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Option Institute
Posted by: retting ()
Date: February 27, 2009 07:54AM

I'd like to start a discussion about the Option Institute in Sheffield Mass. It's definitely a cult.

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: JKS ()
Date: March 04, 2009 11:00AM

Well they claim to be healing autistic children. That's a fairly strong claim.

From their website:

"Over the last 25 years our team of dedicated professionals have worked with more than 22,000 parents and professionals from around the world teaching them a system of treatment and education."

Are these "professionals" trained and licensed mental health professionals?

A study about this treatment plan, the "son-rise program," as it is called, that was done in 2003 and published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, states that "The results indicated that, although involvement led to more drawbacks than benefits for the families over time, family stress levels did not rise in all cases."

Ok so their big autism cure doesn't work, and I doubt their various "life challenge" programs do much either.

And the guy who started this and runs it, Barry Neil Kaufman, wrote a book called "Happiness is a Choice." ugh...

It's definitely a lot of bunko - anyone been to one of these courses at this place? From the website it seems like a bunch of ropes-course stuff, but who knows how serious and LGAT-ish they get...

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 05, 2009 02:49AM

People who have autistic children are DESPERATE.

And the careful and cautious language used by responsible physicians and scientists, a language of probabilties and statistics, offers little comfort to those who are desperate.

When parents are desperate, they dont want to hear about probability, they want to hear promises, hope, encouragement. Adult critical thinking is gravely disabled when one is exhausted, in crisis mode, and the unique anguish that is the lot of any parent whose child is faltering.

Anyone offering a treatment modality for autism has a profound responsiblity not only the welfare of the children, but the welfare of their parents, too. The ethos of care is especially urgent in such situations.

But the social climate for todays desperate parents is different, too. I can speak from a personal vantage point, here.

Decades ago, when I was a toddler, some thought I was autistic. Turned out I was not.

(If I'd had autism or even mild Aspergers, my distinguished career as a gadfly on would not have been possible.) parents were desperate. Very fucking desperate. In our case, it turned out I didnt happen to be autistic.

Two...and this is very parents had access to medical advice from reponsible sources. Those were th only options.

That long ago, there were not yet a distracting cloud of human potential based 'therapies'.

All the options (limited as those options were) were within the medical/professional model, with its ethos of care--and the obligation to tell parents and patients what they need to hear, even if that isnt what they want to hear.

This was long enough ago that science and medicine still had an honored and secure place in American life. Science based medicine was still doing a good job solving problems. This was the Post Sputnik era. Science and scientific education in the US public school system was the great hope for our national security...and our best defense against the Soviets.

But now the social climate is different.

Parents of faltering children are vulnerable. They are terrified, want to do their best for their children. They are willing to spend money, take out loans, go into debt. The last person you want to give up on is your own flesh and blood, especially when that person is little and has a future at stake.

A professional is morally and legally obligated by ethos of care to tell us what we need to hear, even when it isnt what we want to hear.

And, when parents are desperate, they find it unbearable to be told what they need to hear. When we are in pain, we so very much prefer to be told what we want to hear.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/05/2009 03:13AM by corboy.

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: retting ()
Date: March 05, 2009 10:05PM

It's definitely a lot of bunko - anyone been to one of these courses at this place? From the website it seems like a bunch of ropes-course stuff, but who knows how serious and LGAT-ish they get...

It's a cult. People who have lived and worked there have been extremely damaged by it, and for the most part don't talk about it (and sometimes go on to other cults, and/or start their own!) because they don't want to admit to themselves, their family and friends, that they were in the cult. The "programs" cost thousands of dollars. Families with autistic children are ripped off and left stranded. The "process" is all about denial. "I'm not sick because I "decide" not to be", etc. When you get off the roller coaster ride you are much more f'd up then when you started. It's all about the money and nothing else. When I was involved, the "staff" were barely paid or fed. The "staff meetings" were emotionally brutal. Now the core "staff" is mostly Kaufman family members. It's probably difficult for a family, or anyone really, to admit that they spent 10's of thousands of dollars and perhaps years of their lives on a cult. It's not something I generally broadcast about myself. But if you are there you have to "drink the cool-aid" and of course be "happy" about it since as Barry Neil Kaufman says, it's only "a choice".

I think that people should know that Steve Hassan's Website had Option Institute listed as a cult and the Institute threatened him with legal action and now I believe he will have to delete them from his list. I feel quite strongly that we need to keep this discussion going so that people can know the truth and be warned and spared any further pain and suffering. thank you for you interest and comments.

