WTF Is the Hoffman Process and Why Do Celebs Love It?

Photo: Getty Images/Matthew Sperzel
We've long suspected that Justin Bieber is laser-focused on the latest wellness trends and a recent interview confirms that fact. The Biebs opened up to Vogue about his experience with soul-searching at the celebrity-approved Hoffman Institute, which hosts supposedly transformative weeklong retreats in St. Helena, California. Feeling like he wasn't prepared to meet the demands of the Hoffman Process, the newlywed pop star left the program after a few short days. But we're still curious about what goes on behind closed doors.

Several celebrities have eagerly endorsed the Hoffman Process. Katy Perry cited her time at the California campus (there's another one in Connecticut) for providing a "soul foundation." Sienna Miller depicted her week as "terrifying but extraordinary." Still, for those who haven't participated, the Hoffman Process is somewhat shrouded in mystery. I hopped on the phone with Raz Ingrasci, a teacher who worked alongside the late founder of the Hoffman Process, Bob Hoffman. He described the institute as a place for people who want to "change."

"We encourage people to lean into the pain that they’re carrying in a certain way, with instruction and observation," he said. "They learn to become more comfortable about the parts that were painful and shameful. And a wholeness comes to the emotionally and spiritually from doing that." In practice, the process includes journaling, guided visualizations, and lectures administered in individual and group settings. The curriculum centers on Bob Hoffman's proprietary method to combat "negative love syndrome," a term he coined for the theory that suggests we repeat relationship patterns learned from our parents. The Hoffman Process helps attendees "unlearn" negative behaviors and thereby begin a journey of self-understanding, says Ingrasci. Such clarity doesn't come cheap; the Hoffman process will set you back $4,695.

The Hoffman Process helps attendees "unlearn" negative behaviors and thereby begin a journey of self-understanding.

In an interview with Vogue, Bieber describes an exercise from his stint at Hoffman: "You sit on a mat, you put a pillow down, and you beat your past out of it. I beat the fact that my mom was depressed a lot of my life and my dad has anger issues. Stuff that they passed on that I’m kind of mad they gave me," he explains.

Nancy Irwin, PsyD, a member of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, says such methods can be helpful in tackling trauma. "This can be a useful tool, particularly at the beginning of facing and processing trauma, as it does release repressed anger, resentments," she tells Well+Good. "It helps to physicalize emotions as a first step to processing feelings and trauma emotionally and psychologically." Dr. Irwin warns that some psychologists don't recommend such exercises because they could ultimately lead to more aggressive behavior, but says its certainly better than avoiding deep-seated feelings altogether.

If it's a meditation retreat you seek, here's how to go on on a budget (or for free). Plus, three places you can go to DIY your own getaway

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