Author Christopher Kabakis
In the quest for personal growth, individuals often seek programs that take them out of their everyday routine and offer a chance for real transformation, for personal growth and a more meaningful and fulfilled life. The Landmark Forum and Psychedelic Retreats, such as the EvoCORE program by Evolute Institute, present two distinct approaches in this regard. This article aims to compare these pathways, examining their methodologies, philosophies, and impacts on people’s lives.
2. Landmark Forum: What is it?
The Landmark Forum, a prominent personal development program by Landmark Worldwide, spans three days and an evening session. It is designed for groups ranging from 75 to 250 participants and is structured as a dialogue-driven seminar. People can participate on-site or purely online. The Landmark Forum’s structure fosters a dynamic, dialogue-oriented environment where participants engage in group discussions, personal sharing, and various reflective exercises corresponding to various themes. The Forum’s core philosophy hinges on the distinction between life’s facts and the meanings or interpretations individuals assign to them. It features psychoanalytical reflective exercises that challenge participants to reevaluate their perceptions around, for example, the pursuit of an “imaginary ‘someday’ of satisfaction,” and the detrimental impact of striving to look good in the eyes of others or to always wanting to be right. It focuses on identifying and overcoming limiting beliefs, often rooted in past experiences and societal conditioning, to unlock a more authentic and effective way of living. For example, the theme “Pervasive influence of the past” examines how past relationships and experiences influence current realities.
The program emphasizes the distinction between the power of language and choice, and the concept of transformation as distinct from mere change. This approach aims to provide individuals with the tools to break free from self-imposed constraints, leading to enhanced personal freedom, effectiveness, and fulfillment in various aspects of their lives. Participants are encouraged to be “coachable,” embracing openness to new concepts and to active participation. The course leaders set clear rules at the outset, emphasizing the importance of full attendance and engagement. The program includes a unique exercise where participants call family members or friends to resolve unresolved personal tensions and to embrace new perspectives on personal responsibility and transformation.
Imagine a broad, well-paved highway. It’s expansive, accommodating a large volume of people and is marked by clear signs and directions. Its structure and streamlined nature symbolizes the approach at Landmark Forum, that guides many people simultaneously toward improvement in communication and personal development. The journey is efficient, direct, and shared with many others, but it generally stays on a defined path with limited exploration off the main route.
3. Psychedelic Retreats: The EvoCORE Experience
EvoCORE, a psychedelic retreat program by the Evolute Institute, contrasts with the Landmark Forum in its use of legal psilocybin-containing truffles within an 8-week program. The EvoCORE program includes online preparation sessions, a 4-day immersive retreat on-site, and post-retreat integration sessions, tailored for small groups of 10-12 people who are daring and willing to face their deeper truths. The program focuses on deep self-exploration, encouraging participants to confront the unknown and to bring a beginner’s mind to their preconceived notions about themselves, others, and to life. The 8-week program is structured into the three phases of preparation, immersion, and integration, combining modern scientific understanding of personal transformation with traditional wisdom teachings.
The program is rooted in the belief that psychedelics, under professional guidance and in a supportive setting, can catalyze profound personal and spiritual growth and a deeper connection with life. Participants embark on a journey that includes breathwork, mindfulness meditation, and movement practices, preparing them for the psychedelic ceremony. This immersive experience is designed to facilitate deep introspection, allowing individuals to explore hidden layers of their consciousness, confront unknown aspects of themselves, and gain new perspectives on life. EvoCORE emphasizes the importance of set and setting, providing a safe and trusting atmosphere for this exploration. The program also includes discussions on consciousness and the mind from scientific and philosophical viewpoints, adding contextualization and depth to the actual experience that is frequently described as “ineffable” or “beyond words”. Post-retreat, participants engage in integration sessions, ensuring that the insights gained are solidified and effectively incorporated into daily life. This holistic approach aims to release creative energies, foster self-knowledge, help participants connect with their innermost yearnings to live a purposeful life and enable personal and spiritual growth.
Envision a deep ocean dive. As a diver explores the uncharted waters, encountering unique and varied life, participants in EvoCORE delve into the depths of their psyche, experiencing profound emotional and spiritual encounters. It’s a journey into personal exploration and discovery in a vast, open space.
4. Comparing Psychedelic Retreats and Landmark Personal Growth – Highway or deep dive?
While both programs aim at personal transformation, their methodologies diverge significantly. The Landmark Forum’s formally structured, dialogue-based approach that relies more on intellect and a psychoanalytic approach, contrasts with EvoCORE’s curriculum of interactive sessions that cater to the mind, the heart, the body and the spirit and its introspective and experiential method using psychedelics. The Landmark Forum’s focus on reinterpreting life events and behavioral patterns offers a cognitive and communicative (language-based) route to self-awareness, leveraging group dynamics and structured conversations. In contrast, EvoCORE’s use of altered states such as breathwork, meditation and psychedelics in a ceremonial setting facilitates a more emotive, somatic, non-verbal and mystical journey, often leading to profound spiritual and psychological insights which are only after the experience brought into conversation with the other retreat participants. Both approaches, however, emphasize the importance of integrating these insights into daily life, albeit through different modalities.
4.2 Size, Participant Experiences and Outcomes
Landmark is a massive organization that has sold its programs to over 3 million individuals. Despite the mass-market approach, participants of the Landmark Forum report breakthroughs in personal relationships and career, marked by improved communication skills and overcoming limiting beliefs. According to the website, 94% of participants surveyed reported that they made a profound and lasting difference in their lives after attending the Landmark Forum.
