My girlfriend Heath and Heath's sister, Cassandra paid for this for Heath, her daughter, her husband, her best friend, her secretary, when she was in the "Leadership" aspect of this training i.e the sales pitch. She's spent over $20,000 already with this company and going in we had no idea what it was because her sister didn't want to "ruin the experience" and that when you go you just need to "trust the process".
Heath has a history of severe abuse from their mother and lingering effects of PTSD/anxiety from that. Since she had not been in therapy when she signed up for Choice, they assured her that she would be fine, this was a "Leadership training" for "Emotional intelligence" to help her at her job.
She offered to pay for Heath's training, flights, and place to stay the weekends she was there and sold it as a business training. Heath's company even paid for mileage to the airport and since she is salaried, they counted the conference time as work hours for her.
This is the company that Heath went through, [www.choicecenter.com
]. So the website is vague, which is intentional. We found out they used lifespring methods, but we didn't realize how dangerous all this was. I told Heath I would be worried if she tried to recruit me because I have no interest in going and the logistics of getting me to Vegas 2 weekends in a row and paying $3000 weren't worth it. She attended the first class from 5/17-5/21 and the 2nd from 5/29-6/2.
The first weekend was called, "Discovery" and it was checking in Wednesday night, then Thursday-Sunday 8am-Midnight. So it was really intense. Some of the "exercises" they did were Eriksonian Hypnosis. I've done walkthroughs like that in therapy, but this was calming followed by super intense yelling from the coaches. They did some public humiliation if you didn't follow all the rules, they played the red/black game and yelled at people, but it was a lot of back and forth with emotions. She came back Monday hoarse but happy. She refused to tell me what they did and start talking about getting me to the training, and when I brought up I was concerned, she said that was a "self-limiting belief". During all this, we were buying the PT cruiser and she was then going to visit her sister and her niece in Vegas for Memorial day weekend and was gone Thursday-Monday. Then she was only home Tuesday and flew out again Wednesday night to do the second part of the training, "Breakthrough", which was Thursday-Sunday.
The first part, opened Heath to their methods, she wanted to leave a few times, but since her sister had paid, and there was so much peer pressure, and if you do leave, trainers and leaders follow you and tell you that you are a failure. She didn't.
Breakthrough was similar to Discovery.
Heath was late to register at Discovery, and he sister had warned her that the trainers wouldn't like it. But they we totally accommodating and wanted her there and didn't berate her that first night there was no pre-screening but she did sign a waiver.
Trainers during Breakthrough was super vicious the first night, and very domineering. Heath argued with the trainer, and they threatened to kick Heath out for being upset when they belittled a woman for needing to use the restroom, and that was not "acting like a team".
There was a lot of music during this, and Heath is now having a lot of issues with noises, it's always been bad with her but now even her favorite band sends her into a panic.
Enya's Watermark came on my music playlist and sent her into a full panic attack since that was what they used to lull people into the hypnotic walkthrough before the scary part started.
The first morning of Breakthrough they had to be seated before the music started, and if you didn't you got yelled at by the "trainers". Their big thing was "What are you pretending not to know".
The trainers belittled and yelled at the participants, and had them do impossible tasks with vague rules and parameters, and was lose/lose situations.
Heath getting angry at the trainers for anything resulted in her getting berated for angry issues, which is something she has worked really hard to overcome and work on, and they tapped into the insecurity. They did similar things with other participates, there was about 80 or so people in each group.
The second day they were told that they had to find a way to "act like a team" or the trainer would berate them. Their task was to get into their seats as a team in an organized manner and any descent to the yelling or the methods wasn't "acting like a team" so you got public humiliated, and pointed out as someone that didn't care enough for the whole group if there was any deviation.
She doesn't remember everything that they did and started disassociating. They had a lot of exercises where you tapped into your trauma, and there was yelling followed by immediate jubilant dancing. They would do 15+ exercises per day. It would be things like, stare at someone in the eyes and tell them why they remind you of your parent that hurt you, followed by being silent, followed by dancing, to beating a pillow and yelling, to having someone yell at you. Everything was in quick secession, and the trainers told you who you would have dinner with, and during breaks what they wanted you to do. Heath says that at the end of the night when they went back to their hotel Cassandra (who was there doing more training with Choice Center) what they did and none of them seemed to be able to say what they did, and even Cassandra didn't quite remember what she had done that day.
In between the classes she spent the weekend just visiting her sister they went to a concert, it was music from Cassandra's childhood.
Cassandra was abused just as bad by their mother and even worse in some cases, and then got married at 15 to her gym teacher who had been abandoned and very abused as a kid as well. At one point during the concert, Cassandra broke down crying and left, missing about a third of the show and when Heath tried to comfort her, she pushed Heath away and left.
Cassandra is very guarded, and it took her a lot of years to even admit all the terrible thing Elaine did to her. At one point a neighbor that Eliane sent them too threatened to rape 2-year-old Heath if Cassandra didn't offer herself up when she told Elaine what happened, Elaine called her a slut and beat her, she was 12. This training has tapped into that and now she is 100% committed.
