The Reparative Therapy Makeover: Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

In the complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), there are strange allegations made by the plaintiffs.  One of the strangest is the following from page 16 of the SPLC complaint:

orangesJONAH

In this paragraph, Alan Downing is a life coach who works for JONAH and was until recently recommended by Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. Ferguson is one of the plaintiffs represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. While some defenders of reparative therapy might think the plaintiffs are making this stuff up, the allegations sound believable to me.

The scenario in the complaint sounds like a description of the “Getting His Balls Back” technique suggested in manuals used to guide the New Warriors Training Adventure as put on by the Mankind Project.  Over the years, JONAH and NARTH leaders have recommended the New Warriors Training Adventure as a means of building masculinity and reducing same-sex attraction so it is not surprising to see the same processes used in their efforts with clients.

The Balls Back process is described in this 2002 manual (p. 12) written for NWTA by Steve Kushner:

BALLS BACK

WHEN TO USE

– He has given up or lost his power, masculinity or balls to someone and he wants it/them back

WHAT TO DO

– Place 2 tennis balls or oranges in Bad Role Player’s hands that are behind his back

– ASK HIM:

“Does he/she have your power, masculinity, balls?”

“Are you ready to take it/them back?”

(Have Bad Role Player bring hands out in front and taunt initiate)

– TELL HIM:

“The time is now, the place is here!” (emphasis added)

And then in this 2005 “Guts Guide” (Warriors call these processes “guts work”) by Martin Lassoff, the process is described in more detail.

2. Getting His Balls Back

When the initiate feels he has lost his courage, power or maleness to someone and wants to get it back, this is referred to as Getting His Balls Back. This process includes a Gauntlet.

Position a man at the end of a Gauntlet holding oranges or tennis balls (symbolizing his balls). (emphasis added)

The Gauntlet is described in the SPLC complaint as a “human chain” which the client must break through in order to grasp the oranges. This achievement is supposed to symbolize the client getting his “balls back.”

A book by Steven Segell which includes a description of a New Warriors weekend also outlines the process:

orangesJONAH2Segell

At 1:25 in this Colbert Report, Michael Ferguson described the technique for CNN (really you must watch the whole thing).

So it seems clear that the “oranges therapy” is derived from processes associated with the Mankind Project, an organization which Joseph Nicolosi, Arthur Goldberg, David Pickup and Richard Cohen have recommended.

Speaking of David Pickup, he told NBC News “I don’t do oranges therapy, and I don’t do naked therapy.” I established last week that as a New Warrior staff member, Pickup has recommended the New Warrior Training Adventure which involves nudity. Now today, I document that the very same “oranges therapy” Pickup said he didn’t do is also recommended by reparative therapists.

The Reparative Therapy Makeover Continues: No Naked Therapy?

Last week, NARTH’s Chris Doyle and Julie Hamilton went on the Dr Oz show to defend reparative therapy by portraying it as something other than reparative therapy. This week, NARTH’s representatives carried the makeover a little further in a NBC News article.

There is much I could comment on and may in the future, but in this post I pause to consider an astounding claim is made by David Pickup. Pickup, a one-time supervisee of Nicolosi’s and member of the Mankind Project, claims

“I can say this: I don’t do oranges therapy, and I don’t do naked therapy…”

Pickup is referring to the therapy allegedly practiced by counselors and life coaches at Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (the H used to stand for “homosexuality”). In the complaint brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, former JONAH clients claim that they were asked to remove their clothes for various “interventions” designed to help them bolster their masculinity. There were also some creative uses for oranges in the JONAH program. In his defense against the charge that reparative therapy is all about strange techniques such as described in the JONAH lawsuit, Pickup made his statement about oranges and naked therapy.

Well, I don’t know what Pickup does in his office, but he does recommend a weekend masculinity initiation that involves nudity. For years, Pickup as been a senior staff member for the Mankind Project in Los Angeles as his NARTH 2008 bio makes clear:

David Pickup, M.A., IMF

David H. Pickup holds a Masters Degree in Psychology. He is currently registered with the California Board of Psychology as a Psych Assistant and with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. David is interning under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi at Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, California. His work is centered on young boys who are struggling with Gender Identification Disorder and with adolescents and adult men who are dealing with same-sex attraction. David is a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and is also a Life Coach for men working out of same-sex attraction. He operates The WorkOUT program and website, www.workoutman.org which includes individual and group coaching for men in Los Angeles and in several different countries. David speaks on Reparative Therapy and its practical applications for churches and men’s groups in the southern California area. He is also a senior staff member of The Mankind Project’s intensive weekend trainings for men in the Los Angeles area. (emphasis added)

The Mankind Project’s signature program is The New Warriors Training Adventure which invites men to get naked during part of the weekend festivities. This is well documented on their own website. They say it is optional but they strongly defend the practice (in addition to the “cock talk” portion of the program where men hold a wooden phallus and talk about their sexual history) as being an important aspect of the program.

