Guidelines for Professionals

The Hoffman Process: An introduction for healthcare professionals

The Hoffman Process is a week-long residential course of personal growth and transformation. Developed and refined over a period of 50 years, the Process has been shown to produce important positive therapeutic benefits for participants.

Many therapists have found the course to be a useful adjunct to their therapeutic work with clients; you can read some examples of what people say here. Scientific evidence, research and reports are available to read here.

The Process is based upon a recognition that the persistent negative behaviours, moods, and attitudes of adulthood have their roots in the experiences and conditioning of childhood. It uses a unique combination of proven techniques including self-enquiry, guided visualisation, journaling, and expressive work in a carefully structured sequence of powerful experiences to enable participants to discover, isolate and resolve negative conditioning and recover natural self-confidence and self-esteem.

The work takes place in a safe and supportive environment with highly-trained, skilful facilitators who guide participants through the many stages of the work. While conducted in a group setting, this is essentially an individual, inner journey that is accelerated and supported by the group dynamic.

Below, you will find notes and guidance on the following subjects:

Benefits and Results

The overall results from taking part in the Hoffman Process include the reduction of maladaptive coping strategies, of stress, anger, anxiety, and depression, accompanied by an increase in the capacity to experience joy and love. The following are some of the benefits and results that people will receive from the Process:

  • a variety of experiences that effect insights into the dynamics of their repetitive self-defeating behaviour patterns and belief systems.
  • an understanding of the causes of patterns of behaviour and the ability to make conscious behavioural choices.
  • understanding the underlying causes of pervasive anger, frustration or grief.
  • A significant increase in emotional health and wellbeing.
  • profound change caused by the development of self-observation skills.
  • a greater ability to appropriately trust self and others and become more openhearted and empathic.
  • those who have felt ‘stuck’ in their lives develop a greater capacity to function creatively at work and live from a greater sense of personal responsibility.
  • a connection to a deeper essence, the spiritual part of themselves.

The Process can also be beneficial for couples who are in therapy, although they are not able to attend during the same week.

Jayne Allen, Therapy Today

“There was a huge variety of techniques and experiences on offer – some that I recognised as being drawn from Gestalt, psychoanalysis, CBT, TA and NLP. We learnt and started practising a number of tools that would support us when we left. The week provided a rich and unique space for exploration. The sheer intensity of spending that length of time focussing on myself was extraordinary…”

1. Pre-Process Assessment and Recommending the Process to Clients

We understand that recommending the Process to a client, even when completely consistent with long term therapeutic goals, is a significant step that requires forethought, careful planning and, occasionally, consultation with the Hoffman Institute. We have assembled this guide to assist in deciding on the appropriateness of the Process for your client. The following are some of the common concerns that may arise when a therapist recommends the Process to current clients.

How can taking the Hoffman Process support the therapy process and what are the possible therapeutic benefits for my clients?

Therapists whose clients have participated in the Process have reported increases in the healing process. They also report that clients become more self-aware and more able to see the potential in their individual therapy. Therapists report that clients, upon returning from the Process, have less resistance and defensiveness in exploring conflicting intrapsychic processes and object relations. They are also more able to explore transference in relationships. Clients often experience an increased capacity to benefit from the therapy process. Overall, individuals feel more mature, safe and competent.

Who should you recommend?

The Process is well suited for functioning individuals looking for rapid change and personal growth in an intensive group setting. It is also appropriate for clients who need to explore the reasons they are resistant to change.

Identifying someone who can benefit from the Process involves not only your assessment that the Hoffman Process could benefit the person, but also that he/she has sufficient ego strength to do the work. We consider it crucial that the individual believes him/herself to be ready for the Hoffman Process. It is our experience that the person who makes his or her own decision to take the Hoffman Process is making another choice toward their healing and growth.

The Hoffman Process is not recommended for individuals who are taking it primarily because someone else believes they need it. It is designed for people who come to believe it is ‘right’ for them and who are willing to make the personal commitment to act on their own behalf to effect personal change.

Individuals who were adopted at birth or early childhood usually experience deep understanding and release of the negative legacies from their birth parents, as well as from their adoptive parents. Individuals whose parents divorced when they were children gain important insights into their issues around committed relationships, intimacy, and parenting.

When is it appropriate to recommend the Hoffman Process?

We work collaboratively with therapists whose clients enrol in the Hoffman Process during various stages in the therapeutic relationship. Your clinical judgement and intuition are strong indicators for client readiness.

