Year in review: Top Ten Stories from 2007

Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.

1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.

2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008. 

3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September.  Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.   

4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquaited via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.

5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.

6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.

7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International. 

8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton.  Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November. 

9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.

10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.    

Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.

Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?

Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!

Southern Poverty Law Center article on ex-gay movement: Were the facts straight?

The Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center has two articles regarding sexual identity issues in the Winter, 2007 issue. The first one, Straight Like Me, by Casey Sanchez reads like an expose’ of the ex-gay movement as a political ploy of the Christian right designed to undermine gay rights. He covers much ground familiar to readers of this blog. For instance the picture leading the article is a screen capture of Richard Cohen holding his client, Rob, on CNN with Deborah Feyerick watching. Sanchez also interviews Peterson Toscano and highlights the increasingly vocal ex-ex-gay movement. 

On several points, I share Sanchez’s observations of some elements of the ex-gay world. He notes the “bewildering array of techniques and philosophies” used to change sexual orientation and writes critically of holding therapies and reparative theories. He included New Warriors knock-off, Journey into Manhood as an example of an emerging method of reorientation and noted JIM’s connection to Richard Cohen in method and tone. Mr. Sanchez, however, needed to do some fact checking to tighten up this piece. I should note that I have spoken with Mr. Sanchez about my analysis here and while receptive to listening, did not offer to retract or change anything. However, there are inaccuracies in this piece that compromise the integrity of the article. For instance, Mr. Sanchez wrote:

Focus on the Family, the largest and wealthiest Christian Right organization in the country, now hires Smid to appear several times a year on an ex-gay lecture circuit called Love Won Out, where he speaks on masturbation and “healing homosexuality.”

This is false. Mr. Smid attends some Love Won Out events as an exhibitor but does not speak on any topic as one of the line-up of speakers.

Regarding the recent study from Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, Sanchez wrote,

To back up their claims that homosexuality is purely a deviant lifestyle choice, ex-gay leaders frequently cite the Thomas Project, a four-year study of ex-gay programs, paid for by Exodus, that recruited subjects exclusively from Exodus ministries. It was conducted by Mark Yarhouse, a psychology professor at Pat Robertson’s Regents University, and Stanton Jones, provost of Wheaton College, an evangelical institution in Illinois. Both are members of NARTH. The study was conducted entirely via 45-minute telephone interviews conducted annually over the course of four years. Results were published this September.

First, the study was about whether change was impossible and whether attempting to change was harmful. The study had nothing to do with proving homosexual was either deviant or a choice. Second, the initial interview was 2.5-3 hours in person at Time 1, and about 90 minutes on follow up. Third, neither man is a member of NARTH.

Then in a section that needed no embellishment, Mr. Sanchez again casts some of his stones in the wrong direction.

One of the most controversial ex-gay therapy techniques is “healing touch,” which involves men striving to become ex-gay cradling and rocking other men in their arms. Last January, Richard Cohen, a licensed psychotherapist who claims to be personally ex-gay, demonstrated healing touch on CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Cohen also demonstrated “bioenergetics,” which involves beating on chairs with tennis rackets and screaming, “Mom, Mom, why did you do this to me?” When Cohen appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” one month later seated next to George Foreman, he demonstrated healing touch therapy by putting his arms around the former heavyweight boxing champion and explaining, “You comfort him and love him like he’s your own boy.”

But enthusiasts and ideologues of the ex-gay movement haven’t given up hope that science will confirm their view.

After his disastrous TV appearances, both Exodus and NARTH scrubbed any mention of Cohen from their websites and released statements publicly disavowing healing touch therapy. Yet both organizations continue to promote healing touch through a program called Journey Into Manhood, whose leaders are featured at Exodus conferences and highlighted on NARTH’s website. Journey Into Manhood is a nominally secular program founded by Catholic, Jewish and Mormon counselors. The counselors operate weekend outdoors retreats throughout the country that require men to bond with one another through wilderness adventures and holding each other in “non-sexual healing touch.”