Currently, Pickup offers discounts to the New Warriors Training Program to those who sign up for his online reorientation therapy program (only 5.99 a month!). Reparative therapists have for years viewed the New Warriors Training Adventure as being useful for same-sex attracted men because they believe SSA derives from wounded masculinity. Thus, when Pickup recommends the weekend on his reorientation therapy website, he does not simply hope his clients will have a fun weekend in the woods. The purpose is therapeutic.  While he may not be doing the naked therapy, he is recommending it.

For more on the Mankind Project, see this page.

Man accuses employer of making him go to New Warriors Training Adventure

Interesting case.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – An attorney says he was forced to quit his job after a law firm docked his pay because he refused to go to a seminar where he feared he would be “stripped naked, not allowed to leave, be required to discuss details of his sex life, handle a wooden dildo, and potentially allow other men to touch his genitals.” The lawyer claims his supervising attorney told him that the New Warrior Training seminar would help him “have closer, stronger, and better relationships with men.”

According to the article, the lawyer bringing suit searched the Internet and found the information about the NWTA which led to his refusal. Wonder what he read?

Mankind Project provides journalist with a “very weird weekend”

The Mankind Project has been off my radar for months. However, UK journalist Tom Mitchelson put it back on with his eyewitness account published in Saturday’s UK Mail Online

I first heard about the MKP’s New Warriors Training Adventure at a NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) conference in 2003. Various members, including then President Joe Nicolosi, were recommending it to those in attendance as a way to support healthy masculinity.  A few same-sex attracted men who tried it thought it was great and a few others thought it made no sense to be naked in the woods with other guys. New Warriors is still recommended on the NARTH website. In view of the current critiques of the sexual identity therapy framework (SITF), it is worth pointing out that the SITF discourages experiences like NWTA. More about that after I review Mitchelson’s weird weekend.

The next time I recall thinking much about MKP was when I read Chris Vogel’s Houston Press article about the suicide of Michael Scinto. You can read all of the articles on MKP and NWTA here.

For veteran NWTA watchers, these experiences will seem familiar. Mitchelson grabs your attention out of the gate:

How our man found himself with 65 naked men chanting, drumming – and screaming their rage against women to ‘reclaim’ their lost masculinity…

The temperature has plunged to freezing. I am deep in a remote English woodland outside Exeter.

I have been blindfolded and I am standing, holding hands, with a long line of men – who, until about 24 hours ago, I’d never met before.

Together, we are stumbling through the scrub as beating tribal drums guide our way. Oh yes, and we are naked. Totally naked.

Abruptly, my blindfold is ripped off and I see we have been led to a shadowy candle-lit room. There are about 65 of us in a double horseshoe formation.

This is a ceremony where we are to become ‘new warriors’. And then the dancing begins.

I wish I were somewhere else. Anywhere else. So why on earth am I here?

Why indeed? On its website, MKP proclaims:

We’re redefining mature masculinity for the 21st Century – and we want your help!

Along the way Mitchelson seems amused that the NWTA is viewed as a path to redefined masculinity.

A leader holding a wooden staff decorated with feathers rambles on about the mission of the weekend, using the pompous jargon that would later become very familiar: words like ‘shadow’, ‘warriors’, ‘masculine’, ‘commitment’ and ‘responsibility’.

He tells us how to be a man. It’s hard to take from a man wearing face paint, carrying a feathered stick.

Whatever healthy masculinity is, it seems to involve making the world into a giant man-cave, free from those pesky women.

Everything I read from them is baffling non-speak. They claim the weekend is a ‘process of initiation and self-examination that is crucial to the development of a healthy and mature male self’.

They claim they help move men away from the ‘comforting embrace’ of their mother – something, on the face of it, some wives might even encourage. Then I am told I will ‘confront’ my ‘dependence on women’, to help me move into the ‘masculine kingdom’.