Here are some typical considerations that indicate Hoffman Process appropriateness once trust has been established between therapist and client:

  • Client would benefit from a safe enclosed group environment to do experiential and physically cathartic work
  • Client is aware of deep-seated, pervasive anger
  • Client is aware of his/her pain but is resistant to change
  • Client speaks of recurring self-sabotaging patterns of behaviour, feeling and thinking
  • Client wants to focus on how family of origin imprints affect current relationships
  • Client is looking for spirituality or wants to deepen the spiritual dimension as an aspect of the therapeutic process.
  • Client is questioning life purpose, seeking greater connection to intuition and/or seeking direction or meaning
  • Client is at an impasse and is without inspiration in therapy, career, or relationship

Which clients should be carefully evaluated before being recommended?

Below are some issues that would need careful examination. These are not necessarily reasons to exclude your client from participating, but we must work closely and responsibly with you to ensure that the Process will actually be of assistance. The Institute may require that you sign an agreement to say that you support your client doing the Process and are available to speak with them or the Hoffman team, should the need arise.

Anyone with the following histories or issues requires careful collaborative evaluation:

  • Recent suicidal thoughts
  • History of psychosis or spontaneous altered states
  • DID (MPD)
  • History of Dissociative Flashbacks
  • Bipolar (Manic Depression)
  • Severe sleep disorder
  • Active current addiction
  • Serious eating disorders
  • Thought disorders (OCD)
  • Conversion disorder
  • Violent criminality
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Major depression
  • People within 12 months of Recovery
  • Severe PTSD

We have occasionally seen individuals who have had some of the above issues in their history derive benefit from the Hoffman Process. However, every such individual requires collaborative evaluation and assessment, realistic expectations, and careful preparation and monitoring. For example, a person diagnosed as bipolar, whose symptoms are controlled by medication, is likely to make more progress on depression than on mania. On the other hand, it would not be beneficial to take the Hoffman Process if a person is experiencing a major depression and is not currently functioning at a level that would allow him/her to complete the pre-course work and actively engage in the work of the Hoffman Process. In this case, it would be diagnostically inappropriate for an individual to participate in the course.

Often, events in a client’s life create a sense of urgency. Life changes and transitions can be powerful motivations to change, and these are very often reasons to take the Process and anticipate very positive results. Sometimes, however, people in the midst of crisis are too fragile, or their lives too disrupted, to take on the rigours of the Process.

The Hoffman Process is a programme of deep emotional education requiring sustained focus and energy. In considering recommending the Hoffman Process, it may also be important to assess the level of family and/or professional support to which your client will be returning after completing the Hoffman Process.

If you have specific concerns or questions about the appropriateness of the Hoffman Process for a client, we are available to consult with you to assess his/her readiness. Those of you who have had clients attend know from direct experience that the teachers are highly trained and operate with the highest ethical standards.

Once the course begins, each participant receives careful discerning attention throughout the week. In the unlikely event that a participant has difficulty and should not continue in the Hoffman Process, we will work with you and create a responsible transition.

Medication:

If your client is using:

a) an anti-psychotic (i.e. Haloperidol, Melleril, etc.), or a mood stabiliser (i.e. Lithium, Carbamazapine, (Tegretol), Sodium, Valproate, (Epilim)), please call the Institute to discuss whether or not this programme is appropriate for your client
b) an anticonvulsant (i.e. Epilim, Tegretol, etc.), we require that he/she take the medication as prescribed during the Process.
c) an antidepressant (i.e. Prozac, Venlafaxine, etc.), we recommend that he/she continue taking it during the Process.
d) an anxiolitic or hypnotic (i.e. Valium, Xanax, Nitrazopam etc.),we prefer that he/she not take it during the week of the Process. If you believe that this could pose a problem, please call us to discuss an exception.

How to recommend the Hoffman Process to a client:

Our staff are trained to provide appropriate assistance to facilitate your client’s entry into the work of the Hoffman Process. We are also happy to speak with you prior to your recommending it to a client. It is often helpful to discuss any concerns you may have in advance.

You can simply pass our materials on to your client and recommend they call us when they are ready to further explore its appropriateness for them (call 01903 889990 for materials). Your client may also find it convenient to visit this website or read Tim Laurence’s book ‘You Can Change Your Life‘. We know that, regardless of the power of your recommendation, people take the Hoffman Process at the time that is appropriate for them and we will not pressure anyone or make unsolicited telephone calls. Once your client is interested in the Hoffman Process, we will discuss it with them, knowing from experience that the decision to participate is an individual consideration and a person must be given their own time.

Oliver James, Clinical Psychologist & Author

‘In making referrals, I often suggest something called the Hoffman Process. It is the most systematic method I know for properly exploring the role of childhood as well as offering a motorway back from the past.’

