When the Houston Press first wrote about the ManKind Project, a secretive so-called men's-help group, following the suicide of a man who had attended the organization's initiation weekend, MKP's leadership declined to comment. Now, more than two years later, the group finally decided to speak up in the form of a letter on its website titled, "A Response to the Houston Press Article."
In the letter, MKP Executive Director Carl Griesser highlights several criticisms made by people interviewed in the story and tries to explain them away.
It appears, however, that Griesser does not deny many of the points he chooses to highlight and in some instances even admits that they are true.
Here are just a few examples:
Greisser takes issue with what some people claimed in the original story, that MKP recruits men involved in 12-step recovery programs. However, Griesser does not deny this, and in fact admits that "many men who have participated in the [initiation] have backgrounds in recovery."
Critics of MKP have said that the group does not adequately screen applicants who may be too fragile to face the emotional rigors of the program, despite a medical and psychological questionnaire which applicants are required to fill out. Without directly saying so, Griesser essentially admits this is true when he writes, "This year we have added additional questions to the form [to] improve our ability to identify men with emotional instability, mental illness, and suicidal ideation."
If the old screening method was effective and adequate, there is certainly an argument that there would be no need to "improve" it.
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Critics have also asserted that MKP practices therapy without a license. To this, Griesser writes, "It's certainly true that some of our processes could be used in group therapy." He also writes, "I think the real question at issue is whether our processes involve some risk to participants, and, if so, whether our leaders and staff are competent to facilitate them. The answer to the first question is yes ...."
Finally, several people who have attended the initiation and their families have claimed that MKP makes members sign a confidentiality agreement, essentially forcing them to keep secret what happens on the weekend retreats. Once again, Griesser does not deny this and in fact admits it. He also confesses that such secrecy is no longer practicable.
"We believe that an element of surprise challenges men to stretch into new abilities and perspectives," Griesser writes. "MKP has recently concluded that this approach to secrecy has provided fuel for those who characterize us as a cult, and that our commitment to secrecy has made it difficult to respond candidly to such accusations. For these reasons, we now encourage those who have been through the [initiation] to share information with others to the extent it is requested."
Griesser's letter takes an aggressive stand against the Houston Press, despite not denying many of the claims and criticisms made in the article by those who have intimate knowledge of the organization. However, it is good to see that MKP has taken those criticisms seriously and is changing the way it does business.