The fun begins when they arrive at the camp. (more…)

Writer Journeys into Manhood undercover

According to a Salt Lake City newspaper, writer Ted Cox wanted to know what an ex-gay program was like so he signed up for a Journey into Manhood weekend in Utah. He planned to write a story about it but was derailed by JIM founder Rich Wyler.

Cox, a former Mormon, is a heterosexual who, earlier this year, pretended to be gay in order to attend a JiM workshop for men wanting to “overcome same-sex attractions.”

Upon learning of Cox’s story proposal, JiM founder and life coach Rich Wyler quickly intervened, urging City Weekly not to run Cox’s story because Cox signed a confidentiality agreement barring him from speaking about the weekend. City Weekly decided not to publish Cox’s proposed story but rather to ask Cox why he went undercover to get the story.

Richard Cohen got Ted interested in the ex-gay world.

This started in 2007, after I saw a segment on the Daily Show where the correspondent interviewed Richard Cohen, who is a pretty infamous ex-gay therapist, and I was surprised … that they didn’t at all delve into the religious motivation behind the ex-gay movement.

I found local ministries, and I’ve attended different support groups. I’ve also gone to a couple of conferences that deal with the ex-gay movement. All of it is a look of what is going on, who goes to these things, and do they work—which is, of course, the really big question.

The article doesn’t reveal much more but the agreement that Cox signed is reproduced at the link above. This seems much like the ManKind Project confidentiality agreement. If what we reported earlier this week is accurate, MKP may be doing away with their confidentiality agreement. Will JiM follow suit? JiM grew out of MKP’s NWTA and apparently uses some of the same processes, without the nudity.

C’mon Rich let him publish his article. Co-write it with him. MKP says they are letting the sunshine in, how about little brother JiM?

Speaking of the Daily Show with Richard Cohen, Crooks and Liars has it…

Update: I spoke to Ted Cox by phone earlier today. He declined to discuss the JiM weekend but he did say on the record that he did not become aware of the confidentiality agreement until after he had paid a non-refundable deposit and paid for a non-refundable plane ticket. Then he was given the option of signing or not attending and not getting any money in refund.

Mankind Project goes transparent

In 2007, I took some heat over my interest in and criticism of the Mankind Project. My initial interest was sparked by the suicide of Michael Scinto shortly after attending a New Warriors Training Adventure, the signature program of MKP. In addition to my interest in strange approaches to counseling, this program was doubly intriguing because reparative therapists and their supporters (e.g., Joe Nicolosi, Richard Cohen, Arthur Goldberg, Paul Miller) recommend NWTA as a way to reduce same-sex attractions.

Since then, MKP has made it plain that they do not recommend NWTA as a reparative therapy adjunct and they have become quite gay friendly. However, these reparative therapists have not back away from their support. For instance, Richard Cohen, in his book for parents of gay children, recommends that fathers and sons attend the weekend together.

One regular criticism of MKP relates to the secrecy of the activities on the NWTA weekends — and for good reason. Some men would surely not go if they knew of the sometimes odd things they would be asked to do. Some of the odd things are harmless but sometimes they can be upsetting. I list links to some on this blog, such as this one, called Killing Daddy. See this page for more about MKP and click this link for prior posts on the topic.

And so, it was with interest that I read a note from a reader who follows MKP. He noted that MKP is now going transparent. All of this is on my MKP page but here is a couple of sections of the memo.

Transparency and the NWTA: Next Steps

At the February 2009 Annual Meeting in Glen Ivy the Project Council approved a proposal moving MKP toward greater transparency. The full proposal is included at the end of this note, which is intended to let you know the work we’re doing to put the plan into action.

External Communications

This is the main focus of the initiative designed to increase candor regarding FAQ’s for men coming to the training as well as specifically addressing inaccurate criticism of MKP and the NWTA on the web.

· We are developing a set of FAQ’s to guide men in speaking with potential initiates about the training and the organization. You are encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent that it is requested, encouraging men to step into the mystery while answering questions honestly.

· The MKP public website is being revised to include the above material and appropriate “spoiler” warnings. It will include direct responses to some of the specific criticisms and misperceptions on the web (Houston Press, Haven Ministry, Rick Ross, Warren Throckmorton, Reid Baer, etc.)

