New Warriors and rebirthing

In researching the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure, I have been puzzled by the degree of secrecy surrounding participation in the organization. I continue to believe that the human potential movement components of the processes have very little potency in themselves but rather mainly have impact in that they become ground for a common experience and ideology for members. In fairness, perhaps it is no different than the Masons or any other secret society, which generates comraderie around shared ritual and private knowledge. Maybe someday there will be a National Treasure: Book of Secrets movie about the secrets of the Mankind Project (Mankind Project: Weekend of Secrets). It is hard for me to relate to this, but to each his own.

Recently on Ex-gay Watch, I commented about a post on the conditions which might trigger a professional “ban” of reparative therapy. I made the following comment in reaction to a prior comment describing Empyrean rebirthing being employed to attempt sexual reorientation.

It seems to me the whole scene is a mess. Re-birthing is done by New Warriors Training Adventures which is endorsed by Joe Kort and Clinton Anderson, GLB Officer at the APA as a support for gay affirmation. NWTA is also endorsed by Richard Cohen and Joe Nicolosi as a means of enhancing masculinity which is supposed to make gay men straight.

If the APA takes on fringe therapies in the ex-gay world, the organization better be prepared to take them on closer to home.

I am not sure I should have taken on so many issues in one brief comment so I am going to unpack this a bit. The first point I want to address is the topic of rebirthing. Put rebirthing in the search engine and you will see what I mean. In a addition to a video by Skillet, rebirthing can refer to any number of practices based on the belief that humans remember the trauma of birth and retain permanent emotional scars from the event. True believers in cellular memory derive a number of techniques to relieve the trauma. Rebirthing-breathwork (Empyrean rebirthing being one form) is a kind hyperventilation technique designed to achieve peacefulness. At the time I made my comment on Ex-gay Watch, I did not know Empyrean rebirthing was the breathwork stuff, but rather thought it might refer to the rebirthing techniques which require a person to act out their rebirth via fighting through blankets and people to emerge from the birth canal to be welcomed by a parent (in the case of children) or a pretend parent (in the case of adults). There are many variations of these themes so I am only drawing some generalizations together. Rebirthing has a notorious reputation and has been banned by the American Psychiatric Association in the aftermath of the death of Candace Newmaker as the result of a rebirthing session gone horribly wrong.

As to my comments about those who refer to NWTA, this has been covered before, at least in part. Joe Kort has been a vocal defender of MKP and I have noted before that Richard Cohen and Joseph Nicolosi have been involved in MKP. Clinton Anderson is the Director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns Office at APA is involved and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the organization in 2006. Again, to each his own, but my point was to note the irony of people from opposing camps using the same intervention to achieve different objectives. Also, and here is a question I am thinking about: how can gay affirming therapists criticize reparative therapists for techniques which are fringe when at least some prominent GA therapists endorse the same techniques? I could be heading in the wrong direction with this question, but I am thinking out loud here.

And so, back to rebirthing, recently some New Warriors initiates have told me stories of what they called rebirthing at the New Warriors Training Adventure. In short, they said some men are offered the opportunity to engage in a process called by the MKP, the birth canal process. The procedure involves a nude man wrapped in a blanket who is encouraged to be reborn by fighting his way through several (10-20) other men who form a canal and sometimes lie on top of him. Another man awaits at the end of the canal as the parent and says affirming things such as “I hope its a boy.” After struggling through the “canal”, he may then cut his way through a rope with a plastic knife. This symbolizes the man cutting his umbilical cord. The “newly reborn” man then is cradled by the man who was waiting for the man to emerge from the canal. A couple of witnesses report that baby powder is used to create a simulation of newborn care and applied to the nude man as you would to a baby.

Initially, when I asked Carl Griesser, Executive Director of the MKP, if the MKP did or condoned rebirthing, he replied:

MKP does not perform rebirthing.  Even if we did, the use of a technique which you personally consider to be therapeutic does not mean that the one who uses it is performing therapy.

I was puzzled by this answer since I had read the following information on the website of the MKP Foundation:

16. Legal & Safety

• Creating effective Risk Management strategies to minimize potential liability

• Providing assistance with Center incorporation

• Fostering compliance with laws, such as anti-hazing, mandatory reporting, and rebirthing

After I sent this reference to him, Mr. Griesser provided this statement:

We have a 20 minute process we call the birth canal. My understanding is that what we do is very different from the two therapeutic processes known as rebirthing, one of which involves extended breathwork (ours does not). The other is sometimes referred to as attachment therapy, and is also very different from our brief process.

