Saturday, 11 November 2017

“Alcoholics Anonymous as a Mutual-Help Movement: A Study in Eight Societies” University of Wisconsin Press, 1996

"Indispensable for anyone trying to understand AA at the end of the twentieth century."                        - Harry G. Levine, Queens College, City University of New York.

Though published 21 years ago, this international collaborative study of A.A. at locations in the USA, Austria, Finland, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Mexico, is still relevant for anyone trying to understand A.A. in the 21st century. For any A.A. member wishing to understand the 60 years of history that has passed since A.A. published Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, this study will also provide some useful insight into the spread and development of the fellowship alongside what is termed "Institutional 12-Step Treatment" during in this period.

See also: “DIVERSITY IN UNITY: Studies of Alcoholics Anonymous in Eight Societies”  http://www.nordicwelfare.org/PageFiles/5230/33publikation.pdf

Given the widespread deviations from A.A. Traditions observed, the separatist movement in Mexico, and the large number of A.A. members, old and new, who are now leaving A.A., these studies could also be aptly titled “DISUNITY IN DIVERSITY: Studies of Alcoholics Anonymous in Eight Societies.”

Extract from "Alcoholics Anonymous as a Mutual-help Movement: A Study in Eight Societies"        p. 193:

“In recent years, however, the relation of AA to the criminal justice system has substantially changed in the United States. It is now common practice in many parts of the United States for the judge to require attendance at AA meetings as part of the sentence for drunk driving or other criminal offenses. To verify attendance, the secretary of the AA meeting signs or initials the “court card” carried by the probationer. The practice appears to have started in the late 1960s in southern California, at the initiative of enthusiastic judges and with considerable doubt among old-timers in AA, but the practice is now so widespread in the United States that it is taken for granted. Discussions continue, though, about the difficulties this new form of association with the criminal justice system has caused for AA’s functioning.
    Of our study sites, it is only in the United States that the formal practice of “court-carding” has taken root. In a less formal style, however, the criminal court process in Mexico and Sweden also encourages affiliation with AA, and holds out the prospect that this liaison will secure more lenient handling in the courts. In future years, AA may come under pressure in a wider variety of countries to serve a formal social control function on behalf of the criminal justice system.
   The issue of compulsion is not limited to the criminal justice system. Mandatory treatment is increasingly prescribed not only because of homelessness or public deviance but also because of insufficient work performance or family problems (Takala, Klingemann, & Hunt, 1992), which means that it is spreading to new groups of the population. In the United States, for instance, employers sometimes request AA meeting attendance of their employees.”

If you are an A.A. member, you might ask yourself this question: Do you, or does your A.A. group, contrary to A.A. Traditions, Five and Six, serve a formal social control function on behalf of the criminal justice system? or employers? 

For information on the difficulties this new form of association with the criminal justice system has caused for A.A.’s functioning see:

Thursday, 2 November 2017

“From Miracle to Madness: The True Story of Charles Dederich and Synanon” by Paul Morantz, 2nd. Edition, Cresta Publications, 2015

Written mainly from the Synanon cult’s records and tape recordings by Paul Morantz a lawyer specialising in cults and brainwashing. This important book records the history of Synanon's fraudulent and violent operations extensively, including crucial details that are largely ignored in some historical accounts.  

- Suggested reading in the AA Minority Report 

“The Light on Synanon: How a country weekly exposed a corporate cult - and won the Pulitzer Prize” Seaview Books, 1980

Co-written by journalists Dave Mitchell and Cathy Mitchell and Professor Richard Ofshe, University of California, Berkeley, this book presents a remarkable account of courageous journalism. Despite intimidation from a multi-million dollar corporate cult, and at risk to themselves, the Mitchells continued to publish reports on Synanon in their small town weekly newspaper at a time when  nationwide media outlets had fallen silent - fearful of Synanon’s litigation campaign against the media. For its exposé of Synanon, the Point Reyes Light newspaper won the Pulitzer Gold Medal for Meritorious Public Service in 1979. This important book records crucial details of Synanon cult history that are largely ignored in some historical accounts.