In fact, Exodus does not recommend JIM and does not allow them to exhibit at Exodus conferences. I have a comment below from JIM to that effect. When I spoke to Mr. Sanchez, he noted that JIM representatives were at the Exodus conference passing out cards with their information. However, this is a far cry from being “featured.” I attended an Exodus conference and presented the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework. However, I would not claim that Exodus endorses or promotes the SIT Framework. On point, Exodus has been quite clear in their opposition to “touch therapy.”

In addition, I thought some of the reporting was off concerning JIM so I asked the JIM office to react to the SPLC article. Here is the reply from Rich Wyler:

About the Southern Poverty Law Center article: Thank you for sending it. This is the first I’ve seen it. It is filled with misinformation and inaccuracies.

1. Journey Into Manhood does not incorporate nudity or partial nudity.

2. I don’t know what the “10 week Journey Into Manhood curriculum” is that the article is referring to. It sounds like they are probably confusing us with another organization’s program.

3. We don’t do memory recovery work.

4. I don’t know who this Alex Liberato is – perhaps it’s a pseudonym – but in the article he admits that he didn’t go through the Journey Into Manhood weekend, so he is not a source of information on us at all.

5. Journey Into Manhood is not featured at Exodus conferences. We applied for a booth but were turned down because we are not a “Christ-centered” organization.

6. Our teaching on “healing touch” is that any such holding must be completely voluntary on the part of all participants, should be done in groups of three or more, with healing “father-son” or “brother-to-brother” intent, fully clothed, in non-sexual positions, and never in pairs of “strugglers” alone.

There are more mistakes in these two paragraphs, but that’s enough to show you how riddled with errors they are.

Rich told me via phone that the no one from SPLC had contacted him about the JIM organization.

To me, the article could have pointed out the extremes without attempting to reach for connections that aren’t there. Despite the rare acknowledgement that not all ex-gay ministries are the same, I believe the intent was to create a sense that ex-gay ministries are primarily politically motivated devices. This is a debatable point. But it seems to me that whatever the truth is about any given ex-gay ministry, there is a clear tension between ministry and policy aims. To me, it seems difficult at best to promote political aims, along with a focus on ministry and do both well. Social conservatives believe in the validity of a socially conservative political stance on sexual ethics as well as the need to offer the love of God, but the question is how should these ends be sought? In Christian ministry, offering Jesus trumps other considerations; in politics, winning seems paramount; further, in therapy, following client well being and values seems the leading indicator. I am surely open to suggestions on how to pull off an integration of those three aims that does not degrade any of them.

Back to the subject matter of the errors in reporting; in my opinion, ex-gay ministries that promote the narrow view that all or nearly all homosexuality is solely a gender-problem open themselves up for reporting such as produced by the SPLC. Given that ministry rule-books, holding, hugging, regression techniques and sports programs appear to be in the service of enhancing some sense of masculinity, it seems understandable that observers and critics will assume a seamless relationship between the theories of homosexuality and more extreme techniques to address the theorized deficits. I believe that ministries who do not condone or use the more extreme or boundary-compromising techniques need to draw sharp and public lines of distinction between themselves and those approaches with which they disagree.

I also wrote Rich Wyler of JIM in order to compare and contrast JIM with New Warriors. More on that in a future post.

Mankind Project technique: Bucketing, Part Two, “Killing Daddy”

Yesterday, I posted a portion of a manual published by the Mankind Project for leaders of the Integration Groups (I-Groups). I excerpted a portion of an exercise called “bucketing” where one may include another man as a stand-in for an issue one has with another man.

While this technique might be of some benefit with skilled facilitators, I see potential for men to process wounds in ways that might not be helpful. Age regression techniques can mislead the person being regressed to incorporate a narrative that may be a reconstruction of events rather than a true account. These techniques, promoted by some therapists, are not universally accepted. 

