Naked Men: The ManKind Project and Michael Scinto

The organization was supposed to make him a better man. Instead, his parents say, it made him a dead one.

As for the chicken bashing, Sinclair says he cannot say what happened on Scinto's retreat because he wasn't there. However, he says that it might have been to "have a bit of levity. In the past they have brought out cooked chickens to sort of ritualize the feast" that the men have on Sunday to conclude the weekend.

It costs $650 to attend the initiation weekend, and then an additional $190 to attend eight weekly Integration Group meetings where men discuss how to incorporate the organization's philosophies into their everyday lives. Suggested activities to do during the Integration Group meetings include shaving another man's face, kidnapping a member of another Integration Group, and changing clothes with another man. Additionally, members can choose to pay hundreds of dollars more to work as staff members during retreats and to take advanced training courses, so they can rise within the organization's ranks and one day lead an initiation weekend. Members also pay yearly dues and are encouraged to make donations.

A 2005 tax return filed by the Houston center, also known as Men In Mission, shows the nonprofit group collected more than $242,000 in contributions and more than $300,000 in revenue, primarily derived from men paying to attend the retreat weekends.

The organization maintains its nonprofit tax status by asserting it provides educational services. However, critics say this claim is a sham. If the organization said it was doing therapy, it could jeopardize its special tax status.

"What it boils down to," says Rick Ross, head of the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey, which studies cults, groups and movements, "is that they are doing group therapy, although they won't admit to that, and they are not qualified to do group therapy. They are not licensed and they are not accountable."

Norris Lang, who chairs the anthropology department at the University of Houston and is a former therapist, agrees. He took part in an initiation retreat in 1997 and then attended several Integration Group meetings before deciding to leave the organization.

"Some of the exercises that they had us engage in," he says, "were fairly traumatic and normally, as a psychotherapist, I would have only engaged in some of those activities...in the security of a hospital or psychiatric facility. If you get somebody to get in touch with their feelings from, say, 30 years ago, a time when they were abused as children, that can be fairly dangerous territory for an unprofessional. It's kind of group therapy without any professionals involved."

Sinclair insists the training is not ­therapy.

"It's therapeutic," he says, "in that it's healing, and we have a lot of therapists who come, but we don't do therapy. What we do have is a very powerful process that men get involved in and they start to peel away, like an onion, and break down their armor or shield to get down to their core and who they are. We confront men to wake up and to stop with the BS, to stop telling lies and tell the truth and trust one another."

Although members claim they don't do therapy, The ManKind Project has been recognized by the American Psychological Association, which bestowed an award on Christopher Burke for his 2004 dissertation that looks at the impact The ManKind Project has had on men.

Ross says The ManKind Project appears to use coercive mind-control tactics. These include limiting participants' sleep and diet, cutting them off from the outside world, forcing members to keep secrets, and using intimidation.

Critics such as Ross have additional concerns as well, including the targeting of 12-step communities and what they say is an inadequate vetting system to determine who can and cannot withstand the stresses of the program.

"What they have is one size fits all," says Ross, "and that's the problem. So, the net result is you get people with issues and troubles, and the pressures of the program can crack them and cause them to have emotional distress. And that's why they have waivers you have to sign. They don't require waivers because everything is fine; they want them because everything has not always been fine and they don't want the legal liability. The bottom line is, I wouldn't recommend MKP to anyone under any circumstances."

Several years ago, "Bob" — who does not want his real name used because he says he fears retaliation — began hearing whispers about The ManKind Project in the hallways outside his 12-step group meeting room. Men were huddled in the corner, he says, quietly discussing the program. Soon, Bob noticed more and more members of his group began attending the "Warrior" weekends.

"They don't recruit in the classic sense," says Bob. "It's more subtle. They don't push it, but they reintroduce it to you every time they talk to you and suggest that you might want to try it. Members tell you it helped them clear up things from their past and allowed them to trust other men. And that's the hook. "

After researching the program on the Internet, Bob decided it wasn't for him. But that didn't mean he was free and clear of the group.

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5 comments
t.ariel.terry
t.ariel.terry

There are many other programs like this, including in the realm of evangelical christianity: 

twentyfourseven worldwide

24-7 leadership academy

teen mania honour academy

They fulfill most all the conditions for cult-status, and while they promise to be a launching pad to a great life, there are many silent sufferers(myself included) who spiral off in to greater depression and woundedness...secrecy as to the process, complete misrepresentation, or lack of representation of what is involved in the process, a fanatical devotion to leadership, mind and body control..usage of trauma to invoke change etc...very dangerous so please be warned

Colospgs_xplant
Colospgs_xplant

A shot in the dark here, since this post is older...I, too, am familiar with 24/7 and its many dysfunctions. If you need to speak to someone about it, I can help.

t.ariel.terry
t.ariel.terry

@Colospgs_xplant E-mail is nerds 'five two' @ hotmail.com ....substitute the words for   numbers in there and you have my address. 

Colospgs_xplant
Colospgs_xplant

Ariel, I shot you an email; hope I got the address correct.

 
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