The note you reference from our Foundation website refers to the fact that a number of years ago our attorneys reviewed the laws in some states to insure that we are in compliance. (A few years ago Colorado created a law about rebirthing following the unfortunate death of a young girl. What they did was very different from what we do.)

Readers can decide if this is a matter of semantics. If the processes (birth canal vs. rebirthing) were so different, then I do not understand why rebirthing would need to be mentioned as a specific area of law reviewed by MKP attorneys. They seem pretty similar as I am reading about it in MKP literature and accounts of men who witnessed the birth canal. However, I recognize that children can’t really consent to rebirthing whereas an adult male can. This is a big difference.

I do not fully agree with Mr. Griesser’s assertion that “the use of a technique which you personally consider to be therapeutic does not mean that the one who uses it is performing therapy.” I think it depends on the procedure. We surely would not apply that logic to brain surgery but we might to evaluating negative thoughts or having a conversation with a mentor. Brain surgery should be regulated, but how about the latter two interventions? Which category should rebirthing go in? Does it matter that children cannot give consent but adults can (I believe it is quite relevant)? And does it matter that men are not informed about these techniques prior to the weekend? These are questions that I am still considering and hope generate some discussion.

UPDATE: I found the following reference to the birth canal process in a 2006 Detroit Metro Weekly article:

Robert Mark and Buddy Portugal also describe men purging themselves of their emotions by shrieking for several minutes, leaving those watching turning pale and trembling. The book also recounts role-playing exercises attempting to re-create traumatic emotional scenes from participants’ childhoods that involve screaming, crying and intense emotional responses.

In his book, Peter Putnam describes a men’s retreat where he was “reborn” by traveling through a “birth canal” of men, emerging at the end and cutting a symbolic umbilical cord.

Reborn, rebirthing, birth canal – you say tomato, I say tomahto…

Twins, separated at birth, later marry

Now here is a story that makes you go, “huh?”

Thanks to College Jay for headline correction. He pointed out that they were not identical twins. I was thinking of another case with a similar result. The reference is here: Eckert, E. D., Bouchard, T. J., Bohlen, J. & Heston, L. L. (1986). Homosexuality in monozygotic twins reared apart. British Journal of Psychiatry. 148, 421-425.

Sexual Identity Therapy Framework to Be Reviewed

I posted this to the SIT Blog and I hope other bloggers post this on their blogs.  

News Release 

Sexual Identity Therapy Framework to Be Reviewed

The Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, authored by Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse, will be reviewed in 2008 for possible revision. Proposed as a means to help counselors work with clients who experience value conflict surrounding homosexual attractions, the Framework is endorsed by Nicholas Cummings, the father of managed behavioral healthcare and Robert Spitzer, the architect of modern psychiatric diagnosis. The framework respects diversity of sexual orientation and religious practice and anticipates a planned review of sexual orientation counseling which will be reported by the American Psychological Association in 2008.

“We believe this area of counseling practice is changing rapidly and we want to be sensitive to how therapists and consumers of sexual identity therapy feel the framework helps or hinder excellent outcomes. We want to hear from professionals and consumers alike,” said Dr. Throckmorton.

The authors are asking for public and professional comment on the Framework though the end of February, 2008.

Interested persons can download and review the Framework at http://www.sexualidentity.blogspot.com. One may leave comment there or send extended comments to Warren Throckmorton at ewthrockmorton@gcc.edu and/or Mark Yarhouse at markyar@regent.edu. Therapists interested in a registry of therapists who adhere to the Framework should visit, http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org.

Selected endorsements:

I have reviewed the sexual identity framework written by Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse. This framework provides a very necessary outline to help therapists address the important concerns of clients who are in conflict over their homosexual attractions. The work of Drs. Throckmorton and Yarhouse transcend polarized debates about whether gays can change their sexual orientation. Rather, this framework helps therapists work with clients to craft solutions tailored to their individual situations and personal beliefs and values. I support this framework and hope it is widely implemented.

Robert L. Spitzer, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York City, NY. Dr. Spitzer was Chairman of the committee that developed the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental and Emotional Disorders, 3rd Edition and 3rd Edition (Revised).

