Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Linden Method & Marie - Part III - The Linden Method Retreat

As we travelled to The Elms Hotel near Kidderminster, Marie was simultaneously exhilarated and terrified.  As usual, her head was full of "what if" questions, but there was also the exciting prospect of soon being, for the first time in about 15 years, anxiety free.

ARRIVAL
Marie had contacted Charles Linden and he had arranged to meet her at the hotel at 1.00 pm to help her to get into the hotel.  Marie wanted to arrive before anyone else so that if she "freaked out" none of the other retreat clients would witness it.  However, when we arrived at the hotel - an hour early - we discovered that we could park the car close to the entrance.  Marie was able to make her way up the path to the main doors, but that was as far as she could get.  Soon afterwards Charles' wife Beth arrived and helped Marie to get to get into the building and later to our 1st floor bedroom - no mean feat, I assure you.  She had panic attacks all the way up the grand staircase. There is no way on this earth I could have cajoled Marie there!  Once we settled into the room, Marie was able to go up and down the stairs and to all the rooms used during the retreat for the duration of our stay.  Charles did arrive - especially to meet Marie - but his help wasn't required.

THE CLIENTS
I won't, of course, reveal anything about the clients which could lead to anyone identifying them.

Bearing in mind the cost of the retreat and the type of the venue, the clients were, as one would expect, predominantly wealthy or the dependants of wealthy families. They came from all over the United Kingdom.  Most of the clients were accompanied by family members.  Family members were mostly spouses or mothers.  All the clients had different types of anxiety but all had in common the experience of having panic attacks.  Clients were predominantly young to middle-aged and only one was male (!).  Most, but not all, of the clients had purchased The Linden Method.  None - yes, none - of the clients I spoke to had read/watched/listened to all of the contents of The Linden Method and many hadn't bothered to read it at all.  And not one client had really tried to follow The Linden Method before attending the retreat.  Most were expecting to leave the retreat cured or, at least, mostly cured.  At least one of the clients had serious mental problems.

All the clients and most of the family members were kind, considerate and caring people.  Despite their disparate backgrounds, they mixed exceptionally well and were eager to share helpful tips.

THE TEAM
My descriptions are, of course, just my opinion and as such cannot be truly objective.  They are not meant to offend.

Holding it all together was the very capable Beth Linden.  Beth was friendly, likeable, attractive and impeccably coiffed.  Her photos on the various Linden Method sites don't do her justice.  She was never condescending nor patronising.  She was firm and assertive when required.  At the retreat, she was expensively dressed, but not ostentatiously so.  Her outfits were perfect for the setting - neither too formal nor too casual.  Smiling often she flashed a set of Hollywood-style, impossibly bright, white, perfect teeth - usually indicative of expensive, extensive dental treatment.

"Chief Educator" Jenny Saunders MSc was extremely knowledgeable not only about The Linden Method, but also about the areas peripheral to it.  She was able to provide comprehensive, informed answers to the vast majority of queries; and where her knowledge was incomplete, she wisely said so and didn't speculate.  Her presentations were informative but fell short of being oratorical gems.  However, she is better in real life than she is on The Linden Method's DVDs.

Retreat Host Gareth Dore is a 20-something former anxiety sufferer.  His job appeared to be (I said "appeared to be" because neither he nor any team member actually explained what his function was) to keep everyone cheerful and entertain the clients during the quiet moments such as mealtimes and evenings.  He is quite good at being the life and soul of the party, but this tended to divide the clients into two groups - those who wanted to party (mainly the younger clients and their partners) and those who were of a quieter disposition.  Gareth was asked about how anxiety had affected him and how he became anxiety free.  He told us that at its worst, his anxiety had made him become a house-bound agoraphobic.  He tackled this using what is commonly called the exposure method: he made himself go to his front door; when he was comfortable doing that, he made himself open the door; next he tackled going down the drive, then he drove to the end of the road, then a bit further...etc.  Oddly there was no mention of The Linden Method as an aid to his escape from anxiety, but we know that he definitely purchased it.  He told us that he didn't understand it, so he contacted Charles Linden and asked him to explain it to him.  He went to The Linden Centre, which is near to his home, where Charles explained what was in the book.  Gareth was impressed and thought that it would be a good idea to organise sessions for others to learn about The Linden Method from people rather than from the book.  He suggested the idea of The Linden Method retreats to Charles and Charles agreed to run them.  This is, apparently, why Gareth is the retreat host.

