More on the New Warriors Training Adventure

Since my initial post on the New Warriors Training Adventure, I have been asking around for reactions to the weekend. Also, I have been in contact with a large group of people who have attended one of the initiations. There is much secrecy surrounding this organization and the tone often borders on fear. I plan a series of posts on this topic to provide some information about what has been a fairly popular recommendation within reparative therapy circles. In fact, a couple of years ago, there was a significant rift in the New Warriors about a local branch that hosted a talk by Joseph Nicolosi. More on that in a later post.

I start with an account by an alum of the weekend and the follow up program, used by permission but anonymously. This describes reactions to the “welcome” offered by the staff of NWTA.


When you arrive at the NWTA all your possessions are taken away from you and searched. I didn’t want to hand over my camera because it cost a lot of money back then and I didn’t want them to have it.

They asked me if I had a camera and I said no. Then they opened my duffle bag and emptied everything on the floor and searched it. They opened my sleeping bag too. They found the camera and were angry that I lied to them. They took everything away, including tooth brush and tooth paste. (You know after all these years it’s still a little painful to remember this.) The only thing we were allowed to keep was an extra change of clothing, extra shoes, sleeping bag and pillow. Everything else was violently taken away from us.

After they searched my belongings, then they searched me. They did a pat down frisk, like the police do to a criminal. I was told to give up wallet, car keys, cell phone, money, jewelry, wedding ring, everything. We were not allowed to keep one thing on our bodies except our clothing.

I felt like a common criminal. The whole time they yelled at us, degraded us. They wouldn’t let us look at the other men. We could only look where they told us too look. The whole time this was done by men who were dressed in total black. They also had black makeup on their faces to conceal their identities.

After this we were all taken to a small damp room and instructed to sit on a damp concrete floor. This was some kind of storage shed. There was no heat. This was in November. There was only one candle for light. After all the men were taken into this room, someone came in and yelled and cussed at us and he kicked over the candle, putting it out. We were then locked in this dark, totally lightless room for several hours.

I was cold and I was in pain sitting on the concrete floor. I didn’t know who was around me. I was separated from my friend that I came to the NWTA with. I didn’t know where he was and I wasn’t allowed to be by him. I began to cry. At last a door opened and we were allowed to go out. It was night and there was total darkness in the sky. We arrived at the NWTA at about 5 pm and it was light. Now it was after 9 pm and dark. Four hours in that lightless room. It was like I was kidnapped by a gang of terrorists.

I am aware this program is controversial and some who like NWTA might say that this is an unfair negative appraisal. However, the consistency of those who I am in contact with is significant and matches the stories of others who are more positive about the weekend. I provide this and future posts for information purposes.

Another blog that analyzes human potential groups has picked up on this issue a bit here…

22 thoughts on “More on the New Warriors Training Adventure”

  1. Sean–

    The Warriors is not an ex-gay gig. It sounds like they would be open to ex-gay and gay participants alike but my take from reading so far is that the attendees are predominantly straight (or at least they thought they were…)

    When I was a ministry leader in Exodus, I was against the idea of a live in program. My memorable quote from some 30 years ago was : A halfway house for homosexuals is like a Teen Challenge with marijuana plants on the windowsills.

    I still have a negative gut reaction to the forced bonding/nakedness rituals but I do concede that it could clear up some body misperceptions of some. My thinking is that a teenager who thinks he’s gay will likely do what I did in the locker room. Take a locker as far away from the others as I could; always try to face the other way; shower first, last or not at all; and, above all, never, ever be caught looking. The stress and trauma prevented casual looking or observation.

    Next exposure to male full-frontal nakedness was pornography. So a guy starts thinking that everybody’s got ‘a big one’. Usually, their own falls short of the porn image so it lends to feelings of insecurity and envy. I can see that sitting around for hours, naked, with guys who don’t look like porn stars, would clear up those misconceptions effectively.