- Suggested reading in the AA Minority Report
See also:  “The Social Development of the Synanon Cult: The Managerial Strategy of Organizational Transformation” by Richard Ofshe, University of California, Berkeley: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3709903?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Sunday, 29 October 2017

"Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids" by Maia Szalavitz, Riverhead Books, 2006

In this book, journalist Maia Szalavitz traces the roots of the USA’s troubled-teen industry to the Synanon cult, records the rise of this billion-dollar-a-year 'Tough Love' industry, examines the forces that drive it, and exposes the abuses and misleading claims of success that led to congressional investigations and legislation. 

She discusses how this industry usurps the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps, twisting them so perversely that they meet Lifton’s criteria for thought-reform programmes.

 -  Suggested reading in the AA Minority Report

The con continues…

Friday, 20 October 2017

"Confronting Confrontation Therapy"

A victim of a Synanon “Tough Love”/ 12-step rehab in the UK shares his experience, strength and hope...

 “I had just been on a prodigious alcoholic bender…
…I decided that some form of treatment might help. Not having twenty-thousand-or-so pounds lying around for an inpatient stay, I decided to try a local “community-rehab” which offers a cost-free programme. I was treated for a total of four weeks as an outpatient before I left the programme in disgust. My rehab practised a version of what is termed variously “attack therapy”, “confrontation therapy”, “reality therapy” or the “Minnesota model”. The underlying premise of the method is to take the group participants through the first five steps of the twelve steps found in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous…
…The rehab facility I attended is part of an organisation that offers a wide range of different services to addicts and alcoholics in my local area. I believe it is partly funded by the local health authority, and partly by charitable sources. They treat service users on an outpatient basis, in one-on-one, group-therapy and family sessions. As a group, we were only expected to come in for one full day a week. During that day we were required to spend all our time with the group and to participate in two two-hour group therapy sessions. We also had a weekly one-to-one with our designated counselor.
I’m not sure exactly what it was, but something about the group didn’t sit right with me from the outset. Maybe it was the way that we were required to mercilessly interrogate and belittle the other group members. It may have had something to do with the fact that the group was trying to get me to accept that I was “powerless” and broken, and that only unconditionally accepting a bunch of crazy-sounding, guilt-inducing religious dogmas could possibly save me from the intangible demonic force of “alcoholism”. Anyway, something about this group made me want to go out and ask some serious questions about it…
...Synanon members would sit around and verbally lay into each other, no holds barred, in what was claimed to be a treatment for alcoholism/addiction. “The game” also seems to have involved public confession of sins. The leader of the group, Dederich, eventually seems to have used the sessions to pressurise people into carrying out his will. The practice of verbally attacking a Synanon member was also known as giving her/him a “haircut”.
The sessions at my rehab match this description perfectly, minus the “improvisational comedy”. (They were humorous, but only in a “laugh at them” kind of way.) The group sessions were extremely confrontational. We were initially a group of six, although that number halved very quickly. From the outset, we were told that holding back or refusing to join in the confrontational process actually displayed a lack of concern for our fellow group members. Compassion kills, people! We needed to give them “tough-love” or they would surely meet with a grim alcoholic demise. In case we still found it difficult to lay into the other members, we were assured that we were “challenging the addiction, not the person”…

We invite you to read on - an intelligent and thought provoking article: 
 And ask some serious questions, not only about misuse of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" as an addiction treatment by the rehab, but also the A.A. members this person encountered. Both of the rehab's lead counselors are described as "group elders" of "local twelve-step meetings." Based on this experience this person now believes that either A.A. is a cult, or he's a banana.

The meaning and intent of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” together with the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps, and indeed the minds of some A.A. members themselves, are being psychologically twisted by the addiction treatment industry in a manner only cults and corporations can.

With Government implementation of the Synanon Cult based Therapeutic Communities Movement’s Recovery Orientated Integration System (ROIS) (also known as Recovery Oriented Systems of Care) into British drug addiction and alcoholism treatment systems. A.A. groups and intergroups in England, Scotland and Wales can expect to see the establishment of an increasing number of this type of hybrid Synanon/12-step  rehab. For more details see AA Minority Report 2017

Friday, 11 August 2017

"Taking Liberties Cults and Capitalism"

An article on Synanon by Ann Neumann, visiting scholar at the Center for Religion and Media at  New York University:
See also, “The Social Development of the Synanon Cult: The Managerial Strategy of Organizational Transformation” by Richard Ofshe, University of California, Berkeley:

Saturday, 5 August 2017

‘Confirmation of Attendance’ or ‘chit’ system

 ‘Confirmation of Attendance’ or ‘chit’ system

In Great Britain, what started out as the Probation ‘Confirmation of Attendance’ or ‘chit’ system continues to expand, now being made available to social workers, courts and employers  – to almost any ‘professional’ who requires a ‘client’ to provide proof of their A.A. meeting attendance.