Rob Holcrofd presented Postural Empowerment and relaxation techniques.  According to Marie his presentations were entertaining, funny and useful.  She still thinks about her posture, so some of what he taught has stuck.

Jackie Donkin Bsc was excellent in imparting advice on one's diet.  She showed how much sugar is in common foods and snacks (and shocked most with this information) and suggested alternatives.  Charles mentions diet in some depth in The Linden Method and it was encouraging to hear a nutritionist endorse his recommendations.

Alan Smith took the meditation session.  The general impression was that he was a very nice man.  However, he was bizarre.  He looked bizarre, with a permanent smile on his smooth ruddy face and his near-monotone, soft, happy voice (you had to listen very carefully to hear what he was saying) was just as bizarre. He was the most calm, chilled-out person I have ever met.  Some clients and partners fell asleep during the first half of his session, which was a lecture on the various types of meditation and why anyone would bother to meditate.  Several people left the room.  Alan was fond of the phrase "give yourself a gift" - and the gift was a quiet time, a time to meditate.  The second half of the session was a period of meditation, where he used the same tone of voice to encourage us to meditate.  I can state without equivocation that this session was the least successful during the retreat.

THE VENUE

While we were at the retreat there were few other guests at the hotel.  Perhaps indicative that the accommodation was poor value for money?

The Elms is a great looking period building with good, well managed grounds and, of course, a spa.  There's also a gym and swimming pool.  The rooms are interesting and fully kitted-out, but there was no air conditioning and the room could get uncomfortably hot.  

We were unlucky.  Others were happy with their rooms, but our room had a faulty toilet and no shower mat.  I found out about the missing shower mat when I slipped and nearly fell out of the bath, much to Marie's amusement.  A shower mat was provided next day by a very apologetic manager.  No such luck with the toilet.  It took 3 days to repair it: all it needed was a £5 part.  The toilet made an awful noise which also disturbed the family in the room next door, which could be controlled by flushing it. However, getting up a couple of times during the night to flush the toilet is not conducive to having a pleasant stay.  We were offered another - and better - room, but it was on the 2nd floor and inaccessible to Marie.  A partial refund would have been a nice gesture but it was unforthcoming.

The Elms boasts about its great food and the fact that many of the vegetables are grown in its own garden.  I found the food to be, on average, disappointing and all of the other clients I spoke to agreed.  Retreat clients were not offered the hotel's full menu.  Instead there was a very limited choice of dishes.  The menu was unexciting and unadventurous.  Gareth repeatedly told us all about how good the braised beef was, but when in due course it was served it was almost inedible and most diners left it on the side of their plates.  The next day we were treated to an excellent spicy Mediterranean dish, so the chef can obviously cook well on his good days.

The rooms which were used for The Linden Method seminars were light and airy and acoustically good.  Very much fit for purpose.  There were plenty of comfortable settees and armchairs to accommodate all the clients' partners.  Tea and coffee were almost always available, frequently accompanied by delicious home-baked shortbread or speciality bread.

Was the venue good for the retreat?  Despite the hot rooms and not-so-good food (which, of course, might usually be much better...the regular chef was on his holidays/wasn't feeling very well etc...), the quiet, relaxed atmosphere, superb, friendly staff and the large, light, airy, comfortable seminar rooms provide excellent surroundings for clients of the retreat.

But if I'm in the Kidderminster area looking for good accommodation, I'll give The Elms a miss.

THE PROGRAMME
You can see the programme in the image opposite (click to enlarge).  The programme offers busy, productive days and relaxing, convivial evenings.  By the end of the retreat, The Linden Method will have been comprehensively explained.

