Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some common questions regarding Holotropic Breathwork. All answers given are based on the article “12 Things you should know about Holotropic Breathwork” written by Martin Boronson with Jean Farrell, Nienke Merbis, and Dara White.

1. Does Holotropic Breathwork involve the use of drugs?

No.

Grof was one of the earliest and most respected researchers into the clinical use of LSD. A Freudian analyst and psychiatrist, he became convinced that LSD had therapeutic value as a catalyst for the healing potential of the unconscious. Grof conducted LSD treatment at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague from 1960 to 1967, and continued this work at Johns Hopkins University, ...

2. Is the facilitator the healer?

The primary principle of Holotropic Breathwork is that healing comes from within the client. In the holotropic model, this is taken to an unprecedented level of trust. Facilitators are not considered to be healers or even therapists. Rather, they are more like mid-wives, there to support a process that has an inherent wisdom. Facilitating a Holotropic Breathwork workshop is intense practice in ...

3. Is Holotropic Breathwork a kind of shamanism?

There are many ways in which Holotropic Breathwork resembles shamanism. As in shamanism, participants in a Holotropic Breathwork workshop go on a journey into a non-ordinary state of consciousness to find healing. Music is played to support this journey. But there are many differences between Holotropic Breathwork and shamanism. First, there is no roadmap for the Holotropic Breathwork journey: ...

4. Is Holotropic Breathwork addictive?

We have certainly seen some people seem to get hooked on Holotropic Breathwork. But we have to be careful here. Many people come to Holotropic Breathwork as a last resort, or when they are in a psycho-spiritual crisis. In such cases, an intensive period of inner work is not just desired but essential for them. They may want or need to give their lives over to their inner process for a period of ...

5. Is there a prescribed ‘order’ of experience?

We have seen many newcomers to Holotropic Breathwork arrive at a workshop with fixed ideas about what they have to experience or will experience, as if they’d been given instructions by their therapist. (One person even arrived with a map of his body, drawn by his therapist, showing me where his ‘stuff’ was.) But in Holotropic Breathwork, there is no prescribed order of experience, and no way to ...

6. Does Holotropic Breathwork require bodywork?

Holotropic Breathwork facilitators are trained to help participants with a form of support that is sometimes called, and often confused with, bodywork. Increasingly, however, this is called “Focused Energy Release Work” rather than “bodywork”. It is available to clients, if they request it, during a session or at the end of a session. It is used requested by participants when they feel stuck, ...

7. Does Holotropic Breathwork cause you to have an out-of-body experience?

It is certainly possible to have an out-of-body experience in a Holotropic Breathwork session. Most Holotropic Breathwork sessions, however, are exceptionally embodied. In fact, this may be one of the most valuable aspects of Holotropic Breathwork. Because the breather is lying down, on a mat, with someone nearby to ensure that he won’t get hurt, it is possible for his body to do whatever it ...

8. Do participants leave the workshops ‘ungrounded’?

After any dramatic experience, there is a risk of being ‘ungrounded’. People returning from an ashram or meditation retreat, and even from a therapy session or massage, can be ungrounded. Deep experiences are often unsettling, and it can take some time to integrate such experiences with ordinary life. This is why Holotropic Breathwork sessions are usually offered in overnight retreats, and at ...

9. Does Holotropic Breathwork induce an “altered state of consciousness”?

The term ‘altered states’ was widely used in the early days of the transpersonal movement, but with its suggestion of abnormality or pathology, it has become less and less favoured. The term “non-ordinary states of consciousness” is preferred, as it does not judge these states positively or negatively. Grof also tends to call these states of consciousness simply “holotropic”, which means “moving ...

10. Is Holotropic Breathwork violent?

From years working as a therapist and a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator, and from my own personal journey, I have learned that there are violent feelings, desires, and reactions in each of us. The question is to what extent we know about these and can work with them skilfully, as opposed to being surprised by them, projecting them onto others, or acting them out in the world.

Certainly ...

11. Is Holotropic Breathwork just about reliving trauma?

One of the most common misperceptions about Holotropic Breathwork, particularly in Ireland, is that it is only about recovery from trauma. This may be due to the fact the bulk of Holotropic Breathwork done in Ireland was in the 1990s. (And some therapists, not trained by Grof, were doing their own version of it in the 1980s). This was a time of great transition in Ireland. The reality of physical ...

12. Does Holotropic Breathwork go too deep?

First, there is no question that Holotropic Breathwork allows people to have deep experiences, and to some extent, it catalyzes these experiences. Remember that the client is always in control of the mechanism that drives the depth of the process: breathing. No one is forced to go deeper than he wishes.

As with osteopathy and homeopathy—and to some extent, Jungian analysis—in Holotropic ...