According to a former New Warrior, this bucketing technique, along with another process known as clearing, can lead to disturbing experiences. The following account was sent to me via email:

This is a MKP process where you “kill” someone in proxy. It is often the father but can be a mother or someone else. I’ve even seen MKP have men “kill” God. Actually I was instructed to “kill God” by MKP leaders but I refused. There is something in MKP called a “God split” this is where a man kills God and gives himself is own god of his making, usually himself. This is a necessary step in the MKP ladder. For a man to become an “inner King” he must “kill” God first. King is one of the four quadrants of the four archtype circle, those being, Warrior, King, Magician, and Lover. These are loosely based on Jung’s archtypes.

Well back to “killing dad.” In these killing processes, one man stands in proxy for the person who is being killed. Cushions and pillows are placed before him. The man who is to kill has a baseball bat, tennis racket, etc. He hits the pillows and cushions over and over right before the man standing in proxy. The man continues hitting and yelling at his “daddy.” The “daddy” gives insults and calls the man with the bat names. These are names that are brought out earlier before the “killing” begins in a “bucketing” process. Eventually “daddy” slowly begins to “die.” He begins to sink slowly to the floor pretending that he is being hit and hurt. He eventually pretends to be dead. This can take many minutes. This usually occurs when the man with the bat is near the point of exhaustion.

This process looks like gestalt psychotherapy to me. I did it several times to my “dad” at MKP meetings. The reason that they stated I needed to do it over and over was because I didn’t kill my whole dad, just one part of him that hurt me. I needed to kill every part that had “bad energy.” This could take many meetings and workshops to accomplish.

After the process is done there is the de-role process, there the man standing in proxy says “I’m not your father, I’m your brother ‘Jim’.” The man then repeats it to him. Then the process complete, at least for now.

This description sounds like two other accounts we have seen before. First, the “rage therapy” documented in Divided Memories. Hear a survivor of Genesis Associates discuss the rage therapy:

Another reference for tennis raquets and pillows, of course, is what Richard Cohen calls “bioenergetics.”

I asked Mankind Project, Executive Director, Carl Griesser for a comment on the proxy process described above and he was not able to comment today. He did say he was thinking about how to respond and would be in touch. I am looking forward to this.  

New Warriors Integration group activities

A anonymous Mankind Project member mailed me what was labeled a handbook for leaders of Integration groups. Integration groups follow up the New Warriors Training Adventure. According to the manual, these exercises are

for the use of I-Groups that have reached a proficient level of self-facilitation. The value in many of them will be realized only by a deep commitment on behalf of the group to process the feelings evoked.

There are some which seem innocuous enough such as writing oneself a letter, volunteering for charities and staffing a NW training.

Others seem more provocative and sound a lot like Gestalt inspired group therapy techniques. Here is one that would likely be close to Richard Cohen’s heart.

I.2. Fathering

One of the powerful scenes we set up on the weekend is based on being held in the arms of the good father. Have men on their own write the things they wanted to hear from their fathers but never did. Have men bring the letters to the next meeting. If at all possible arrange to have elders or men from your community show up the next week to hold these men and read the letters to them. If men from outside the I-Group are not available use the men from the group. This basically is a re-play of the set up we use on the weekend. The difference is that men may have more difficulty dropping into a similar place not having just completed a piece of work. Try not to put weekend expectations on this process but simply see it for what is presented in the moment. Work with men to increase their awareness of body response. Resistance, grief or passive acceptance are all felt in the body. Another option is to have men choose the man they want to role-play from the community at large, then bring him along to the I-Group. This also has the potential to identify the men in the community most admired for their fathering abilities.

I suppose if I allowed myself to be held, I might experience a sense of dependency. However, I submit this could happen to almost anyone, whether the man had fathering issues or not. The situation makes it more likely that such feelings would be elicited. It is more likely that I would feel tense and uncomfortable. A person trained to look for these reactions as a defense might then say I was defensive and thus clearly had father issues that need resolved. Only those in the NMTA can speak to this. I have been around the therapy world long enough to know counselors who look at all client reactions as theory-guided indications of pathology.

Here are a couple of others that would be a bit more intimate:

I.3. Massage

Pair up the men in the group and announce that this evening we will give massages. After the first half of the men have received a massage tell the men no more massages will be given. Lead a feeling check, first with the men who gave the massage and then with the men who received.

