Retreat FAQ

Why should I come to a retreat?
What will the group be like? Will I be lost in a big crowd or will I be able to make some connections?
What actually happens at a retreat?
What goes on between sessions?
What if I’m not fundamentalist but I’m not sure what I believe now?
Does the program promote atheism? Are you anti-God?
Will you make fun of the religion I’m from?
I thought “recovery” was for crazy people.
I’m not sure I need help because I feel fine at times and other times I’m a mess.
What if I’m uncomfortable at the retreat or don’t like what is happening?
I want to come but I’m scared it’s wrong.
I feel selfish and unsure about spending so much on myself.
What if I need some individual attention?
What if I have powerful emotions I can’t control?
Will I have to help other people get better?
Who goes to these retreats? Will I be able to relate?
Is this another group that will try to tell me what to think?
How can one weekend make any difference?
Is there any follow-up? What happens afterward?
Why does it cost so much?
What is the food like?
What are the sleeping arrangements?
What do I need to bring?
What should I do to prepare?

Why should I come to a retreat?
A Journey Free retreat is a concentrated time of healing and growth that can jump start your recovery in a way that is different from any other kind of counseling. You are with others, in person and not just online, and the program is run by a specialist in religious recovery.



What will the group be like? Will I be lost in a big crowd or will I be able to make some connections?

This is a small group of 8-12 people, selected carefully to make sure the retreat is a good idea for them at this time.  You will have plenty of time to interact personally and make friends.


What actually happens at a retreat?
The format is a combination of didactic and experiential parts. Marlene does not “lecture,” but she does short talks to present information, and the group can discuss, contribute, and ask questions.  If there is a new concept or skill to learn, there will often be a demonstration.  But the retreat is not primarily focused on cognitive needs. You can read books and listen to lectures for that. The time we spend together is highly interactive.  You will often be doing things in pairs or small groups, guided by a structure provided by Marlene and facilitated.  It might be talking and sharing experiences, or doing an exercise of some kind.  We also use expressive means to process emotions such as art, writing, movement, and group activities such as role-play. Marlene is skilled with using guided imagery for self-discovery, healing, and skill-building. All participation is voluntary and there is no judgment.


What goes on between sessions?
The weekend is designed to be relaxing and fun as well as a time of healing and growth.  During breaks we have music, stretching, dancing, and art available. Around the house is a nice yard with outdoor hot tub and benches to relax. You can spend time alone meditating or writing, or you can get acquainted with new friends.


What if I’m not fundamentalist but I’m not sure what I believe now?
Your beliefs are up to you. We have no requirements or judgment about belief or unbelief.  People who attend are at different stages of recovering from indoctrination. They might be atheist, but they might also be liberal Christian or have another view of spirituality.


Does the program promote atheism? Are you anti-God?
We are anti-dogma and anti-authoritarianism, not anti-God. Spirituality can be healthy and valuable but we encourage people to define it for themselves. Our overall objective is to empower you to make up your own minds about everything. The retreat is a “no-judgment zone” where you can feel safe to express your thoughts and feelings. We support mutual respect, not conformity.


Will you make fun of the religion I’m from?
Not at all. There are explanations for your involvement, whether you were born into it or joined at a needy time in your life.


I thought “recovery” was for crazy people.
This program provides support, information, and activities designed to help you at a very stressful time in your life. Leaving a religious belief system is a huge transition. This does not mean you are “crazy.” It simply means you are understandably needing some help in the same way you might if you were physically injured and went through occupational therapy.


I’m not sure I need help because I feel fine at times and other times I’m a mess.
That makes sense because in some ways, you are able to recover on your own because people have intuitive wisdom and strength. But recovering from religion can also be very challenging and confusing at times. It really is okay to get help. You aren’t alone and others who have been through similar struggles can support you.


What if I’m uncomfortable at the retreat or don’t like what is happening?
All participation is completely voluntary, so you will not be pressured to do anything.  You will always be free to come and go, and take breaks if you need to. Marlene and the other staff are available to talk with you individually to hear your concerns, and will do whatever possible to help you feel relaxed. If you have suggestions, they are welcome, and complaints are taken seriously. You will be encouraged to work with us to make your experience a valuable one.


