to relax. And not just that, but you get to choose from one of four different levels/intensities of relaxation. I often like to use it with people who could benefit from having more control over their emotional state.

Second reason: they are coming to me because there's some deep hypnotic work they want to do: maybe deal with a phobia or work on some trauma, or something else that requires going deeper than might be easy to do in the average guided meditation or visualization.
The Elman-Turner Induction offers a relatively clear way to "go deep" and know where you are. It also makes it faster to get back to deep hypnotic states using the same anchors that allow it to be useful for self-hypnosis.


In practice, the Elman-Turner Induction involves me helping someone get into progressively deeper levels of therapeutic trance. I say me helping because I can't "make" anyone go into trance (hopefully that's clear by now?) But if someone wants to go there, I can help. So, I help someone go into progressively deeper levels of trance and then we do the anchoring.

Usually (as I mentioned above) we anchor/bookmark four states of progressively deeper relaxation, though depending on circumstances, we might do more or fewer. The basic four are relaxation states--the first one is a calm state, like sitting on your back porch or in your living room, or hanging out with a friend. The second one is a more deeply relaxed state, like being on a nice vacation or being out of school for the summer--not having anything you need to worry about. The third and fourth are even deeper levels of somatic relaxation.

Because therapeutic hypnosis involves deep relaxed states, the anchors can be used to aid with going into deep hypnotic states just as easily as they can be used for run-of-the-mill relaxation during the day or for falling as asleep at night. The four anchors correspond to Dave Elman's "map" of the levels of hypnotic trance state. While it can be very difficult to describe and pin down "levels of trance," Elman's map is a convenient and practical guide.

When I do the Elman-Turner induction with someone, I typically give them a "cheatsheet" afterward that explains what to do to "pull the anchors"--to use the bookmarks on their own. The anchors won't cure a problem, but they are a tool that’s very useful. Literally, it gives someone a tool to say, “relax 1 - calm” and feel that sense of calm. If you or someone you know has struggled with severe anxiety or another run-away unconscious process, you could probably see how this tool could be pretty life-changing. For serious issues (like the abovementioned phobias and trauma) this is a powerful first step.

After I do the Elman-Turner induction and the client comes back for a later session, we use the anchors as an induction— as a way to go into deep enough hypnotic trance to do whatever hypnotic work that the client and I have planned. While the Elman-Turner Induction we do the first time takes 30-40 minutes, using the anchors it only takes 5-10 minutes to return to the deep hypnotic state we got to the first time, letting us focus on hypnotherapy for the rest of the time.

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More about anchoring

Sometimes people ask more about this anchoring stuff and how it works. The short of it is that anchoring is very common— common enough we don't pay attention to it most of the time. Say, for instance, you have a job (like I once did) where you have to answer an office phone. Over time, your mind learns that when the phone rings, you divert your attention from other things, maybe you modulate your voice so you sound professional, or even unconsciously reach for a message pad and a pen as you pick up the phone receiver. This is an anchor. Like a behavioral conditioning situation but with clear complex unconscious involvement, your unconscious knows that phone ringing means going into “answer the phone mode.”
Most anchors are set by repetition, including most of the stuff in NLP literature about setting anchors for good or bad. The only special thing about what we're doing here is that in deep hypnosis, anchors don't need repetition: we can set an anchor once and it's there whenever you want to use it.

Sometimes people are concerned that the anchors could be abused or create problems, as if they could give someone else control of your mind. This isn't the way they actually work because hypnosis isn't mind control. Also, I always do this in such a way that only you can pull your anchors, not anybody else. Even when we do it in session, it's you that's saying the cue to yourself.

Actually, the only danger is that the relaxation anchors can work too well, causing people to be too relaxed in situations that it's not a good idea, like driving a car or operating heavy machinery or a chainsaw. For this reason, I always tell people to avoid using the last two anchors unless they can rest with their eyes closed, and to avoid even using the first two if they're in a dangerous situation or one that requires strong alertness. Typically I’ll even include in the anchor-setting process suggestions that the anchors can only be called "when it's safe to do so."

In the next entries, I'll talk more about specific problems that someone might come and see me for and how hypnotherapy could help. First up: anxiety.