This expansion is in line with Government implementation of the Synanon Cult based Therapeutic Communities Movement’s Recovery Orientated Integration System (ROIS) into British drug addiction and alcoholism treatment systems.  The ROIS treatment system includes coercive referral to A.A.  ROIS is also known as Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC). US style drug courts have been trialled in Scotland, England and Wales.

While sections of the A.A. service structure in Great Britain are responding positively to these external initiatives, A.A. groups may not be fully informed as to the origin and nature of ROIS, or how the participation in signing of proof of attendance slips in the USA has compromised A.A. unity and public relations.

Whether for or against the  ‘Confirmation of Attendance’ or ‘chit’ system, A.A. members in Great Britain would do well to read the following A.A. report from the USA:

  “A Report on the Status of Cooperation with Courts in the Mid-Michigan Area and AA as a Whole” 

Containing A.A. reports from Mid-Michigan, Dallas and Maryland, this report documents problems A.A. groups have faced, gives analysis of A.A. Traditions, and how groups in some areas have resolved issues of disunity and affiliation with outside entities. The report documents how groups in Dallas, Chicago and Maryland have developed methods of cooperating with the Criminal Justice System which do not involve A.A. groups signing proof of attendance slips.


“What started out as an offer to work with any probationers that wanted help, has evolved into a complex system that is full of punitive measures such as daily breath and urine tests, group counseling and even 24-7 alcohol level monitors. The latest addition is the implementation of “recovery coaches” which seem to further blur the line between cooperation and affiliation.”

“The courts have sentenced parties who are not alcoholics to our meetings. The melding of sobriety courts and drug courts has created Singleness of Purpose issues. Now the expansion into “Healing Courts” and “Mental Health Courts” has been too tempting to court professionals who view assigning AA meetings as a catchall that is easily justified under the umbrella of “what can it hurt?” Their lack of understanding coupled with AA’s general inability to communicate what AA is, and is not, has contributed to AA in fact becoming a dumping ground.” (Mid-Michigan, Cooperation with the Professional Community Committee, District 6, Area 32: ‘A Report on the Status of Cooperation with Courts in the Mid-Michigan Area and AA as a Whole’).

 “Our experience has gone from early euphoria at "so many new-comers" to concern, frustration, dissension, and finally, to a general realization that our survival was threatened.” (Maryland General Service Office: ‘D.W.I.’S and COURT SLIPS IN AA MEETINGS - A Report on the Experience of the Maryland Area of Alcoholics Anonymous’)

“AA members cannot police attendance, answer questions about probation, or allow probation officers who are not alcoholic to attend closed meetings. Of greater importance, we cannot give our names and telephone numbers for verification by the judicial system. All of this is in direct violation of Tradition 12. Anyone who attends an AA meeting should have the confidence that their anonymity will be preserved nor should anyone be required to divulge that information because of affiliation with an outside entity.”

“Alcoholics Anonymous becomes affiliated in the minds of the probationers with the judicial system. In signing the papers, we underscore that affiliation. We are violating both traditions 3 and 6.”

“Instead of being sentenced to A.A., the probationers are sentenced to CRIP. Since CRIP is a court program, probation officers are present to sign all papers, monitor attendance and answer questions.” (Dallas Intergroup Board of Trustees: ‘Court Referral Information Program Information Sheet’)

For full report PDF Click Here

- Will this be the shape of things to come for A.A. in Great Britain?

- Have the A.A. service structures in the USA and Great Britain been tricked into integrating A.A. with an external treatment system which in the long term benefits Synanon Cult based Therapeutic Communities at the expense of A.A. as a whole?

For more information on the Recovery Orientated Integration System (ROIS) and how this system integrates with A.A. see AA Minority Report 2017: “Synanon Cult Influence on Alcoholics Anonymous, Addiction Treatment and the Criminal Justice System 1968-2017”