This post is far more personal than most of what I've shared here: today I'm writing to talk about my experiences with the self-development company LB Seminars, also known as Liberty & Balance, based in Richmond, BC with offices in Calgary, Alberta. Their workshops are directly related to or descended from PSI Seminars in the US.
To anyone considering enrolling, I intend this to inform you about the program as I wish I had been, to share my thoughts on the value I gained from my time with this company. Consider this an in-depth review; exposing facts about this business as I experienced it. Why would I bother doing this, you may ask? Because it was a big investment, and a big disappointment, which is going unreconciled. Publicly speaking about my experience is my offering to the owners & lead “trainers” of the company, Bill & Littley Dosanjh, others I've met through the program, and potential future clients/customers of LB Seminars.
I was having a tough time in the winter of 2016/17, my first year of living in Vancouver was hard. My sister suggested the program, I said maybe; I hesitated big time. Sounded weird, fake, like a hoax. Then one day her fiance came over with a coffee and signup sheets, and told me ever so seriously and with great care for me that this program had a lot to offer me. He spoke of how he was experiencing great improvements in his life and their relationship, through the program. His sincerity got me and I had the money, so I put down my credit card for the $650, with a note that I was unsure which “Discovery” session I would be able to attend since my new job had me basically on call, not knowing when work would be too busy for me to take the 2 nights and full weekend off.
I went to an info session about the program and the Discovery course, where about 30 people gathered, many of whom already were in later levels of the program or were past graduates. At the end of the presentation, attendees were offered to sign up to the course for $550. I wasn't included in the offer, having already signed up! I was irritated and thought this was a bad sign. However, the people were sincere (albeit a bit cheerleader-ish and agressive) and I was in for the ride, knowing the fees were non-refundable.
As the summer went on, and my job got intensely busy, I was working 12+ hours per day, painting scenery for commercial film shoots. The whole business operates on short notice, and it turned out I could not attend the Discovery course I'd originally signed up for. Upon telling the admin person (who I'll call C) this, she told me I'd have to pay a $100 fee to switch to another time frame. I told her about the $100 discount that I had not been given, despite signing up before the info session, and that I would not pay it additionally.
So the tone of my experience with LB was set. I wish I had remembered this later on; they will pressure you for all the money that they can get.
Eventually in December, things at work calmed down, and I was able to attend the Discovery training. I went into it highly sceptical, but had some powerful experiences in the course through which I gained a different perspective on self-awareness and concepts such as commitment, giving & taking, win-win relationships, and how my resistance vs. acceptance to reality impacts my life & others. The course went late and started early, with a mix of lectures, partner, small group, and whole group exercises. The overall effect was exhausting, emotional cleansing, a sense of “defrag” for my brain, and a sense of empowerment with the tools they shared.
Near the end of the course, the sales pitch to buy into the next levels began. We were subjected to approximately 30min description of the rest of the 5-level program and then given a 15-20min “break” in which to purchase our next level of self-development, set to occur in about a month. The volunteer “staff” approached individuals during the break asking if we would sign up and why not. It was creepy. They seemed so driven and urgent to get us to sign up. I hesitated, but after thinking about it I decided to invest in the training, in myself, and paid up for the next two courses which come as a package: Breakthrough and A.C.T. Thousands of dollars. I knew what I wanted and thought I could do it on my own, but why not get some help?
In the new year I did the 5-day intensive course called Breakthrough. The tone of this experience was similar to entering junior highschool and finding out you really are a loser, with no integrity and no good reason for your badness, bullied by the people who are there to train you. They intend you to feel better about yourself on the last day or so, but the first 3 days are meant to break you down. By looking at the worst parts of myself and being scolded by Bill and Littley it was as if I entered a different world, where I had to measure myself to their values. Again the hours were gruelling, the experience extremely emotional, the exercises ranging from lectures to group activities. Again on the last day the high-pressure sales talk was given; we should sign up to the fourth & fifth course! Again the “break” in which to pay for the rest of the training. By this point I was exhausted, emotionally vulnerable, questioning everything about myself, and very confused about what I was supposed to be gaining from this training.
I decided I wanted to wait on buying into the fourth course, called “Leaders in Action.” I was very interested in leadership training, but it wasn't going to take place until October, and I wanted to see where I was at with my job and everything else after the summer. However, once again I was approached individually, this time by the lead administrator “C”. “Why aren't you signed up for L.I.A?” she demanded. I explained that I wanted to wait and see where things were at later in the year. What happened next I am both angry about and ashamed of. She attacked me with her knowledge after seeing me go through the previous workshops. “So you're going to hesitate on this like you do everything else in your life? Why don't you make a real choice and step into it.” She framed it as a powerful move ahead for me to sign up now. She suggested that choosing now would prove my self-worth. Or maybe that's what I heard, in the state I was in. As I said, vulnerable.
I let myself be convinced, and bullied, not wanting to “hesitate like I always do.” I paid a large deposit on LIA ($2400) and signed up for a payment plan for their 5th course, an exorbitant & luxurious destination experience they charge even more for (not including flights). I thought at the time “I can do this” “I'm worth it.” I went home and tried to explain to my then-boyfriend about what I'd experienced and what I thought I was investing in. He scoffed, smoked a lot of cigarettes, and tried to pretend he supported me. (By this point I wasn't even allowed to talk about the program, it irritated him so much.)