    Some of the straight men likely have these misconceptions also. I’m wondering if the CockTalk (arrgghh, I’ve said it…) might be a reality version of Locker Room Talk…without the phony bravado, the bragging and the tales of prowess and conquests. How many men go through life not realizing that most of what they learned in the locker room was pure bull?

    LOL! But I swear there’s gotta be a better way!

  2. The event sounded more like a trip to the bathhouses. LOL seriously guys. Who really wants to feel over comfortable in a locker room with naked guys. One works out at the gym, showers and flys.

    I also find it quite odd that a bunch of Exgay guys will call an exercise “Cocktalk” and sit around naked. That is sorta analogous to a group of acoholics holding an AA meeting in the local Pub.

    I guess a question I have, is after all these “Exercises” are any of these poor souls any closer to be Str8, than they were prior to the naked campfire thing ?

  3. I have to tell you, it sounds more like a sorority initiation than a therapy. Nakedness around the same gender (check), some humiliation (check), and discussion(check).

    Warren, it shows great desparation that you would even consider this. Funny how quickly you might discount same-sex marriage, even with both sound legal and moral arguments on the other side, etc..but a few naked men running around posing as therapy – THAT you give serious thought to?

    Astonishing really.

  4. Boy this is fun.


    The intake process…and the exposure of Shadow.

    No doubt my resentments during this time could be a completely reasonable reaction to a depriving and ambiguous situation. Dependency on Authority in ambiguous situations is often a very adaptive, highly socialized and reasonable skill to employ. At it was nearly completely frustrated during the intake process at NWTA.

    What I found powerful, was how I had learned over the years to use dependency as a means of navigating such situations. I will elaborate later today, but it was powerful to learn that my first reaction, when frustrated repeatedly led to resentment and then awareness of my co-contribution…

    Thanks again Warren, for being challenging.

  5. There are two main issues for me: 1/ the lies and yet more lies I was told at my ‘interview’ before I decided NOT to attend a NWTA weekend, and 2/ the use by untrained (that is non-professionally trained and acredited) amateurs to conduct Jungian and Gestalt etc. psychotherapy on participants without adequate control or support when things go wrong. Then there is the cost – ther are far better and cheaper ways to become a man – like learning to love and respect men AND women – something that MKP does not appear to do.

  6. It was so clear by the end of the weekend how my projections had distorted who the facilitators actually were. Very good, for me.

    Here is how my contextual mind works when I read that. Were those projections or were they reasonable reactions given the characteristics of the context? Given what the facilitators were doing, it would seem like an expected reaction in that circumstance. Here I am thinking of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and Milgram’s Teacher-Learner paradigm. The power of the situation was at work and created feelings and behaviors which go with being in those situations. The volunteers in the Stanford Prison Experiment were randomly assigned to conditions but the behavior was best predicted by their role in the situation – prisoner or guard. Prior to the event, the guards were not more violent or harsh and the prisoners were not more docile; the situation required a response and the participants largely played their role.

    If one grows up in a manipulative and harsh situation and encounters it again, we could call that a projection or we could call it a reasonable response to being bullied and manipulated. It would seem to be a projection if these feelings came up in a benign, non-manipulative situation. If anything, it sounds like the NWTA deliberately creates a situation which is manipulative and provocative. It doesn’t surprise me that people react as they do. What is troubling are those reactions which could lead to worsening mental health. Not saying I know how often that happens, I don’t. NWTA people say it is infrequent; those who are troubled believe it to be more frequent.

    David’s point about differentiating NWTA for masculinity issues and unwanted SSA is key. Whatever value NWTA might have, it does not make any theoretical sense to me why such interventions would address SSA, beyond placebo. Again, though, I am open to learning and listening so bring it on…

  7. Interesting new poster comments, thanks James and Tito for commenting.

    My impressions of the “cock talk” is that is what quite stunning to hear the stories of men who had been abused by priests or abused women or who had profound disappointments sexually and how this had stayed with them throughout their lives. It blew up the whole masculine myth of sexuality being largely a drive to be satisfied with no personal baggage associated with it.