1. Would you have given knowing you would not receive?

2. Is there a sense of betrayal, and with whom?

3. The men who received. Do you feel you got away with something? Or do you feel like you are beholden to the man you received from? If so why?

4. Let this check in progress wherever it goes. How does this reflect our expectations when we offer some gift of service?

I.4. Changing Clothes

This exercise may also belong in the play section, but it’s definitely a stretch when it comes to intimacy. The set up goes like this. Have all the men remove their clothing and then have each man choose someone else’s clothes and put them on. Once everyone is dressed assume the characteristics of the man whose clothes you wear. Check in with one another and decide on an exercise that will give an opportunity for interaction with one another. Stay in role through the entire evening. Leave time at the end to process the feelings that have come up.

1. How accurate was the role-playing?

2. Did men see a different side of themselves as a result of seeing other men portray them?

Don’t neglect the hurt feelings. Exaggeration will cause a certain amount of misunderstanding. Give one another feedback on projection and shadow, how it appeared and how it was dealt with.

I suppose there is no law against people getting together and doing this sort of thing, but these exercises sound like they would be at home in a Gestalt and/or Jungian psychodrama paradigm. The creators of these exercises probably feel they are eliciting something buried or hidden in each man. However, I wonder if the demand characteristics set up by the exercises cannot help but bring predictable reactions.

As a probably weak illustration, consider this picture. If you had to tell a story about it, what feelings would you say it would elicit?

tat_kaartc.jpg

I would not be at all surprised if a depressing story was told in response to this adaptation of a picture from the Thematic Apperception Test. Would this mean the story teller was a depressed person? Perhaps, but there is no way to know since the stimulus here naturally elicits depression. Similarly, I think the I-group exercises may elicit a variety of emotions and reactions which may or may not be reflective of underlying issues or problems. My thinking here is influenced by the classic social psychology experiments such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram studies on obedience. At this point, I am not making a solidified judgment, rather I am clumsily attempting to articulate a social psychological perspective on the NWTA and related activities.

I have not even started on the Jungian shadow thing; more to come on that topic.

Keep the dialogue going…

More on the New Warriors Training Adventure

Since my initial post on the New Warriors Training Adventure, I have been asking around for reactions to the weekend. Also, I have been in contact with a large group of people who have attended one of the initiations. There is much secrecy surrounding this organization and the tone often borders on fear. I plan a series of posts on this topic to provide some information about what has been a fairly popular recommendation within reparative therapy circles. In fact, a couple of years ago, there was a significant rift in the New Warriors about a local branch that hosted a talk by Joseph Nicolosi. More on that in a later post.

I start with an account by an alum of the weekend and the follow up program, used by permission but anonymously. This describes reactions to the “welcome” offered by the staff of NWTA.

My NWTA

When you arrive at the NWTA all your possessions are taken away from you and searched. I didn’t want to hand over my camera because it cost a lot of money back then and I didn’t want them to have it.

They asked me if I had a camera and I said no. Then they opened my duffle bag and emptied everything on the floor and searched it. They opened my sleeping bag too. They found the camera and were angry that I lied to them. They took everything away, including tooth brush and tooth paste. (You know after all these years it’s still a little painful to remember this.) The only thing we were allowed to keep was an extra change of clothing, extra shoes, sleeping bag and pillow. Everything else was violently taken away from us.

After they searched my belongings, then they searched me. They did a pat down frisk, like the police do to a criminal. I was told to give up wallet, car keys, cell phone, money, jewelry, wedding ring, everything. We were not allowed to keep one thing on our bodies except our clothing.

I felt like a common criminal. The whole time they yelled at us, degraded us. They wouldn’t let us look at the other men. We could only look where they told us too look. The whole time this was done by men who were dressed in total black. They also had black makeup on their faces to conceal their identities.

After this we were all taken to a small damp room and instructed to sit on a damp concrete floor. This was some kind of storage shed. There was no heat. This was in November. There was only one candle for light. After all the men were taken into this room, someone came in and yelled and cussed at us and he kicked over the candle, putting it out. We were then locked in this dark, totally lightless room for several hours.