Disclaimer regarding Steve Hassan

The Ross Institute of New Jersey/May 2013

See []

The inclusion of news articles within the Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI) archives, which mention and/or quote Steven Hassan, in no way suggests that RI recommends Mr. Hassan or recognizes him in any way.

News articles that mention Steve Hassan have been archived for historical purposes only due to the information they contain about controversial groups, movements and/or leaders.

RI does not recommend Steven Hassan.

RI has received serious complaints about Steve Hassan concerning his fees. Mr. Hassan does not publicly disclose his fee schedule, but according to complaints Steve Hassan has charged fees varying from $250.00 per hour or $2,500.00 per day to $500.00 per hour or $5,000.00 per day. This does not include Mr. Hassan's expenses, which according to complaints can be quite substantial.

Steven Hassan has charged families tens of thousands of dollars and provided questionable results. One recent complaint cited total fees of almost $50,000.00. But this very expensive intervention effort ended in failure.

Dr. Cathleen Mann, who holds a doctorate in psychology and has been a licensed counselor in the state of Colorado since 1994 points out, "Nowhere does Hassan provide a base rate and/or any type or accepted statistical method defining his results..."

Steve Hassan has at times suggested to potential clients that they purchase a preliminary report based upon what he calls his "BITE" model. These "BITE reports" can potentially cost thousands of dollars.

See []

Steve Hassan runs a for-profit corporation called "Freedom of Mind." Mr. Hassan is listed as the corporate agent for that business as well as its president and treasurer.

RI does not recommend "Freedom of Mind" as a resource.

RI also does not list or recommend Steve Hassan's books.

To better understand why Mr. Hassan's books are not recommended by RI read this detailed review of his most recently self-published book titled "Freedom of Mind."

See []

Steve Hassan's cult intervention methodology has historically raised concerns since its inception. The book "Recovery from Cults" (W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 174-175) edited by Dr. Michael Langone states the following:

"Calling his approach 'strategic intervention [sic] therapy,' Hassan (1988) stresses that, although he too tries to communicate a body of information to cultists and to help them think independently, he also does formal counseling. As with many humanistic counseling approaches, Hassan’s runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly, on the framework’s foundational ambiguity and thereby manipulating the client."

RI has also learned that Mr. Hassan has had dual-relationships with his counseling clients. That is, clients seeing Mr. Hassan for counseling may also do professional cult intervention work with him.

Professionals in the field of cultic studies have also expressed concerns regarding Steven Hassan's use of hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Based upon complaints and the concerns expressed about Mr. Hassan RI does not recommend Steve Hassan for counseling, intervention work or any other form of professional consultation.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2013 09:10PM by rrmoderator.

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: Luca ()
Date: May 07, 2009 05:26PM

Having recently attended a 1-week course there, I felt I should add to this discussion.

While us parents with autistic children certainly face a very significant challenge, I don't think "corboy" should assume that we all lose all control over our mental faculties. Indeed, it's more than a little bit insulting. We looked at many available treatment options with an open but also healthily skeptical mind.

My direct experience has been positive in terms of the usefulness of the training we received and my son's response to the program. I personally know several parents who have had similarly positive experiences, including a couple of cases of dramatic improvement. Anecdotal evidence is not as strongly supportive of an hypothesis as (properly set-up) experimental evidence but it is not worthless either, as anyone with any understanding of epistemology would tell you. The cautiousness and reticence of the medical/scientific community in terms of assigning priority to different strands of autism treatment, while understandable from the standpoint of research protocols and rather sclerotic peer review, is troublesome for people whose lives are strongly affected by the condition. You will recall that in the case of a life-threatening illness like HIV/AIDS (where urgency was clearly even greater) it took year of struggle to get the DFDA to speed up the process of preliminary approval.

I can accept the experience of “retting” at face value, but the impression I got while in Sheffield is not very cult-like. They do charge plenty of money. SO do most people I know that get results. There are “life coaches” who earn as much/more and never have to work with anyone more challenging than a mildly anxious/depressed middle-aged professional, to put thing into perspective.

The problem with labeling something as a cult is that any vehement remonstration can be taken as proof of guilt. Kinda circular.

Best of luck to you all; and an invitation to consider using more measured language in your judgment.


I agree that there are very clear limits to the "happiness is a choice" concept. But it does help some people; notably my very uncultish wife. AT worst, it is harmless codswallop.