I want to come but I’m scared it’s wrong.
It’s natural to have fears about attending a retreat because you have probably been indoctrinated thoroughly to suspect any worldly influence. Thus it is important to step back and think about how valid these fears really are, and balance them with your desire to heal and grow.


I feel selfish and unsure about spending so much on myself.
After a religious environment that taught you so much about self-denial, it may seem difficult to value yourself and make your own health a priority. Yet you can probably see how important this investment is – you deserve love and caring as much as anyone else.


I want to come but I’m scared it’s wrong.
This retreat is not primarily a social occasion, so you will not be pressured to be sociable. The place itself is in a beautiful rural location with ample opportunity to be alone if you like. However, most participants find out pretty immediately that the other people are safe; they are friendly and share many of the same feelings. Before long, connections are made and folks feel very comfortable with each other.


What if I need some individual attention?
This can be arranged, either spontaneously between sessions, or by appointment.


What if I have powerful emotions I can’t control?
You will be in a safe environment facilitated by a professionally trained group leader. The fear of emotional expression is most often exaggerated compared to the relief of processing feelings effectively with appropriate support.


Will I have to help other people get better?
You will not have any obligation to help others, or use any skills you do not feel you have. Many people, however, find that simply sharing and participating is very helpful to others, and there is satisfaction and learning gained from the mutuality of the group process.


Who goes to these retreats? Will I be able to relate?
Retreat goers are mixed, varying widely in age and other demographics such that you are very likely to find people that you can connect with. Often, attendees will have left their religious group within a very few years, and sometimes only months. The religious backgrounds are of all kinds, but mostly Christian fundamentalist of some sort. They are all dogmatic and authoritarian such that people who leave have to do some work to recover their ability to think for themselves and respect their own feelings.


Is this another group that will try to tell me what to think?
We do not have any new doctrines or creeds. We focus on emotional and personal recovery issues, not theology. Thus we do not debate or make any effort to agree on new philosophies other than the general principle of empowering individuals to develop themselves.


How can one weekend make any difference?
This weekend is effective because you will be supported and encouraged to do some things that you might not do on your own or things that require a group dynamic. If you are open and take advantage of the experience, the focused time will have a lasting impact.


Is there any follow-up? What happens afterward?
After the retreat, we encourage participants to join our online group. This allows for regular attention to recovery tasks, with the group available for both support and accountability.  The monthly conference calls provide a way to have continued personal contact.


Why does it cost so much?
As retreats go, this is very reasonably priced. The food and lodging is less than average.  The program is a sliding scale so that we can offer it to as many as possible.


What is the food like?
The food is healthy and plentiful, including full breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, along with snacks and drinks.  Wine will be served with dinners. Vegetarian options will be available and you can make special requests ahead of time if you have dietary needs. Everyone will be asked to help a little with food prep or cleaning up.


What are the sleeping arrangements?
Most people sleep in the house in rooms with one or more beds. We also have couches in the living room. If you require privacy, please let us know ahead of time; we also have space in nearby homes. Linens and towels are supplied.


What do I need to bring?
Clothes: Dress is casual and comfortable. The temperature varies so it’s a good idea to bring layers. For a movement exercise, you should have clothes you can move easily in. Also bring a bathing suit and walking shoes if desired.

On one evening, we have a very casual, friendly “talent night,” so please bring something to share – a song, poem, story, dance, drawing, joke, handstand, or funny noise. Musical instruments are very welcome. Being an audience member is also valued, so you can bring appreciation and a sense of humor too.


What should I do to prepare?
Please complete the written exercises assigned and send a copy to Marlene by email within 10 days of the retreat. Then make two hard copies to bring – one for yourself and one to give Marlene.

Also, if you have not read Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion, please do so before coming. You will receive a free e-version with your registration (let us know if you do not receive it).