Response to New Therapist Article on Social Therapy
by Phyllis Shulman, May 2003
Reprinted With Author's Permission
Dear John Söderland:
In response to your interview with Fred Newman that appeared in the most recent edition of New Therapist, it was very satisfying to have a highly respected international therapy journal pose such relevant questions to Mr. Newman concerning Social Therapy.
Newman's responses to your questions revealed the deceit and manipulation I had experienced while I was associated with his Social Therapy organization. Questions were not answered in a direct manner and numerous contradictions were made. It is a highly sophisticated operation, and the extremely subtle manner in which they operate methodically sucks you in.
I was a social therapy patient for over 4 years. The majority of that time was spent in a state of confusion, conflict and turmoil. These emotional struggles were not related to the issues I had originally sought help for; but were directly related to the volunteer work I did for several of their community programs (Independent Theatre, All Stars, Social Therapy Center, and political work).
I'd like to mention a few points that, in hindsight, were red flags I had chosen to ignore: the lack of professional boundaries between therapists and patients; and the confusion regarding my relationship with my therapist; the manipulative manner in which volunteer meetings were conducted; frequently raising issues and stirring emotions that resulted in Social Therapy sessions; the constant interjection of politics into almost everything in a most confusing manner. Political literature was displayed in the reception area of the therapy center; intimidation and humiliation by therapists in group therapy sessions and volunteer meetings; and the cultivation of intimate relationships, which created dependency between therapists and volunteers/ patients.
When I was originally introduced into this community, I was in an extremely vulnerable state. I made a lot of excuses for behaviors and actions that were questionable and concentrated on the positive aspects. It was only after I became acquainted with another person on the "inside" that I began to make sense of the confusion and doubt I was experiencing. I had finally met someone who was willing to express their concerns and experiences.
I did break free from the group. I am rebuilding my life and feeling so much better; however, some of the issues which originally brought me to Social Therapy remain unresolved. I have spent the past year researching totalitarian groups and mind control. In my opinion, Fred Newman's Group meets the criteria of a cult. My comment to Newman and his cohorts regarding their unethical and deceitful practices is, if the shoe fits wear it. It looks like a pretty damn good fit to me.