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.

"If you have any kind of desire to know more about yourself and how to be a better man, then I think it's awesome," he says.

Joseph attended one of the very first Houston initiation weekends in 1992 and is no longer active. However, his company pays for half of the fee should his employees decide to attend the weekend. And looking through the 2005 roster, many have.

When asked if he is concerned about the effect a psychologically stressful retreat could have on someone struggling with addiction, Joseph says that The ManKind Project is not his first recommendation for patients leaving his rehab centers; however, he does refer some people to it once they are out on their own and sober.

"I guess there are two types of people who should be excluded," he says, "if you have no sense of adventure and you think your life is already perfect. (But) I don't see that many people would need to be excluded from it."

Psychotherapist Michael Butera attended the retreat in 2001 and says he also refers patients to the program. He feels it can help men discover they have a connection with other men if they are feeling like outsiders and unconnected to the world.

"I could never do what The ManKind Project does in my office," he says, "because there's no way to give the person feedback like that. I can tell him something, but I'm a therapist. But if he has ordinary guys tell him, it's the kind of validation you cannot get in psychotherapy."

In a way, Butera answers some of the questions that plague critics of The ManKind Project. He admits the weekend is analogous to therapy and that the processes used are powerful enough to cause some men real trauma.

"There are people who would be too fragile to go through it," he says. "And MKP themselves do not want people who are actively psychotic because it may be too overwhelming to them. I think (they) do the best they can with the screening process, but that doesn't mean someone can't get through that might be too fragile. I've never had any difficulty with anyone I've ever referred, but I can appreciate, like in a 12-step program, those are not all professional people who are referring. So, mistakes will be made...and perhaps some people are referred who should not be."

Dr. John Hochman, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, says he has seen a few patients who attended the retreat. One, he says, would not talk about it; another was scared to death.

"Some people can't deal with it," he says. "It rings of bad therapy and doesn't pass the smell test to me. The refrain of all these groups is that they're not therapy groups, they're something else. They're education, yeah, that's a good one."

He gets a chuckle out of the fact The ManKind Project uses parts of Jung and other well-known psychologists.

"What this does is give it a patina of credibility because there's a philosophy behind it and it's not just some mean bully," he says. "It's like, 'We've got this philosophy,' Jung's 'Shadow,' so they're really sensitive and thinking people, (while) putting you through this psychological wringer."

There seems to be a gray area in Texas law as to whether or not practicing techniques such as the ones utilized on the retreats is lawful. There are numerous licensing boards depending on whether you are a psychologist or a counselor. And there does not seem to be a consensus among them.

The Texas Department of State Health Services licenses social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists. Spokeswoman Emily Palmer says that so long as the people conducting the activity do not bill themselves as licensed practitioners during the activity, there are no rules against practicing techniques traditionally used by a licensed counselor.

Sherry Lee, executive director of the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, says sanctions can be imposed.

"If someone is not licensed by our act and they either claim to be a psychologist or to provide psychological services, or if the very nature of what they're doing is psychological services, in other words, if it smells of psychological services, then we would issue them a cease-and-desist order," she says. "There is also an incumbency on anyone who holds a state license that you can't just do something that's in violation of the act or rules. So, if you're a licensed psychologist and you're out there saying, hypothetically, 'I'm doing therapy to reduce your tendency to want to kill yourself,' clearly that is practicing therapy, even though you may call it something else."

About five months after the suicide, Ralph Scinto says he became short-tempered and difficult to live with, so he separated from his second wife and moved into a motel near Bush Intercontinental Airport. He is still there, as if frozen in time.

"I'm just floating, just existing," he says, chain-smoking menthol cigarettes inside an office at the motel. "I try every day not to think about it."

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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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