She is very conservative, and believes in 'pulling one's self up by your own bootstraps" and the "playing the victim" is an excuse. Neither her or Heath are "playing the victim", THEY ARE VICTIMS, and being vulnerable because of that doesn't make you weak.
Friday night was the worst for Heath. They did a super intense meditation where they played Enya and walked you through a meadow, and then the music changed and they got you into a sense of urgency by changing the meadow to a scary forest. Then they shifted to imagine you as a successful person and going on a boat trip. They continue this happiness with a dream vacation scenario, then suddenly shift to a boat crash, with loud music and sound effects in a very dark room. Then they suddenly turned on all the lights and told participates they had 15 seconds to explain why they deserved to be on the only life boat. Then they had to go around one-by-one and look each person in the eyes and tell them if they deserve to live or not, nothing else, and they could only pick 8 people, and you also had to say each person's name.
The trainers yelled if you apologized, and Heath was told she was a "special case" and had a trainer follow her the entire time she went around and since she has such bad problems with her memory as it is, got yelled at that she didn't care enough about people whose names she didn't remember.
Then Heath got yelled at for not caring about herself enough to save one for herself and was dead.
Then they went through the people who didn't get enough and told them they had failed because they weren't memorable enough to be saved, then so on and so forth. Then they made everyone lie down, and guided them through a hell-like decent with sounds of people screaming and wind playing. This was the worst exercise for Heath and she entered a panic state. After two hours or so of this, they had everyone strip into their swimsuit, and then sign their graduation contract, before being sent home, being told the next day would be "magical".
Heath didn't sleep much out of fear that night and is now having nightmares.
Saturday was all fun, and they practiced "love bombing" each other with hugs, and getting to their "breakthrough groups". Asian men who were dealing with not feeling manly enough were placed in a group that was going to do a dance for everyone to an artist know for being sexually confident, women who had been sexually abused were going to do a burlesque show, men who were scared not to be macho had to be ballerinas etc. Heath was in the butterfly group, people who had been "transformed" into something beautiful. They had to prepare in groups and bond. After each performance, they did a "cradling" where each person was reborn into the caring embrace of the group and held up/lifted up to the ceiling while a special song just for them was played.
Sunday they were encouraged to dress nicely for graduation and change their appearance. Past graduates were there, and it was very hopeful and promising. During the second half of the training, if you were a smoker you had to stop, and participates were told not to take pain meds, or drink, and avoid caffeine. When they were told that they could return to these habits, there was wild cheering- nobody had actually stopped their crutch. However, Heath has cut her smoking in half since the training.
The next class is called "Leadership" and she was supposed to start this weekend, Heath's sister wanted her to, but she chose not to continue through since she needs to catch up on work.
Cassandra even belittled her best friend for not doing leadership right away and staying with her group, even though you can do it at another time, as long as it is within a year of the first two. Cassandra told Heath that "Leadership just isn't for everybody" in a disgusted tone when she told her she wasn't continuing on this weekend.
Her best friend was choosing to go to a family reunion with the family she hadn't seen in 15+ years and had been long in the planning stages. Cassandra belittled her and told her that she had a large family too and there was always something, but that she had made the choice to step up and do "whatever it takes".
Heath came home and was super happy Monday, but by Wednesday she had had time to reflect what happened and was starting to notice signs of her PTSD flaring up. She is now having a mild psychosis from this.
Heath is in contact with people from her groups, and people are already having lasting effects from this training. One man is ending his marriage of 30+ years because his wife "doesn't understand him now he has done Choice Center", another woman broke down because she broke her "commitment" to Choice Center by not attending leadership because she has an ulcer from the first two classes.
Other people were told they had to fight to even enter leadership and needed to have other people advocate for them. A man in a wheelchair is told he has to find a member who has gone through leadership to do his bowel care instead of his trained staff to "get outside of his comfort zone". The people going through leadership this weekend have been told they need to "double the numbers of the group" by the end of the training.
They are encouraged to throw away the nightly homework when they return to, what Choice Center calls the "unreal world" because jealous spouses might try to tear you down and "wouldn't understand Choice Center". (between the homework, and things you had to buy for the next day Heath wouldn't go to sleep until 2-3am and was up the next day at 8). There was a personal call from the trainer, and during the week gap between the first weekend and the second, there were sales calls they had to sit through with people who were success stories to keep you motivated. There was also one of these rights after she got back.
We called Heath's niece, Ashley and sent her the article "White collar cults, they want your mind ...and your money, and six of your friends. A look at the new, white-collar world of cults--where 'personal growth' means brainwashing" by Dirk Mathison Self Magazine, Feb. 1993.
She wouldn't even read it because "that's 20 years old". Yeah, and they are still doing the same things -_- and people are still getting hurt from these "training". Ashely told Heath that she knew that she would do this because she doesn't trust the process, that's what the training was supposed to help and she is a negative person. She also said that if it's a cult, then so be it, because she is happy right now.
Ashley wouldn't have any of it and kept asking Heath to remember how happy she was during graduation, and that PTSD from this is normal.
Heath hasn't spoken to her sister, but Cassandra is on her way to becoming a trainer.