2. Hoffman Participation: What happens once my client is enrolled?

Once your client has registered, our staff are available (by phone, and e-mail) for any questions or concerns that may arise. If required, we will provide a standard Physician/Therapist agreement to facilitate your support of your client’s attending the Process.

After enrolment, but prior to Process participation, the focus of your sessions may turn somewhat toward the specific enquiries of the pre-course work. Depending on your client’s issues, it may be appropriate for you to discuss the pre-course work. Making connections between the client’s presenting therapeutic issues and our unique understanding of the Negative Love Syndrome (watch a video on YouTube here) can be an important step in transitioning your client from the work you have done in therapy to the Hoffman Process.

In general, we do not recommend directly assisting the client to fill out the pre-course work. The adequate completion of this work is one screening criterion we use to evaluate the readiness of an individual to participate. Our enrolment team and Hoffman teachers are available to discuss any aspect of your client’s participation.

If you have not previously recommended clients to the Process, consultation with therapists who have had clients participate can usually be arranged. Please call our office for assistance in setting this up.

Design and Structure of the week

One of the Process’s fundamental intentions is to increase self-confidence in participants. We believe that freeing oneself from the negative patterns learned in childhood facilitates a sense of trust in one’s innate positive authority. The emergence of one’s positive authority evidences itself as increased self-confidence, effectiveness, personal responsibility, and a reduction of dependency and of blaming of self and others.

We recommend that participants spend the weekend following the Hoffman Process on retreat, away from home life, friends, or work. This is a time of transition between the support of teachers and group members and returning to their daily life.

Joan Borysenko, Author & Co-founder: Harvard Mind-Body Clinic

“The Process is the finest and most complete expression of what healing and spirituality are all about…”

3. Post-Process Follow-up and Continuation of Therapy

Those participants whose therapist has completed the Hoffman Process are generally enthusiastic about using their newly acquired Hoffman insights and tools and bringing their new awareness into therapy. Very often, pre-Process therapeutic goals are met in the Hoffman Process and post-Process therapy provides an opportunity to create new goals, such as successfully integrating personal change into one’s daily life and relationships.

We see the Hoffman Process as an adjunct to your work in therapy. You have the primary healing relationship with the individual; therefore, our post-Process instructions for your clients include directing them back to you. Returning to therapy can be a validation of the work done in the Hoffman Process and an opportunity to move more deeply into therapeutic goals.

Additionally, participants often become more active in the healing of their personal community and typically see their therapist as an integral part of that healing, referring friends, family and even fellow participants to their therapists. Therapists often find themselves part of a larger healing community, which helps expand their practice.

How to integrate the Hoffman Model into your personal therapeutic style

Of course, your style is what the client is accustomed to and is the foundation of your relationship. To that relationship you bring in your own experience and interpretation of the Hoffman Process. There is no need to change. However, if you wish to augment your work by including some Process tools, we can be of assistance. Licensed Hoffman teachers are available to consult with you in integrating any of the Hoffman Process materials into your work.

Post-Process Assessment and Therapy

The effect of the Hoffman Process can be dramatic. Most likely your client will simply want to be heard and to share his/her experiences in the sessions immediately following the Hoffman Process. It can also be helpful to ask questions that can bring the client’s experience into therapeutic focus. The following are some questions and ideas you might consider using to assess your client’s progress and determine future therapy options:

  • From your experience in the Hoffman Process, what are the most distressing negative traits you learned from your Mother, from your Father?
  • Did you discover new ways that your Mother and/or Father influenced your attitudes, moods, and behaviour? How did these affect your life?
  • What was your experience of the cathartic sessions with your Mother (Father)?
  • How did you feel afterwards? What did you learn from that?
  • What did you learn about the negative impact of parental patterns regarding your intimate relationships, parenting, work, health, and spirituality?
  • Tell me about your intuitive dialogue with your parents? What did you learn from each of them? How did you feel about that work?
  • How do you experience yourself after having done the Hoffman Process?
  • What is your sense now of the importance of play and recreation in your life?
  • What was your experience of subduing your Dark Side? (Regarding the Dark Side, you might ask: “What is your Dark Side?” The Hoffman Process understanding is that the Dark Side is the power of our accrued negative patterns that affect our behaviour).
  • How do you feel about your overall experience?
  • What is new about your vision for your life?
  • How do you feel about your parents now?
  • How do you feel about yourself now?
  • How are you finding the Hoffman tools and techniques support you?
  • Have you given thought to developing a plan for implementing your changes into your life, including the development of a set of practices and pursuing new interests?