The month after Breakthrough was tough. I was not OK. I had major meltdowns reacting to things that weren't that big of a deal. I felt weak and mixed up, confused about what values I was living by and doubting myself at every step. Part 3, the “Achievement, Contribution, Teamwork” course, started on a Friday evening and I was anxious about this 3-month challenge, but still in for the ride. I knew it would be demanding, especially with the lack of schedule and unpredictability of my job. I knew it required me to set 4 major life goals and achieve them in the 3 month time frame. I knew there would be weekly meetings, monthly weekends like the others, and overall big challenges. I went into it with fears and a willingness to try.
Then on the first night they dropped their facade; they let us in on the trap they had laid, or in other words, they surprised me with their enrolment requirements. These were never previously mentioned by anyone and likely meant to be a surprise as part of the training. All 9 of us were required to enrol a minimum of 2 people in the Discovery course, as well as give a presentation about Discovery and get our friends and family to attend. If we did not fulfill these requirements we would be kicked out... ahem, I mean, “required to choose out” in the language of LB. Within 30min of being informed of this major element of the course, I was given a written contract to sign in my commitment to this surprise requirement, and then told to stand up in front of the group and speak a scripted commitment to enrolling others in the program.
The feelings of dread and shock registered in my stomach as Bill Dosanjh described their approach to enrolment. Suddenly I realized why the staff were so eager to sign me up; why so many people were at the info session; why my future brother-in-law had gone to such trouble to enrol me. The bottom dropped out of my respect for the entire LB Seminars program. This was such an appalling breach of contract; this wasn't what I signed up for and I certainly was not willing to do this, to put anyone else through this experience only to find out it was more pyramid-scheme and cult-like than I had thought. Many others have benefitted from the program, and gone along with the enrolments, with less reaction than me; that's fine, you go ahead, but for me this was completely unacceptable. How could I trust these people, who inform their clients about their policies when it benefits their business and not when they look bad? The people who use their intimate knowledge of me when I'm most vulnerable to bully me into buying more from them? This was a therapeutic environment that had turned sour and unsafe.
To their credit, they cover themselves. They had made their no-refunds policy clear in the paperwork. I made the choice myself with the support of my sister & brother-in-law. They just didn't bother mentioning the enrolment requirements – nobody did. I signed the contract and spoke the words, barely able to enunciate, thinking “maybe I can get over this.” and giving myself the night to decide. The next day I quit the program and asked for a refund. I did not get a real answer from them for 4 &1/2 months.
I asked again and again, by phone and email and even getting Bill's personal number to try to get through. Littley's number is private, you can guess why. C had had a family emergency and was not working there since the day after I quit; so I went to the next info session I heard about through my former classmates, a month later. The moment Littley walked in she saw me, and walked right up. We had a friendly conversation where I asked if they would refund me my deposit for LIA. She said “Yes we will absolutely settle with you.” and told me to contact C the next week. But when I asked a week later, C was still off work. So I called the LB office, once a week or 2, leaving messages and getting no response, for months. Finally I went to the LB Seminars location on the first night of the new Discovery session in the second week of June.
Bill looked annoyed but he faked a smile when he came to the door and asked if he could help me.
“I came to ask you to please return my deposit for LIA. Littley told me you would.”
“She did?” The contempt on his face was clear. “I'll get Littley to call you tomorrow.”
Finally after days of missed calls due to Littley's private number not ringing on my phone when she called, finally we spoke. She explained that no, they would not return my deposit, and suggested I just take the course I'd paid the deposit for. I told her I did not trust them anymore and did not want to take any further training.
I suppose I mistakenly misinterpreted her words “we will settle with you” as “we will return your deposit”. She now made it clear that she would not make an exception from their no-refunds policy, although she was committed to finding a win-win answer to the situation (although she had no suggestions). She asked me to “stay open” and said she would call me back on the following Tuesday. She clearly did not care about the value and money I lost to their gambit. She barely mentioned my concerns, namely the surprise enrolment clause. What a disappointment.
So then I openly gave them a low review on their Facebook page, criticizing them and talking about the enrolment stuff. Openly stating that it was my mistake to trust these people in the first place. I am now openly talking about my experience in the hopes that they will respond in one or all of the following fashions:
Littley never called me back. Maybe she read my Facebook review and decided I wasn't being open as I said I would. Well... if “we will settle with you” means “no we won't return your money”, then, my “being open” means whatever I decide it means too.
Coming out of this experience, I have to ask myself, what have I learned?
Number One: I should have trusted myself from the start. LB Seminars was a very expensive mistake. I think I wasted about $3500 on it. And thanks to their clear No Refunds policy, they won't be returning it. Fuck You, LB Seminars.
Number Two: going to therapeutic practitioners who are accountable to outside associations with consumer protection, case investigations, and professional credibility is worth it.
If anyone reading this has anything to say, please comment. If Bill or Littley reading this has anything to say to me, please comment or contact me directly. If anyone reading this is considering going to Discovery, go for it, but don't bring your credit card or anything but cash for the lunch you will have to buy.
LB Seminars: buyer beware.
Probably PSI Seminars as well... here is an essay where someone experienced something quite like I did. psi-seminars.pissedconsumer.com/valuable-but-greedy-20141213569371.html
Amira Emma Routledge,