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: Christa ()
Date: May 12, 2009 02:24PM

I'm going to reject Luca's invitation to use more measured language. There are so few places, on the net or in IRL, that really push back against exploitative groups. It's important to be forceful and clear.

corboy is absolutely right, Luca, and the fact the you feel insulted does not make him wrong.

The experience of the person who pays money to Option for a one week course differs from the experience of the person who is paid (slave wages) to work there week after week.

It's entirely possible to go to a place like Option for a bit and have a fine experience. It's not possible to work with groups like them long term and be anything other than ripped off.

It's true that people who get results charge money; so do people who don't get results. There isn't always a correlation between price tag and results in the healthcare field, and the highest fees often go to the biggest frauds.

Luca, if you can afford the Option Institute, you have money, probably enough that you can afford to waste it. If you've just wasted it on a one-week course and think you see results, great. I hope you'll come back in a couple years and give us an update on your child's continuing progress with Option Methods.

Thanks for wishing us the best of luck. Speaking for myself, I'm not the one who's going to need it.

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: retting ()
Date: May 20, 2009 11:42AM

If families have a lot of money to spend (and they'll need it with OI) perhaps it is a different experience. but if a family is poor, OI will take every penny they have (happily!) and if that family doesn't cure their child, it's their fault because everything is a choice and of course if you fail, then you obviously made the wrong choice. Like it's a poor person's fault for being poor because they're not making the right choices. At OI everything is a choice, being sick for example. To me it's magical thinking. don't want to be sick, then just decide. that's denial. isn't that what sociopaths do, just decide not to feel guilty about all the terrible things they've done?
thank you all for your input. I really appreciate your thoughts.

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 17, 2013 10:45PM

One parent's comment written in 2000.




Barry Neil Kaufman's books, Son-Rise (Warner Books, 1976) and Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues (H.J. Kramer, 1995), documentaries of the grueling process he and his wife, Samahria Lyte Kaufman, underwent to help their severely autistic son, Raun. Kaufman literally locked himself in a room with his son for hours on end for almost three years, observing Raun, following his lead when he could perceive an initiative, and trying to "bring him back to the world."

Raun Kaufman is grown now, and has graduated from college. The Kaufmans remain heavily involved in the treatment of autism; however, through the Options Institute in Sheffield, Mass. Satellite centers have recently opened in Holland and the U.K.

Although the Options program is quite expensive, some parents say it has been helpful. Its primary principles are unconditional love and acceptance.

The Son-Rise program is somewhat controversial in the autism community, both because of its price tag and because of its philosophy. Few parents can go to the extremes that Barry Kaufman did with Raun, no matter how admirable and successful, and not everyone is comfortable with his ideas about autism and how to treat it. For those who feel inspired by Kaufman's ideals, the Options Institute holds weeklong parent training programs on a regular basis, as well as seminars, individual sessions, and program design assistance.


Autism and the myth of false hope by Raun Kauffman



I did check into information on the Son Rise program. The positive aspect that I saw was that it offered unconditional love. As I looked into it further, I saw that it teaches most things that we as parents offer our child from our home.

They charge $1,995 including room and board, but want you to return two more times to total $5,985 for all three times you go, not including airfare to and from there. I don't know about others, but I can't afford that!

IMO, I think I will stick to the method I am using with my son, which is by the way working. I have heard many positive things about the Son Rise program, but also as many negative.

In the book "Son Rise The Miracle Continues," what Raun's mother did was similar to what I did, although I didn't lock myself in the bathroom with him. She speaks of getting into Raun's world. I think this is what is going through most parents' minds when we finally get over the diagnosis and get a clue to help our children.

I did the same things with my son like staring at what he was staring at and mocking him. I too was trying to get my little boy back. I was trying to regain eye contact and to be noticed again and guess what, it did work. My son is now speaking and learning more and more every day.

It was a year ago* that I checked out this program, so prices may have gone up. In a nut-shell, I have to say the Son Rise program prices are way too high and I think every mother/father that works with their child whatever therapies or methodologies they are using, offer this same unconditional love to their child. Why pay for a program that is repeating what is already in our hearts?

Lisa (J)

* This story was written in 2000, so we can assume the prices were current in 1999.

2: November 2001

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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 18, 2013 10:25PM

Another thread on Option Insitute in LGATs section


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Re: Option Institute
Posted by: huntingtonj ()
Date: September 27, 2013 03:00AM

I understand you would like to start a discussion about The Option Institute, I dont have personal experience but know somone who does and would like to know more about their employment and volunteer program.


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