A brand-new self-help peer support group held its first meeting Thursday, Jan. 18, at the corner of state Route 371 and Kirby Road in the Destination Place in the Loving Hope Church trailer. The classes will be offered the first and third Thursday of every month.
Group founder Robert Hoffstot, who describes himself as an ex-convict who has become an advocate for self-help, is an author, Sunday school teacher and all-around helpful neighbor. He says he has benefited greatly from classes such as this one and is well versed in many tried and proven self-help methods.
Hoffstot is a parolee who did 25 years in state prison for a murder he committed in 1989. He was released in 2015.
“Once a youth gone wild who felt he had no support, I know how rough it is feeling like no one understands you,” Hoffstot said. “This kind of thinking is what caused me to make some very bad decisions, and I’m driven to offer solutions that weren’t available to me.”
Hoffstot’s credentials since that time are impressive.
He wrote a book on emotional stability called “Freeing the Child Inside You” and has worked with at-risk youth for over 10 years.
“I serve as secretary in the nonprofit group, California’s Parole Suitability Hearing Support,” Hoffstot said. “CAPSHS is a group of dedicated ex-life prisoners who help other prisoners and their families understand the parole process. I sponsor several prisoners on the inside and have helped four life prisoners who are back in the free world now, enjoying life. I’m also active in Anza with the 12-step program and have been substance-free since March 13, 2007.
“I have seen a lot in my years of incarceration at different prisons. I have dealt with many contrasting personalities in the various self-help groups I have attended. One group, the ‘Inside Circle’ group, was an eye-opening experience for me when I started attending.”
The Inside Circle group is comprised of men of all different races, creeds and religions. It was started in 1997 in New Folsom State Prison after violent racial riots broke out. Creator Pat Nolan knew there needed to be a place for prisoners to work on themselves and get past all their anger issues. He connected with ex-prisoner Rob Albee, who was part of the Mankind Foundation and the New Warrior Training Project. Together they talked to chaplain Dennis Moreno, and he was willing to sponsor the program on a temporary basis. No one gave the program a chance in a prison where different races weren’t even allowed to talk to each other. Yet the group was a great success and is still going today.
In 2015, Hoffstot was able to attend an “Alternative to Violence Program” advanced workshop. The energy that he felt there was comparable to the energy he had felt in the Inside Circle group in prison. Hoffstot said he did not realize how much he had missed that kind of energy and the unity among a diverse group of men. The experience allowed him to look deeper inside himself, and he said he was very emotional at the conclusion of the workshop. He said he is very passionate about sharing what he has learned and practiced.
“The peer support counseling class I’ve put together is a curriculum-based, self-help program that will offer a variety of exercises to help with communication so that you can regain control of your life,” he said with emotion. “You will learn to express yourself in a clear manner and be understood. It will include deep-breathing exercises and various other interactive lessons and activities. It will be an exciting opportunity to reflect on who you are and allow you to access the person that you are meant to be.”
The meeting started with just a few people in attendance, but they were enthusiastic and eager to find out what the classes held for them, he said.
Hoffstot began by introducing himself and providing an outline of the class. Students are expected to be on time, have assignments completed on time, not to interrupt anyone, participate in class exercises, abstain from violence of any kind, treat one another with respect and follow all instructions. Adherence to these simple rules is paramount to success.
“We’re building a circle of trust, and that trust is so you can share the stuff that hurts you, what you’re going through, without you having to worry about it,” he said.
The exercises, voice dialog, role-playing and breathing techniques are designed to bring troubles up and help identify scenarios that trigger or cause stress.
“I wanted to start this group because I have seen a lot of hurt in people, and they really don’t have an avenue to express it,” Hoffstot said.
Hoffstot said he is passionate about helping people and wishes to share his extensive coping skills, especially the “inner child.”
“As an adult, I needed to go back into my childhood and forgive myself for not being able to take care of myself,” he said. “This allowed me to heal myself from within. Once you have done that, you will be able to protect the child and allow him to come out and play, within yourself and with others. The child will know that he will never be hurt again, because you have his back.”
“It’s an easy class; it’s our class. I want all of us to feel safe. You will start seeing a difference,” Hoffstot said.
He listened to questions and input from the new students.
“We’ll take a journey and learn more about each other,” he said. “This class is for what gets you through the day. You’ll get out of this class what you put into it. You have to do the work because I want you to find that happiness. I want you to start taking control.”
For more information, contact Robert Hoffstot at (714) 423-1270 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Youthmatters39.com is my nonprofit through my church; you can check that out too. I want to help more at-risk youth to not make the same mistakes I did,” Hoffstot said.