Sterling is a for-profit privately owned company, not a church, government, political party or branch of military service.
The Sterling company is based upon the personality, leadership and programs devised by Justin Sterling (aka Arthur ''Artie'' Kasarjian).
Sterling has no credentials in marriage and family therapy, counseling, etc. and has only his personal experience, which was a badly failed marriage that ended in a bitter divorce and supervised visitation with his daughter. His wife once worked with him at Sterling.
Sterling apparently was once involved in a notorious LGAT called est, now known as Landmark Education, which runs something called the Forum.
Sterling Institute of Relationship has a deeply troubled history of complaints and bad press.
Your defense of Sterling is startling, given its history.
LGATs (aka Human Potential groups) generally have a bad history.
Clinical psychologist Philip Cushman researched this subject and wrote the following research paper.
Cushman "isolated 13 liabilities of encounter groups, some of which are similar to characteristics of most current [LGATs] mass marathon psychotherapy training sessions:
1. They lack adequate participant-selection criteria.
2. They lack reliable norms, supervision, and adequate training for leaders.
3. They lack clearly defined responsibility.
4. They sometimes foster pseudoauthenticity and pseudoreality.
5. They sometimes foster inappropriate patterns of relationships.
6. They sometimes ignore the necessity and utility of ego defenses.
7. They sometimes teach the covert value of total exposure instead of valuing personal differences.
8. They sometimes foster impulsive personality styles and behavioral strategies.
9. They sometimes devalue critical thinking in favor of "experiencing" without self-analysis or reflection.
10. They sometimes ignore stated goals, misrepresent their actual techniques, and obfuscate their real agenda.
11. They sometimes focus too much on structural self-awareness techniques and misplace the goal of democratic education; as a result participants may learn more about themselves and less about group process.
12. They pay inadequate attention to decisions regarding time limitations. This may lead to increased pressure on some participants to unconsciously "fabricate" a cure.
13. They fail to adequately consider the "psychonoxious" or deleterious effects of group participation (or] adverse countertransference reactions."
Moreover "groups were determined to be dangerous when:
1. Leaders had rigid, unbending beliefs about what participants should experience and believe, how they should behave in the group. and when they should change.
2. Leaders had no sense of differential diagnosis and assessment skills, valued cathartic emotional breakthroughs as the ultimate therapeutic experience, and sadistically pressed to create or force a breakthrough in every participant.
3. Leaders had an evangelical system of belief that was the one single pathway to salvation.
4. Leaders were true believers and sealed their doctrine off from discomforting data or disquieting results and tended to discount a poor result by, 'blaming the victim.'"
Many former LGAT participants have said that the groups they were in used coercive persuasion techniques.
Staford University professor Richard Offshe identified "the key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are:
1. The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance
2. The use of an organized peer group
3. Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity
4. The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once modified."
Some attempting to apologize and/or ameliorate the methods used by LGATs that parallel coercive persuasion will often compare them to the military training, political propaganda, advertising, religious indoctrination or even education.
However, coercive persuasion, also called "thought reform," is quite different from education, advertising, propaganda and indoctrination.
This is a chart prepared by psychologist and University of California Berkeley professor Margaret Singer.
Most LGATs are run by for profit privately owned companies.
Again, as such they not typically subject to any licensing or regulation, as are licensed professionals, such as marriage and family therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
IMO -- People are far safer going with licensed professionals and support groups facilitated by licensed professionals available through local social services, colleges, community centers and/or hospital services.
If they want to join a men's group there are many with a far less controversial history than Sterling or MDI, such as as local Rotary clubs, businessman groups, the Elks, etc.
There are also sporting and outdoors clubs and activities, continuing education through local colleges etc.