MKP is going to talk more freely about what they do but they are going to respond to what some of us have published as “misperceptions.” Well, I look forward to finding out what those misperceptions are.

In any event, the proposal for transparency was apparently approved and will result in significant changes if this memo can be believed. Here is the context of the proposal for transparency and some of what is supposed to happen.

Transparency Regarding the NWTA

Context

In our Confidentiality Agreement and the processes Secret Male Ritual and Integrating the Training we ask men not to share the processes on the NWTA. As an institution we maintain this secrecy in how we speak and write about our training. In the last few years we have been criticized on blogs, on websites, and in a suit for not providing sufficient details for men to make an informed decision about attending our training. The ManKind Project has been labeled a cult by some for our refusal to disclose what we do on the training. It is likely that at least some of these attacks could have been avoided if we had provided more information about the training. The cost of these attacks has been significant to MKP and to our centers. At the same time, most, if not all, of our processes have been described in various media, and in some cases our protocols have been made available on websites.

In many contexts, MKP as an institution and we as individuals highly value transparency, and around the globe organizations are being increasingly called to provide transparency about their activities. Nevertheless we have continued to hold an expectation that we can and should keep our NWTA processes secret. Many of us are concerned that knowing more about the training will make it less effective for participants. Others who read about our processes before attending the NWTA say it was still extremely impactful. I have spoken in depth with the Leader and Center Councils about how we hold secrecy and transparency, and the overwhelming response has favored transparency.

Proposal

I believe that on balance, it will serve the ManKind Project to release our expectations of secrecy and step into transparency about our processes. I propose that MKP begin to provide disclosure about our processes to the extent it is requested by potential initiates and the general public. This means:

· Men who have done the NWTA will be released from any obligation to maintain secrecy about our processes, and will be encouraged to share information about the NWTA to the extent it is requested. This applies particularly to men involved in NWTA enrollment.

MKPers can now sing like birds about their experiences. Might as well, many of the processes and procedures are already on the web anyway. But this way, new initiates will know more directly from the people involved what they are getting into. While I still think MKP is a risky proposition given the lack of training of the leaders and the questionable efficacy of the processes, this move is a good one.

Not sure how many MKP or anti-MKP readers I still have but if you are out there, what are your reactions to this move? Do you believe it? Is it enough? Too much?

AHO!

Mankind Project Houston has not implemented Scinto court settlement

Mankind Project came into public view via a Houston Press article on the suicide of Michael Scinto. Due to statements made after the New Warriors Training Adventure weekend by Mr. Scinto, his parents came to believe that the weekend conducted by MKP-Houston was responsible for the tragic death. The Scintos sued and settled with MKPH in June, 2008. The settlement called for MKPH to provide a new level of disclosure about the activities of the NWTA. MKPH agreed to several changes in disclosure on their website:

-MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.

-Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.

-The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:

1. Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.

2. The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.

3. The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.

4. Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.

-MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

These changes were to be made within 6 months of approval of the MKPH board. It is now January, 2009 and no changes have been made. In fact, the secrecy surrounding the weekend is still offered as a selling point on the group’s website:

Why aren’t the details of the Weekend divulged in advance?

There’s all the difference in the world between a concept and an experience. Our commitment is to give you a transformational experience along with information you can use.

Traditional initiations utilized fasting, isolation, sleep deprivation, mind altering substances and painful physical ordeals to break down the psyche’s natural resistance to change.

While we don’t use those extreme conditions, we do rely on the element of confidentiality to intensify and deepen the process. We ask you to trust us in this regard. All activities during the weekend are optional but you will get the most benefit if you participate fully. Remember, the training is mostly staffed by volunteers who have gone through the same experience and found it very worthwhile.

What is ironic about this description is that MKPH says NWTA does not use “fasting, isolation, sleep deprivation” techniques to “break down the psyche’s natural resistance to change.” However, as described by prior members, NWTA clearly involves at lease some level of food and sleep deprivation and isolation. Some people who view themselves as survivors of MKP would alter MKPH’s description of NWTA to say that the weekend simply breaks down the psyche.

I wrote the MKPH director for a comment or clarification of their position which I will post if I hear back. For more information regarding NWTA and MKP, see this page.

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.

1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.

2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.

3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.

4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.

5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.

6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.

7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.

8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.

9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.

10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.

I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)

Happy New Year!

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