Post-Process Challenges

Using newfound skills from the Hoffman Process can provide wonderful opportunities for further growth, but (naturally), as we face the challenge of integrating changes into day-to-day life, things do not always go as smoothly as we would like. Here is a list of some of the possible ‘setbacks’ your client might encounter:

  • Transitional disillusionment, coming down from a peak experience.
  • Grief: there may be ungrieved losses that it’s now possible to experience. (“I never had a childhood”) This may seem to be depression, but we suggest first exploring grief.
  • Abandonment depression: experiencing resistance to activating fully.
  • Separation from Hoffman group members or the losses resulting from ending old friendships that are no longer suitable.
  • Facing major life changes/transitions (after the Process, the divorce is still happening; debts are still there, etc.).
  • Starting all over again, my life has got to change.
  • Setting self up to be the hero of the family by psychoanalysing everyone, or pointing out what are perceived to be their faults.
  • A sense of manipulation from the family system or from a spouse who attempts to undermine personal changes.

Finally, we recommend that you emphasise that the two to three months are not a good time to make new radical life decisions that may affect those around them, for instance lifestyle changes, work changes or starting any new intimate relationships. It is important to experience the difference a “new you” makes in the previously troubled situation before quitting a job, ending a relationship, etc.

Although all these potential post-Process challenges are mentioned during the programme, we want you to have this list of graduate support programmes to hand to best serve your clients.

Post Process Programmes

Support Groups: The Hoffman Institute provides three Hoffman-facilitated support groups for graduates after their Process. These allow them to reinforce their use of the Tools as ongoing support to any challenging life situations, to share any Post Process changes in their lives in an understanding and supportive environment.

Follow up sessions: The Hoffman Institute offers post-Process coaching sessions to Hoffman graduates. These are typically one-hour sessions where a Hoffman teacher employs Process methods and tools to assist a graduate in gaining awareness and efficacy in a particular area of their life. If distances are excessive, these can be carried out over the phone or Skype. These are specific, targeted sessions and do not replace the ongoing, individual relationship between client and therapist. We have a responsibility to respond to the ongoing needs of participants after the Hoffman Process, some of whom are not in a therapeutic relationship, but our work is not intended to replace the work that an ongoing therapeutic relationship can provide.

Graduate Intensive: The Hoffman Institute offers a 3-day residential programme several times each year (the ‘Q2’). The Graduate Intensive offers an opportunity to remind graduates of the insights of their Process and to focus on one or two specific areas.

Closure: The Hoffman Institute offers the opportunity to all graduates to re-experience ‘Closure’ (the final Integration visualisation) anywhere in the world where the Process takes place. The only exception would be at a Closure of a Process where a spouse or child had been a participant. This is a reinforcement of the feeling of integration, forgiveness and compassion that this engenders, as well as a reminder that they are not alone.

Reconnection Days: These are one day workshops to help participants reconnect with the Process and practise some of the ‘Tools’ that they have been given. They are led by a Hoffman Teacher and available in London with occasional workshops in The Netherlands, Ireland, Dubai/Bahrain and Jersey.

Welcome Home/Open Evenings: The week following each Process, there is an evening when participants from the most recent group/s are invited to meet up together with Hoffman teachers, previous graduates and anyone interested in the Process. These regular events are open to all and offer an opportunity for recent graduates to speak to teachers, to be heard and supported.You are welcome to attend these evenings.

Memory sticks: A complimentary memory stick is given to all graduates at the end of the week, which includes several guided visualisations of the Process and helps to reinforce feelings of self-acceptance. These have been reported to have a beneficial effect, especially on those prone to anxiety or depression. The participants also have access to the Hoffman app, a dedicated section of our website and a 365 day Graduate support journal.

How to contact us with questions:

If you have any further questions, or would like to speak to a therapist who has referred clients to the Hoffman Process then please contact the office. You might also be interested to read Tim Laurence’s book You Can Change Your Life; please contact us for a complementary copy.

We have monthly Information Evenings in London at Regents University. The evening is free and there is no need to book. If you would like to come along and hear participants speak about the Process, dates and directions are on our Information Events page, where you will also find details of details of our Introduction Days and Information Phone-ins.

We are always interested in any feedback that people may have regarding the Hoffman Process. If you would like to email your comments to info@hoffmaninstitute.co.uk, we will make sure these are passed on to the Hoffman Institute Directors.

Claudio Naranjo, M.D., Psychiatrist & Author

‘If one wanted to create a synthesis integrating psychodynamic, transpersonal, humanistic, and behaviouristic ingredients in individual psychotherapies, one could hardly originate a better product than the Hoffman Process, a method which takes only eight days… Hoffman is the best method I know for the realignment of relationships with parents and parent surrogates and, more generally, a powerful tool in the service of the development of love for self and others.’