By the way of contrast, most psychedelic retreats, such as EvoCORE, are small organizations that lay an exquisite focus on customization and personal relationship with the participants. Instead of three-digit participant numbers, EvoCORE admits only up to 12 participants to their programs, thus setting the foundations for a deeply personal experience. EvoCORE attendees report profound spiritual experiences, enhanced creativity, and a renewed sense of purpose, addressing deep-rooted psychological issues or existential questions and other interests and points of curiosity. The impact of psychedelic programs, such as EvoCORE, is further evidenced by touching personal reports (see for example “A divine encounter” by Luciana Bellini, or “Finding peace with my fear of not being good enough” by retreat participant Leon). Deep-dives into your deeper layers are really possible. For instance, one Evolute Institute client, Mark Young (PhD), compared his retreat program experience with Google’s highly-praised course “Search Inside Yourself”: “Google has a course called Search Inside Yourself, which I’ve taken, and I can tell you that that mostly stays a slogan with them. Here, at Evolute, it really happens in a deeply intensive way that has to be experienced to be understood.”
Moreover, a growing corpus of scientific research indicates the transformative potential of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy that is reflected in changes in the brain (cf. “Your Brain on Psychedelics“).
Overall, it seems that the main difference between the Landmark Forum and a program like EvoCORE is the depth of the experience. The Landmark Forum usually gives people an effective, yet highly structured intellectual/psychoanalytic approach to transformation. This standardized approach is streamlined and linear in order to remain reproducible, otherwise it would have been impossible to serve over 3 million participants worldwide. It hence offers predictability and a set of repeatable exercises. There is little chance to go really deep within 3 days.
In contrast, the EvoCORE experience does not have a purely intellectual focus, but brings in the greatest driving force in our lives – the power of emotions and embodiment. When we calm down our chronically overactive minds and access deeper layers of our being, we get in touch with essential and deep-rooted emotions like unconditional love, awe, and our innate yearning for belonging and mystery. The psychedelic experience is a non-linear path of personal exploration that has the potential to go far beyond our intellectual capacities, where we can access what remains usually inaccessible: our most protected emotions, wounds, memories, and gifts. Hence, the impacts on people’s lives are often beyond a mere career change or improved communication, it is a renewed look at and deepened connection with life itself. The impact of experiencing something that is beyond words can look very subtle or even negligible from the outside, but opens up entire new worlds within us.
5. Safety and Ethics
Safety and ethics are paramount in any personal development program.
5.1 Landmark Forum
The safety and ethics for participants at the Landmark Forum are subjects of varied experiences and perspectives. Some participants report positive transformations and empowerment, appreciating the program’s intense approach to personal growth and self-improvement. However, there are also concerns about the psychological impact on participants, with critics highlighting potential distress and adverse effects on mental health due to the program’s emotionally charged and confrontational methods. Known for employing methods akin to ‘Attack Therapy’, facilitators engage participants in rigorous verbal exchanges aimed at breaking through deep-seated personal barriers. While this approach can lead to significant breakthroughs for some, it has raised ethical questions about the potential psychological impacts on participants, especially those who may find the intensity overwhelming or distressing (see further details here).
Overall, the Landmark Forum aims to facilitate personal growth. It encourages a culture of openness and personal responsibility, where participants are urged to engage fully in the process. However, the experiences of participants suggest that it’s crucial for individuals considering the program to be aware of these varying perspectives and to carefully consider whether the program aligns with their personal values and mental health needs.
5.2 Psychedelic Retreat EvoCORE
EvoCORE places a strong emphasis on safety and legality in its use of psychedelics. It ensures safety through medical-psychological screenings and the presence of experienced facilitators during the psychedelic experience, including a medical doctor and a psychologist, and a supportive environment for integration in an intimate group setting. During their psychedelic journey, participants are in a particularly vulnerable psychological state. This is why it’s of great importance that the psychedelic retreat provider has clear ethical guidelines or an internal code of conduct (e.g. with respect to physical touch or the complex relationship dynamics between facilitator and participant) as well as collegial supervision (e.g. a participant who is on psychedelics is not left alone with only one facilitator). Also, it is important that there are enough facilitators for the number of participants to give the necessary personal care. At Evolute Institute, the organizers strive for a 1:2 facilitator-to-participant ratio for their retreat programs like EvoLEAD or EvoCORE..
The ethical considerations in each of the two programs vary due to the scale and methods of personal development. The Landmark Forum focuses on various psychoanalytic exercises and emotionally charged confrontational approaches and large group dynamics, while EvoCORE centers around the responsible use of psychedelics and a personal, warm, trusting, supportive environment for deep self-exploration. (see “How to pick a psychedelic retreat that resonates with your personal values and beliefs”).
The journey towards personal growth is highly individual, and programs like the Landmark Forum and the psychedelic retreat program EvoCORE offer varied yet profound paths to self-discovery and transformation. Understanding the distinct philosophies, methodologies, and outcomes of these programs is crucial for individuals seeking a path that aligns with their personal development goals. While the Landmark Forum relies on intense dialogues to uproot limit beliefs, psychedelic retreats use altered states of consciousness to go beyond our rational minds to tap into the deepest sources of our consciousness.
…and what about The Hoffman Process?
The Hoffman Process offers another approach to personal development. It focuses on disconnecting from negative thought and behavior patterns rooted in childhood, particularly those related to primary caregivers. This process, rooted in psychoanalysis, combines various therapeutic techniques and differs from the Landmark Forum’s cognitive approach and EvoCORE’s psychedelic introspection. For more details on how it compares to psychedelic retreat programs, see “The Hoffman Process vs. Psychedelic Retreat Programs“.
Please bear in mind that we do not provide medical advise and you should always seek assistance from a medical professional before making any decision about consuming psychedelics.