I was cold and I was in pain sitting on the concrete floor. I didn’t know who was around me. I was separated from my friend that I came to the NWTA with. I didn’t know where he was and I wasn’t allowed to be by him. I began to cry. At last a door opened and we were allowed to go out. It was night and there was total darkness in the sky. We arrived at the NWTA at about 5 pm and it was light. Now it was after 9 pm and dark. Four hours in that lightless room. It was like I was kidnapped by a gang of terrorists.

I am aware this program is controversial and some who like NWTA might say that this is an unfair negative appraisal. However, the consistency of those who I am in contact with is significant and matches the stories of others who are more positive about the weekend. I provide this and future posts for information purposes.

Another blog that analyzes human potential groups has picked up on this issue a bit here…

Sexual orientation: Is it “that predictable?”

A reader sent this link to Richard Cohen on Universal Peace Television, a Moon controlled internet television network. Cohen is interviewed by Michael Marshall, a Unificationist and Editor of United Press International. My purpose for posting the link has little to do with the source but rather the content. We have discussed the theories of sexual orientation on this blog and noted the inadequacy of any of them to fully capture the variation of sexual orientation. The research is mixed with perplexing contradictions and modest effects.

On point, there is an amazing statement, among several, in this interview about half way through. Mr. Cohen says, “I can tell you why any man or woman has homosexual feelings. Give me three hours with him or her and I can tell you specifically what occured in their life to create these desires. It’s that predictable.”

Putting aside that Cohen is claiming an ability to reconstruct and not predict, such claims cannot really be proven or disproven. They of course would be guesses that generate from the premise that sexual orientation stems from some kind of wounding in childhood. In his new book, Gay Children, Straight Children, he even invokes “inherited wounds” as the contribution of heredity. For him, heredity is:

Inherited wounds, unresolved family issues, misinterpretations, a predilection for rejection. At the core of SSA [same-sex attraction] is a sense of not belonging, of not fitting in and of feeling different. These feelings and thoughts may be inherited from one’s racial, religious or cultural lineage. This is not the same thing as the so-called gay gene. However, these lineage issues may imbue a child with a predilection for rejection. (p. 72) 

The phrase “predilection for rejection” based on ancestry is confusing. Predilection means a preference for something. I wonder if he really meant to say that. In any event, none of this sounds like heredity in the way most researchers define it. A preference for rejection based on ethnicity or the actions of someone generations before provides the therapist with an out when no present day or childhood wounds can be found. “It must be your heritage.” Seems like identical twins would be more concordant than research shows, if this were true, since the inherited wound would be true of both children. Practically, how could you test this? In any event, if the lineage is unclear, Mr. Cohen has 9 other types of wounding that will qualify. As I read it, any wound will do.

That statement brought to mind the powers of prediction given to Karnak the Magnificent. I’ll bet Karnak would not need three hours.

Houston Press article depicts a dark side of New Warriors Adventure

In researching the New Warriors Adventure Weekend, I came across this recent article depicting a dark side to the experience. New Warriors is recommended by some reparative therapists (e.g., Richard Cohen, NARTH) as a means of getting in touch with lost masculinity.

It is a chilling expose’ of secret activities conducted by a secret organization. While the New Warriors does not discourage homosexual identification, I have heard it recommended by reparative therapists as a means of helping men reduce same-sex attraction.

Here are some of the activities described:

• Blindfolded walking tours in the nude;

• People blowing sage smoke in his face while 50 or so naked men danced around candles;

• Men sitting naked in a circle discussing their sexual histories while passing a wooden dildo called “The Cock”;

• Naked men beating cooked chickens with a hammer.

Some participants swear by it. Said spokesperson for New Warriors, Les Sinclair:

“This is the best thing on the planet,” he [Mr. Sinclair] says from his home in Las Vegas. “The initiation is a real wake-up to life. We teach men to be accountable for the choices they make or the actions they don’t take. We look at the emotional wounds that have taken a man’s power away…He may have low self-esteem, he may feel like he doesn’t measure up to other men, he’s afraid of men or he’s afraid of women, or he’s afraid of life in general. We look at what was that key emotional wound that took his power away and set up some form of psychodrama for him to overcome. It is a very powerful process.”

