The psychologist who is on call to help participants in The Forum if they become emotional during the seminars says he has seen no harm in the sessions.
John Showalter, a clinical psychologist in Columbus, said he went through The Forum two years ago and got some value out of it.
"There is the potential to bring up intense emotions, but I don't see any evidence for mass hypnosis or brainwashing," he said.
Margaret Sandberg, director of Franklin County Children Services, has attended The Forum and sent 20 of her managers to it at cost of $4,800 in tax money.
The Forum was created in 1984 by Werner Erhard, the guru of the human potential movement who made millions on programs such as EST and The Forum.
Erhard, who has been accused of income tax evasion and incest with a daughter, reportedly has left the country, although government investigations into his empire continue.
Many participants of est and The Forum sayit was a good experience and in some cases changed their lives.
Mark Frautschi, a physicist and Grandview heights resident, said The Forum setting is "a room, chairs, a guy with a tennis ball, blackboard, dictionary and a few notes and some tissues. Out of this he creates this thing called The Forum."
"One of the things I went through was present in everyone else. I like to be right. We had the need to be right and avoid being wrong. There is a benefit and a cost to being right. The benefit is that you get to be right and pat yourself on the back; the cost is what it costs you in relationship with other people who also like to be right."
The Forum uses "funny-sounding words which don't always make any sense," Frautschi said. "But I think they were chosen that way so we would have to think about what was going on."
During a visualization exercise, people were asked to imagine a fear relationship with one person, then 10 people, then a city of people and then the whole world, he said.
"I did not have any extreme reaction to this, but some people did relate to me later that they were really afraid."
Marsha Donner, 45, of Columbus said The Forum "gives me a way of always looking for what kind of contribution I can make for the world and those around me."
Donner has been involved in Erhard;s programs for 18 years. She took est and The Forum training and sent her 8-year-old son to the young Person's Forum in Los Angeles. "he is going to be a more powerful person in his life as result of it."
Elaine Ebright, a Worthington biofeedback therapist, said The Forum "is an educational seminar. The emphasis is to show people our potential as human beings."
She now feels confident to try new things, she said. "It has attacked tunnel vision for me."
People applying to attend The Forum seminars are screened psychologically and mentally, she said. "They don't allow just anyone in."
Blair Davis, a building contractor and cabinetmaker, said he took The Forum last spring.
"I found it powerful," he said. "When you are trying to reach into yourself and really get down to things, that is a powerful emotional process."
Before The Forum, he had a small cabinetmaking business in the Columbus area, but he now is working on a $600,000 house for a client, he said.
The Forum gives him "confidence and no guilts," he said. "I am in touch with what I think is the right thing to do regardless of the outcome, even if it is negative."
"A lot of this stuff, you are not sure what it meant at the time; but as I live my life, I see it coming up," he said. "It is almost subliminal."
The day after The Forum ended, "I was euphoric" Davis said. "All these people letting go of their feelings; there were a lot of tears."