The four days/three nights format works well and it offers education in an unhurried, pleasing way.  The retreat could probably be adapted for a three days/two nights format without losing much content, although the shorter time-frame would mean that the overall experience was less relaxing.

Marie liked all of the programme except the meditation session.  Her most enjoyable session was the one-to-one session with The Great Man.  Accompanied by Charles she was able to walk around the grounds at The Elms.  She was able to walk across the immense front lawn without panic.  Proof indeed that it is possible to overcome anxiety.

I particularly liked the Partners/Carers Only session.  As followers of this blog will be aware, Marie has tried almost all the available treatments and therapies in the market as well as what the National Health Service has to offer.  None of them - absolutely none of them - involve partners or carers.  And I have asked for help...and received none.  

I said to a NHS psychiatrist "I don't know what to do for the best regarding Marie.  I'm worried that I may be doing all the wrong things and hindering her progress!"

And the psychiatrist's reply?  "Yes, I can see that it must be difficult for you."  That's all I got.  Helpful?  Hardly!

The Partners/Carers Only session was perfectly timed at two hours.  Basically it told us what we have to do to support our anxious loved ones, and why.  And what we shouldn't do, the things that make anxiety grow. There was lots of excellent advice based on TLM principles.  I was able to see how, in the early days, I had actually helped Marie to increase her anxiety!

Now the problem with a one-size-fits-all approach is that it rarely does.  And it's the same with The Linden Method's advice for partners and carers.  I cannot "Treat Marie the same way as I would treat a non-anxious person."  I have got young children and I cannot do anything which would adversly affect them.  I can't say "If you want food, get it yourself" because the children need to be fed.  I can't let the children see me leave their mother screaming in the middle of a panic attack - I've got to back and calm her down/cancel going out.  Despite this, I felt that the session was worth every minute.  Well done, TLM, for including partners and carers!

The main criticism I have of the programme is the lack of supervision of the group's leisure time.  On the last evening, the doubters and dismissers were given free reign to voice their pessimism, tangibly changing the atmosphere.  I feel that retaining a positive atmosphere at all times is essential.  Engendering seeds of doubt can only do damage.  Yet Gareth seemed unable or unwilling to try too steer the group away from this destructive line of conversation.  An effective host would have gently, almost imperceptibly changed the subject matter to happier topics.

THE VERDICT?
The advertising and promotion of the retreat tends to give the impression that it offers an instant cure for anxiety sufferers.  That is, to say the least, unfortunate.  Yes, I know that if you read all the splurge carefully, you will see that it does not offer you that.  But many of the clients at the retreat I attended expected to be going home, cured.  Marie expected to be going home to get ready for a family holiday in Spain.

It doesn't provide an instant cure.  There is no instant cure.

But for some, the retreat will give them the tools to transform their lives for the better.  It will give them hope that they can beat anxiety.  It will equip their partners/carers with a set of aids to help the affected loved one.  For these people, it will be worth every penny.

DEPARTURE
Friday's afternoon session was a disappointment.  Some of the clients left early, the question and answer session never took place and the group photo didn't happen.

Nevertheless, as Marie toured pleasant English countryside bathed in beautiful late spring sunshine on our way home, she was a changed person.  No, there was no miraculous cure; but there was a feeling, a certainty that everything had changed for the better.  Tomorrow, anxiety would be diminished.  Life was going to get better.


UPDATE, April 2014


1.   My wife has been quite unwell for a substantial portion of the last few years, and I haven't had time to continue with this blog.  But one day...
2.  Please be aware that the format and content of the Linden Method Retreat has been changed.  There is a revised timetable and a new host.  And there is a new menu at the hotel (presumably better).  Contact the organisers for further information.
3.  Beth Linden contacted me to say that it is not the organisers' intention to imply that the retreat offers a "magic cure".  Beth wrote to me, saying, "...What we do say, however, is that they [their clients] will be armed with a 'toolbox' of what they need to make a full recovery and that they will feel more empowered and less fearful about making that journey of recovery..."
4.  The beneficial effects of The Retreat were short-lived and my dear wife went back, more or less, to where she was before going there.  However, since she didn't follow the advice given to her at the Retreat or in The Linden Method book, her lack of progress can NOT be described as a failure of TLM or the Retreat.