This experience is for all men, gay and straight, and I notice that many who feel diminished masculinity seek this. I am surprised that a reparative therapist would recommend this since those seeking to be ex-gay will find out very soon that straight men have self-doubt about masculinity too. In addition, gay men who attend find their inner “tough guy” and stay gay. How does that work?

Healing masculinity is a bit pricey with the weekend costing $650, plus more cash for weekly group sessions.  And some believe the participants are really getting a form of therapy.

“What it boils down to,” says Rick Ross, head of the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey, which studies cults, groups and movements, “is that they are doing group therapy, although they won’t admit to that, and they are not qualified to do group therapy. They are not licensed and they are not accountable.”

Norris Lang, who chairs the anthropology department at the University of Houston and is a former therapist, agrees. He took part in an initiation retreat in 1997 and then attended several Integration Group meetings before deciding to leave the organization.

“Some of the exercises that they had us engage in,” he says, “were fairly traumatic and normally, as a psychotherapist, I would have only engaged in some of those activities…in the security of a hospital or psychiatric facility. If you get somebody to get in touch with their feelings from, say, 30 years ago, a time when they were abused as children, that can be fairly dangerous territory for an unprofessional. It’s kind of group therapy without any professionals involved.”

From what I have seen thus far, I would agree that more oversight would be beneficial. It certainly looks like attempts at therapy to me. For one Houston man, it was bad therapy. Michael Scinto killed himself after attended a New Warriors session and his family is suing the Houston area branch.

The rituals described are disturbing. I encourage readers to examine the entire article but here is one example:

At one point, says Mary, her husband and the other men were blindfolded and marched into a large room, where they were told to take off their clothes. Drums were beating in the background, and when the men were told to remove their blindfolds, “he saw 50 or 60 naked men dancing on a stage in a circle,” she says. “They call this ‘The Dance,’ and my husband said they started playing rock and roll music and some of the men were just dancing like they were obsessed.”

and then this one:

“They were all in the sweat lodge on Sunday,” she says, “which he actually enjoyed. It was the first moment he had to relax in days after going through such a high-drama weekend where they pound you to reveal your deep, dark stuff. So, everyone was sitting Indian-style in a big circle in the lodge when the man leading the group said, ‘If you wish, you may reach over and grab your brother’s dick. If your brother doesn’t want your hand there, he can remove it.’ Well, my husband told me he just froze. And from that point on, he just wanted out.”

Mr. Sinclair denies that such an activity would ever take place at a training adventure.

The local Catholic diocese was forced to comment since some of their priests were in the weekend and the diocese has condemned the practices. What is written here clearly has potential for misapplication and as such appears to be questionable — especially as recommendations to reduce same-sex attraction. Here is their statement from the article:

Bishop Joe Vasquez then issued a statement condemning the organization. In an e-mail, he wrote that the archdiocese became aware in late 2005 that priests were members of The ManKind Project. The then-archbishop, Joseph A. Fiorenza, “was concerned that elements of The ManKind Project and its New Warrior Training weekends seemed to reflect a New Age philosophy and were not in harmony with traditional Roman Catholic belief and practices,” Vasquez wrote. “Archbishop Fiorenza issued a letter in January 2006 asking priests to refrain from being actively involved in the group or promoting” it.

UPDATE – Here is a bit more information on the relationship between reparative therapy and New Warriors. As David Blakeslee noted in his comments on this post, Joseph Nicolosi appears to have been a supporter of New Warriors in the past. And New Warriors has supported him, according to this blog post.

International Healing Foundation: An Update

I have made several posts recently regarding the International Healing Foundation. To summarize the information, I created a page on the blog where I will add and update information as needed.

Today, I added a statement from IHF Assistant Director, Hilde Wiemann, who now acknowledges that she did return to the Unification movement in various capacities after 1995. I believe it took courage for her to do this and she has provided a clear statement rejecting the Unificationist movement. I have included the statement and some additional information on the IHF page.