What's important to realize is the inherent dangers of doing LGATs.
Note the liabilities, which are present in almost every LGAT.
13 liabilities of encounter groups, some of which are similar to characteristics of most current 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.
The 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."
LGATs seem to often utilize "coercive persuasion" techniques to manipulate participants.
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
Noted psychiatrist and researcher Robert Lifton labeled the extraordinarily high degree of social control characteristic of organizations that operate reform programs as their totalistic quality (Lifton 1961). This concept refers to the mobilization of the entirety of the person's social, and often physical, environment in support of the manipulative effort. Lifton identified eight themes or properties of reform environments that contribute to their totalistic quality:
1. Control of communication
2. Emotional and behavioral manipulation
3. Demands for absolute conformity to behavior prescriptions derived from the ideology
4. Obsessive demands for confession
5. Agreement that the ideology is faultless
6. Manipulation of language in which cliches substitute for analytic thought
7. Reinterpretation of human experience and emotion in terms of doctrine
8. Classification of those not sharing the ideology as inferior and not worthy of respect
Thought reform (aka coercive persuasion or "brainwashing) is distinctly different from other forms of persuasion such as education, advertising, propaganda and indoctrination.
This chart makes distinctions between various forms of persuasion.
This is an archive of information about various "human potential" groups.
Note the history of problems and controversy surrounding such groups.
If you rewind many new groups their leaders often started with one of the older LGATs and simply devised a spin-off using many of the same techniques they learned at the previous group.
It is much safer to rely upon more credible alternatives such as continuing accredited education, counseling from a licensed professional and/or advice from family and friends, given the often sordid and destructive history of LGATs.