32 comments:

ADDY said...

Fingers crossed life did get better, but I detect a tone that suggests it did not. Hope I'm wrong.

Nechtan said...

Hi Robert,

Fantastic thorough post, a really good read.

As you know I am skeptical but to be honest its more with the packs for sale over the internet. From what I have read and concluded people do get more benefit from working one to one. I think you illustrated that perfectly with Marie's journey from the car outside until getting to her room- not something a book, video or audio would have helped with. It needed that one to one attention. Great on her though for doing so much and proving that anxiety can be overcome with the right conditions.

I am really happy that Marie did benefit from it. I know in this case the costs are unavoidable but it would have been tragic to pay that amount and see no change. I do hope that the retreat has made life for her since then easier.

I understand your disappointment about no cure. Its a word used frequently on the site and I would imagine all the other clients were disappointed on that front because its a lot of money. The website for the retreat leads with the line "Supported, Total Recovery for Sufferers of Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia..." which I would believe to be walking away with a cure.

Anyway, glad it helped Marie and hoping she has been able to take that into the time in between. Look forward to reading if there has been progress on that front.

All the best

Nechtan

rainbowdust33 said...

Thank you so much for posting about this, was a really interesting read.

Please update us with Marie's progress and tell her weldone! :)

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post and the only un-offcial linden method i could find on the net. Nice to have an objective point of view.
Keep us updated

Laura said...

Robert,

Thank you for your unbiased review of the Charles Linden Retreat. I tried to find another honest review but I wasn't able to find a single one. How many websites does Charles own anyway? Everthing I've found about him is either on one of him numerous websites or on a paid affiliates site which gives me a very bad feeling about him. I remember when people tried to say what they really think on the no more panic forum and he threatened to sue if it wasn't removed.

With all the money you paid I hope that (in the least) Marie left the retreat with more confidence than she had when she got there. Since she isn't actually "cured" like he claimed would happen he should do the right thing and refund at least part of your money.

L x said...

Anyone who guarantees and 'instant cure' always seem to want to sue if anything negative is written about them - definitely doesn't do themselves any favours.

I'm really happy for anyone that benefits from programmes such as the linden method but personally I think they promise the world to desperate, vulnerable people who can't afford it in the first place and always fail to deliver. What's worse is all the info they give you can usually be found online for free. I was promised by a top hypnotherapist that after one hour with him I would be cured of agoraphobia. After the hour session he left without seeing if i could go out and when I did go out I had a major panic attack.

Knowing how bad anxiety is, which apparently Charles Linden does, if I came across a 'cure' I would give it away for free because I really wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Kaci said...

Robert, thank you so much for posting this! I have been thinking about the Linden Method myself and it was nice to read your review of things.

It sounds like even though the sessions were a bit of a disappointment that Marie does seem a bit more hopeful. Sometimes a little hope goes a long way. I hope things improve!

rainbowdust33 said...

I am trying the linden method at the moment, and I've got to say I was a bit disappointed today.

One of the things that sold me to the method was the "1 Year of UNLIMITED, 24-hour Email and Phone Support". Well I rang today (2pm on a Saturday) as I've been particularly anxious the past few days, and was told 'there is nobody in the support centre today, you need to call back 10am-6pm on a weekday!' I said I thought it was 24/7? He said 'yeah well that's if you are suicidal or something'.

Excellent. Has made me feel about ten times worse cos I'm so annoyed about it :(

Natural deodorant said...

Hi...

Nice blog with great information its really very interesting.
Thanks for sharing this post

rainbowdust33 said...

how is marie getting on??

Anonymous said...

Hiya,


Was thinking of going to this retreat myself but unsure as its expensive but looks good. Just not many independent reviews on the internet. Do you know of any ?
Many thanks
Natalie

ADDY said...

Your silence is not golden. Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

My retreat experience was great!! I don't think it is fair for you to alter peoples perceptions of the Linden Method through your poor and unfair explanation of the retreat.

