Mass marthon training has a bad reputation and many people have been hurt by it.
[b:1b52e49a1b]13 liabilities of encounter groups, some of which are similar to characteristics of most current mass marathon psychotherapy training sessions:[/b:1b52e49a1b]
They lack adequate participant-selection criteria.
They lack reliable norms, supervision, and adequate training for leaders.
They lack clearly defined responsibility.
They sometimes foster pseudoauthenticity and pseudoreality.
They sometimes foster inappropriate patterns of relationships.
They sometimes ignore the necessity and utility of ego defenses.
They sometimes teach the covert value of total exposure instead of valuing personal differences.
They sometimes foster impulsive personality styles and behavioral strategies.
They sometimes devalue critical thinking in favor of "experiencing" without self-analysis or reflection.
They sometimes ignore stated goals, misrepresent their actual techniques, and obfuscate their real agenda.
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.
They pay inadequate attention to decisions regarding time limitations. This may lead to increased pressure on some participants to unconsciously "fabricate" a cure.
They fail to adequately consider the "psychonoxious" or deleterious effects of group participation (or] adverse countertransference reactions. (1969, p. 13)
As a result, participants and leaders may unconsciously distort their feelings and responses when reporting to researchers about the group or recruiting for future groups. This might result in a deceptive "oversell" that could undermine informed consent and lead to unrealistic regressive expectations in new recruits, the specific type of problems that have been found to lead to psychological casualties (see Yalom & Lieberman, 1972, below). Since these liabilities are so similar to the techniques used in some mass marathon training's, they may also cause psychological damage in that setting as well.
[b:1b52e49a1b]The groups were determined to be dangerous when:[/b:1b52e49a1b]
Leaders had rigid, unbending beliefs about what participants should experience and believe, how they should behave in the group. and when they should change.
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.
Leaders had an evangelical system of belief that was the one single pathway to salvation.
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."
Yalom and Lieberman concluded by again emphasizing the crucial importance of informed consent. "Our best means of prevention," they maintained, remains the type of group the subject enters, and our best means for prevention is self-selection. If responsible public education can teach prospective encounter group members about what they can expect in terms of process, risks, and profits from a certain type of group, then and only then can they make an informed decision about membership. (p. 253)
It is instructive to note that many mass marathon organizations are conducting their training in the exact manner found by Yalom and Lieberman to cause the greatest number of psychiatric casualties