Drs. Throckmorton and Yarhouse have brilliantly resolved contention in psychotherapy by providing the field with unbiased guidelines that are responsive to scientific evidence, are sensitive to professional practice, and which restore patient determination in choosing his/her goals in psychotherapy.

Dr. Nicholas Cummings, PhD, ScD is Distinguished Chair in Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Cummings is the President of the Foundation for Behavioral Health and Chairman of the Nicholas & Dorothy Cummings Foundation, Inc. He was the founding CEO of American Biodyne (now Magellan Behavioral Care). He is also the former President of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Cummings was the founder of the four campuses of the California School of Professional Psychology, the National Academies of Practice, and the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association. He was the former Executive Director of the Mental Research Institute. Dr. Cummings is the co-editor with Rogers Wright of Destructive Trends in Mental Health.

One point I am considering is to discourage referral to NWTA and I-groups as a means of changing orientation. While no outcome studies have been done on this point, it seems clear that such referrals do nothing on average to change orientation. We welcome feedback and suggestions.

Mind Games: The gap between therapists and researchers

Researching rebirthing in the context of the Mankind Project, I ran into an article by social psychologist, Carol Tavris titled, Mind Games: Psychological warfare betwen therapists and scientists. Tavris mentions rebirthing as a process for which there is no evidence, but her reasoning could be applied to other approaches as well (e.g., holding therapy, bioenergetics, etc.).

Here a couple of excerpts:

Our society runs on the advice of mental-health professionals, who are often called upon in legal settings to determine whether a child has been molested, a prisoner up for parole is still dangerous, a defendant is lying or insane, a mother is fit to have custody of her children, and on and on. Yet while the public assumes, vaguely, that therapists must be “scientists” of some sort, many of the widely accepted claims promulgated by therapists are based on subjective clinical opinions and have been resoundingly disproved by empirical research conducted by psychological scientists. Here are a few examples that have been shown to be false:

• Low self-esteem causes aggressiveness, drug use, prejudice, and low achievement.

• Abused children almost inevitably become abusive parents, causing a “cycle of abuse.”

• Therapy is beneficial for most survivors of disasters, especially if intervention is rapid.

• Memory works like a tape recorder, clicking on at the moment of birth; memories can be accurately retrieved through hypnosis, dream analysis, or other therapeutic methods.

• Traumatic experiences, particularly of a sexual nature, are typically “repressed” from memory, or split off from consciousness through “dissociation.”

• The way that parents treat a child in the first five years (three years) (one year) (five minutes) of life is crucial to the child’s later intellectual and emotional success.

Indeed, the split between the research and practice wings of psychology has grown so wide that many psychologists now speak glumly of the “scientist-practitioner gap,” although that is like saying there is an “Arab-Israeli gap” in the Middle East. It is a war, involving deeply held beliefs, political passions, views of human nature and the nature of knowledge, and — as all wars ultimately do — money and livelihoods. The war spilled out of academic labs and therapists’ offices and into the public arena in the 1980s and ’90s, when three epidemics of hysteria caught fire across the country: the rise of claims of “repressed memories” of childhood sexual abuse; the growing number of cases of “multiple-personality disorder” (MPD), from a handful before 1980 to tens of thousands by 1995; and the proliferation of day-care sex-abuse scandals, which put hundreds of nursery-school teachers in prison on the “testimony” of 3 and 4-year-old children.

She continues…

But psychotherapeutic nonsense is a Hydra: Slay one set of mistaken ideas, and others take their place. Recovered-memory therapy may be on the wane, but “rebirthing” techniques and forms of “restraint therapy” — physically abusive practices that supposedly help adopted or troubled children form attachments to their parents — are on the rise. In Colorado, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker was smothered to death during rebirthing, a procedure in which she was expected to fight her way through a “birth canal” of suffocating blankets and pillows. The two therapists convicted in Candace’s death are now serving time in prison, but efforts in Colorado to prohibit all forms of “restraint therapy” were defeated by protests from “attachment therapists” in the state and throughout the country. After Candace’s death, one member of the Colorado Mental Health Grievance Board noted with dismay that her hairdresser’s training took 1,500 hours, whereas anyone could take a two-week course and become “certified” in rebirthing. Yet the basic premise — that children can recover from trauma, insecure attachment, or other psychological problems by “reliving” their births or being subjected to punitive and coercive restraints — has no scientific validity whatsoever. 

In the rest of the article, Tavris calls practitioners to base our interventions on research and to take a skeptical stance toward our work in order to avoid confirmation bias. 