For those who read this blog, please know that I suffered with Anxiety and The Linden Method is the answer. Don't let this blog make you think otherwise. The man clearly has something against them.

Robert said...

Addy, Nechtan & rainbowdust33 - sorry it has taken so long to post a reply. Marie's condition improved temporarily after the retreat, but then went back to "normal", more or less. I'm not blaming The Linden Method, though - she stopped following it for no apparent reason. Perhaps I'll post the whole story one day.

anonymous (the 1st one}, Laura & Natural Deodorant - Thanks for taking the trouble to post a comment!

L x - You write "Anyone who guarantees and 'instant cure' always seem to want to sue if anything negative is written about them - definitely doesn't do themselves any favours". I absolutely agree on all counts!!! However, I have to disagree with you about Mr Linden profiting from his experiences. If medical doctors, consultants, academics and pharmaceutical companies etc. can profit from the study/treatment/cures for illnesses, why shouldn't Charles Linden?

Natalie - Sorry, but I don't know of anywhere you can find any truly independent reviews of The Linden Method or The Linden Method retreat.

Kaci - I hope things are better for you. I wonder if you tried The Linden Method?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Anonymous (the last one) - Thank you for visiting my blog. I'm glad you enjoyed your retreat experience and that you found The Linden Method beneficial.

For your information, I have nothing against Charles Linden, The Linden Method or The Linden Method retreat. What you read was simply my personal views and others will no doubt have their own views. It was not written with the intention of influencing anyone in any way whatsoever.



Best wishes

Robert

Rab said...

Hey Robert,

Hope all is well mate. I hope your life has slowed down a bit as you seemed to be always on the go. Anyway, I hope all is well.

All the best

Rab (formerly Nechtan)

Anonymous said...

Very good review Robert, it's great to read unbiased views on the retreat, nearly went myself the other year,glad I didn't.

The other anon comment, that might be a guy from Linden's camp, I have seen similar comments defending The Linden system.

Shame someone chose to attack such a well written, fair blog.

Tim said...

Thanks a lot for the post. Genuine reviews of the linden review are far and few between. Especially ones from the retreat.

I bought the linden method years and years ago and although it helped me I did not cure, however over time I worked out for myself how to get better.

Anxiety seems to be a modern epidemic and I can only see it getting worse.

Dennis Simsek said...

Here's an inspirational success story over panic and anxiety that many of you might enjoy. www.anxietykey.com

tamboenman said...

Wherever do you get your inspiration from? This site is just awesome! I am really keen on finding out more. Please keep me updated periodically as I would this is too good to miss!
Regards,

Anonymous said...

I'd love an update,most been so so long! :)

Joshua said...

The details of the retreat were a little disappointing. However, this is not Charles' fault. The Linden Method only works if you actually "do" it. You mentioned in your post that half the people didn't even read the manual coming into the retreat. And others did read it but weren't applying it. The nine pillars will help. However, in my short time practicing the Linden Method I found that I already conquered half the pillars before engaging in the method. Here's what I've learned from doing the Method. An individual needs to change their language and tone each and every time a symptom shows up. So, what I do is each time I am out in public and begin to feel a sensation (mainly dizziness) I begin to calm my breathing and say to myself "this is just a sensation I will NOT faint, I am in full control, this will pass". And it always does. In addition, I practice the 3 seconds in breath 6 seconds exhale breathing technique mention in the manual 3 times a day. I'll even do it a few minutes every time I know I'm going to go out in public. Also, like Charles mentions Diversion! Diversion! Diversion! I am learning the guitar. I am learning how to draw. I try to do challenging puzzles (I.e. Sudoku) and I read and am in the process of creating and designing a website. All of this has my mind busy throughout my day. And when I need to I will take a nap. In addition, I recently applied for a job only because I felt confident enough to go though the interview. I've been doing the method for around 2 months and have felt much better than I did since the day I ordered the Lindem Method. It's not a fast cure but each week gets better. I'm happy to help in any way.

Robert said...