Changing Abortion’s Pronoun – Men and abortion

LA Times writer, Stephanie Simon, has an interesting article today about how some men experience negative reactions to a wife or girlfriend’s abortion. The article begins:

SAN FRANCISCO — Jason Baier talks often to the little boy he calls Jamie. He imagines this boy — his son — with blond hair and green eyes, chubby cheeks, a sweet smile.

But he’ll never know for sure.

His fiancee’s sister told him about the abortion after it was over. Baier remembers that he cried. The next weeks and months go black. He knows he drank far too much. He and his fiancee fought until they broke up. “I hated the world,” he said.

Baier, 36, still longs for the child who might have been, with an intensity that bewilders him: “How can I miss something I never even held?”

These days, he channels the grief into activism in a burgeoning movement of “post-abortive men.” Abortion is usually portrayed as a woman’s issue: her body, her choice, her relief or her regret. This new movement — both political and deeply personal in nature — contends that the pronoun is all wrong.

We had abortions,” said Mark B. Morrow, a Christian counselor. “I’ve had abortions.”

Morrow spoke to more than 150 antiabortion activists gathered recently in San Francisco for what was billed as the first national conference on men and abortion. Participants — mostly counselors and clergy — heard two days of lectures on topics such as “Medicating the Pain of Lost Fatherhood” and “Forgiveness Therapy With Post-Abortion Men.”

Simon then interviews some in the mental health community who are skeptical but the article mostly allows the men at the conference to describe their experiences. It is impossible to judge how prevalent such reactions are; however, I can say that I experienced grief over my wife’s miscarriage some years ago. I have worked with a few men who describe this grief over abortion. As with other issues we have dealth with here, I hope counselors do not impose their views of how an event should or should not impact a person, but at the same time, counselors should not discount those who want to explore their reactions to an abortion.

Upcoming ex-gay documentary stirs up controversy

An upcoming documentary (Spring, 2008) regarding the ex-gay movement has created hard feelings months before release. I received this release from filmmakers Bill and Mishara Hussung responding to an email from Joanne Highley of Life Ministries in New York City. Watch the trailer on You Tube.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Bill Hussung/ Mishara Canino-Hussung

Coqui Zen Entertainment

bill@coquizen.com

mishara@coquizen.com

Ex-Gay Ministry criticizes upcoming documentary.

A New York City ministry claiming to cure homosexuals with exorcisms isn’t pleased with an upcoming documentary by filmmakers Bill Hussung and Mishara Canino-Hussung. Joanne Highly, who runs LIFE Ministry, is responding to a Youtube trailer for the upcoming documentary in a recent mailing to ministry supporters. Highley says the filmmakers are, “using our footage to make us look bad,” and she adds, “We have been made fun of before.”

A trailer for the upcoming documentary features members of LIFE Ministry singing and dancing at the groups’ annual Christmas party. The trailer also includes a sound bite from Highley saying she came to New York to minister to “homosexuals and Jews.”

Co-director Bill Hussung says he’s surprised Highley views the clips of her annual Christmas party as an effort to make the ministry look bad. “The clips show people enjoying themselves and celebrating the work of the ministry, there’s no spin or slant involved in how those clips were edited,” Hussung says.

A trailer for the film, Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement, can be found at the following website:

http://www.coquizen.com/Site/trailer.html

Bill Hussung followed up the news release with this statement in an email about the challenges of making a documentary about those who believe they have altered sexual orientation.

More than four years ago we set out to document the journeys of people belonging to the most politically incorrect subculture in America. The result is Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement, a documentary film. Spending time with those who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight can be a bit of a paradigm rattling experience. We accept that identity is largely self-defined and acknowledge that sexuality can be fluid. Mick Jagger switches back and forth between men and women for much of the 1970s and defines jet setting chic. Self-defined identity and fluid sexuality are both left of center beliefs long associated with urban elites and secular progressives. Folks like most of those in the documentary film business. But there’s a disconnect when this paradigm butts up against the ex-gay movement. If we really believe identity is self-defined and sexuality fluid, then there’s nothing surprising, or offensive, about the ex-gay ministries and reparative therapists claiming to “heal” homosexuals of their unwanted desires. But we are surprised. And often offended. The central underpinning of gay identity is the belief that people are born gay and can’t change. The ex-gays challenge these beliefs. Their claims of having changed from gay to straight challenge our understanding of identity and tolerance. But are they living a lie?

We made this film to answer that question.

Bill Hussung & Mishara Canino-Hussung

Co-directors, Coqui Zen Entertainment

Looking forward to it.

UK Scouting Association issues advisory about Mankind Project

A reader recently pointed me to an entry on Rick Ross’s forum indicating that the Mankind Project had been banned from Scout camps in the UK. Here is the entry from the forum:

SeekingTruth

Quote:Half_pint

The campsite in question is Kibblestone, in Stafforshire, just down the road from Stone. Scout sites such as that are often booked by non Scout groups who pay much higher rates than other Scout groups/Guide groups do and sometimes even higher rates than other youth groups. …

I hear a rumour that MKP have now got kicked out of Kibblestone by the Scouts due to the article in the Houston Press. It appears that they have now decamped to Ringwood in Hampshire (UK) – where there is another Scout Camp and a Youth Centre. Does anyone know exactly which camp or centre they are using? In other countries they use Kiwanis Camps, YMCA Camps, Christian Camps, and other youth orientated centres. The mind boggles – grown up men running riot naked with impressionable young people nearby …

I am a member of the Scout Association.

I am in the position to confirm that the MKP have had any future bookings cancelled, and they will not be able to camp at Kibblestone again.

In addition, a communication will shortly be sent from UK Scout Headquaters that should prevent MKP from booking ANY Scout owned campsite in the UK.

We take Child Protection very seriously, and even by their admission on their websites they breach the spirit of our policy, and as such should not be allowed on our sites.

I think its fair to say, that any UK based organistation, who are responsible for children / young people will take a similar view. I’d suggest you make like to persue the line of:

They hold an initiation ceremony (by their own admission)

Then of course there is the Houston Press article.

If anyone is aware of them managing to book a Scout site in the future, contact info.centre@scout.org.uk with your concerns. That should get that sorted.

Best wishes

I wrote the UK Scouting Association regarding this allegation and received the following confirmation from Nick Parker of the Association.

From: Nick Parker [mailto:nick.parker@SCOUT.ORG.UK]

Sent: Fri 1/4/2008 6:41 AM

To: Throckmorton, Warren

Subject: Re: FW: UK scouts ban MKP

Dear Warren,Thank you for your e-mail which has been passed to me to reply by the Scout Information Centre.  At a national level we have advised our local organisations as follows:

“Subject: Project Mankind:

The above named group have previously been banned from a large Scout site in the UK and we would strongly advise all Scout Centres and Campsites to be cautious about accepting further bookings”.

If I can provide any further detail then please do not hesitate to contact me further.

Best wishes,

Nick Parker

National Centres Manager

The Scout Association

Gilwell Park

London

E4 7QW

http://www.scouts.org.uk/nationalcentres

Tel:    0208 433 7122

I then wrote and asked about the specific reasons for the ban to which he replied:

Warren,I am not aware of the specifics regarding this matter.  As a private member organisation it would be between our own members to decide on what basis any ban was made at each site – on a site by site basis.Nick

Apparently, fallout from the Houston Press article continues to impact the MKP.

Mankind Project and Recovered Memories

I recently came across this account of how methods used in the Mankind Project activities (New Warriors Training Adventure and Integration Groups) might stimulate participants to reconstruct memories of abuse. It is long so I am going to post a link to the document with excerpts here. I have permission from the author who wishes to remain anonymous at this time.

The personal account begins:

It started at my NWTA at the carpet work. MKP leaders had me “kill” my father in a process to deal with physical abuse I got as a child. At the end of this process, a MKP leader said to me, “…and you were sexually abused too!” I immediately said to myself, “I was never sexually abused. What is this guy talking about?”

Just a few months later I believed that not only was I sexually abused, but that I was sexually abused by 3 different males, at different periods of time, for multiple instances throughout my entire childhood. All of this while having NO memory of sexual abuse before joining MKP!

The rest of the article describes the “bucketing process” which I described earlier via a citation from a MKP manual. According to this individual, the process of “memory” recovery is aided by the emotive techniques and suggestions from the leaders. There are some statements in this article that I cannot verify as yet (e.g., one of the founders is a gestalt therapist, the APA has all but banned “rebirthing”) but I post this because the experiences described here sound very much like what are described in the NWTA manuals and accounts from other witnesses with whom I have spoken. I know I have posted this before, but this You Tube clip of Rage Therapy seems quite relevant to this man’s account.