Hi Joshua;
I don't visit my blog often, so I only noticed your commment today - and published it immediately.
I'm realy glad that TLM works for you (and many others, I'm sure) and I hope that your progress has continued and that you are much better now!
With a few reservations, I always felt that The Linden Method was ok. It's a pity that the author makes silly claims about it and doesn't allow allow anyone to state their honest opinions about it! :(

Btw, it's really nice of you to offer assistance!

Sueann said...

Hi Robert ,
I saw an ad for the linden method and googled it , yours was the only non official review.Id be similar to Marie and was thinking of buying it. Like her ,I've tried everything , except medication. Will send an update after ive bought it , I couldnt go to a retreat as I cant travel lol.
Sueann

PetieMan :P said...

Hi Robert,

Your wife should really read Claire Weekes' books, especially Peace from Nervous Suffering (which is specifically for agoraphobia). I know of many, many people who have overcome their agoraphobia through her teachings.

Here's a site with a free e-book written by a man who recovered using Dr. Weekes' ideas: agoraphobiacured.com.

It requires some hard work (challenging intense fear can of course be scary!) but I believe it's the way to overcome anxiety. I've tried a lot of things, and acceptance is the only thing that has helped me.

Good to read your stuff about the Linden Method...I find all that fascinating! It's strange how they attack anyone who questions it, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I hope you will have a chance to update your blog again soon. I used to enjoy reading it. Your blog seemed to stop after your wife went on the Linden retreat. I am weary of Charles Linden because I've seen him go after and threaten people in forums if they don't like his technique. I hope he didn't do the same to you. Laura

Robert said...

Sueann

Good luck with your Linden method journey!

Robert said...

PetieMan

Thanks for your message.

My wife is currently following "Dare" with some success. Link follows.

https://www.wattpad.com/story/53567994-dare-the-new-way-to-end-anxiety-and-stop-panic

....and this too -

https://www.facebook.com/eliminatepanic/

Regarding Charles Linden, I've also beeen the recipient of his bullying tactics (I've kept the evidence!). It's not the type of behaviour I would associate with a reputable person :(

Robert said...

Laura -

Unfortunately, as I told PetieMan, Charles has threatened me. He attacked me and my wife (online) by threatening us with legal action if I didn't take remove some of my posts on this blog. It was so bad that I took the blog offline for a while. I've kept the evidence of his shameful behaviour (posts on my wife's Facebook page and emails to me) in case he is ever foolish enough to threaten me again.

Anonymous said...

Claire weekes is a well recommended read there are a lot of books by Claire and believe me your wife will well and truly benefit from them you should read them too and when you do I think you will find that many of what Claire says in her book is taught by certain others which makes you wonder whether they got better on there own actually or where they guided by Claire I will mention no names but will leave it by saying nip to the library and pick up this book will be very beneficial to both you and your wife

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear you and your wife were bullied Robert, sadly there are many others. Have you tried to access support with referral via a GP?

Good to see people telling the truth about Charles (his real name is actually Lyndon Charles Griffiths). The nonsense he spouts about anxiety is ridiculous. The guy is a conman and bully. I woukd suggest nobody puts a penny in his pocket and spread the word. The posts stucking up for Charles will be him, he has form for this. Giy is a liar.

The Linden Method is currently being investigated by Trading Standards as he refuses to change the lies on his website. The guy is a narcissist, a complete joke. ASA ruling:

https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2011/11/The-Linden-Centre/SHP_ADJ_153052.aspx#.WJzwmnRFDqA

One of many blogs on Charlie boy (see links at bottom of this one for other articles):

https://psychonoclast.wordpress.com/?s=Linden+method&submit=Search

I know many people who have been bullied by Charles.

STAY AWAY FROM THIS PSEUDOSCIENCE.

Unknown said...

Hi I was just on there face book page and all I asked was why they can answer all questions except questions on price. Then I was insulted and blocked..! I'd say if this is how they conduct them selves STAY WELL CLEAR.!!

Anonymous said...

There are some practical pieces in The Linden Method, however, I believe it missing some key information. This information relates to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy principals. 9 Pillars - not too sure about this.