    The “naked trust walk” was particularly difficult, I remember how vulnerable I felt…a sense of vulnerability I had not experienced in years.

    The whole intake process was very intense, specifically in my case it uncovered deep resentments of authority, distrust. It was so clear by the end of the weekend how my projections had distorted who the facilitators actually were. Very good, for me.

    Thanks again, Warren, for providing this forum for this topic. Especially as it needs to be differentiated from therapy and treatment for unwanted SSA.

  8. Warren said: “It is hard to escape the impression that much of what is done is a substitute for therapy.”

    Probably this is true for alot of things like this, but it is not proposed as such.

  9. Warren,

    I wonder if any gay men go just to get a kick out of being around a bunch of naked men – I suppose it might make a difference if the men are attractive – or if some repressed homosexual men go for this same reason. There are so many reasons I can think of for people to attend this that have nothing to do with the intentions behind the group. 🙂

  10. So basically it’s a cult that may or may not feature copious nudity.

    On the plus side, it still ranks as one of the relatively less weird/offensive/dangerous things recently promoted by a NARTH member.

  11. James, I am not surprised that you would have seen fear reduction (locker room, and exposure) from the weekend. It sounds like In-vivo behavioral therapy. One is exposed (literally in this case) to the avoided or feared object or situation in a social context of safety. I have treated a number of fears in this manner. Many of the exercises I have been reading about sound like Gestalt therapy exercises. It is hard to escape the impression that much of what is done is a substitute for therapy.

  12. Warren,

    I’m just curious how many different groups like this exist in this country? I know there are many, I just wonder how many?

  13. Warren,

    I never read one way or the other if you had participated first hand in the NWTA but I’m going to assume not by your above post. I’m also going to assume you’re not being facetious when you wrote

    “I wonder how much cock talk and naked forest run (not sure what that is) contributed…”

    To answer your question: I can not quantify how sitting in a circle 9cock talk) contributed to the above mentioned changes in my life. Even more difficult would be to articulate it. What I will say is prior to participating in the weekend, I was ashamed to be in a locker room at the “Y” without a towel safely wrapped around my waist, now I’m not. Prior I was embarrassed to be naked around my brothers (real ones) and talk about painful/positive (or otherwise) sexual issues…now I’m not.” You’re a man of science and I know there’s no hard science there.

    But those were immediate gifts I gained fromthe weekend.

    I can see how these thigs may seem strange or even scary. If someone had told me that I was goingto sit in a circle and discuss sexuality, I may not have gone. I can also see how men who have been abused would shy away from that experience. Thats why before the circle is formed, men are told thay have the option of not undressing, and not sharing. In the 15 times I staffed a weekend, I’ve seen many men choose not to undress, not to participate and NEVER had I seen a staff member pressure someone to do otherwise. If I had, I would have been the first one to do something about it.

    My brother, who is a licenced psychotherapist did the weekend and found the cock talk exercise one of the high points along with the midnight adventure. He’s mostly anti-warrior like you and most of the others on this site but not becasue of cock talk, psychodramas, integration groups, etc…He doesn’t like the organization of the leadership.

    So, I can see why you and others who have not done the weekend would find this exercise weird, uncomfortable and maybe even scary.

  14. Sounds like they got the “warrior” part right. I have little doubt, that like the military, “basic training” brings forth as many different emotions etc. as there are humans to have them.

    The sitting in the dark on the concrete floor, though, conjured up the image of the fellow in Abu Gra (or however it is correctly spelled) — you, know, the one with the dunce cap who appeared to be wired.

    Heck, if your’re gonna put yourself through all this, might as well enlist and go to Iraq. At least you’d have some educational, etc… benefits waiting for you if you return.

  15. James – I am glad for you that it all worked out. And if this was the norm, I suppose for certain people such exercises can be helpful. I do wonder how much the cock talk and naked forest run contributed. It is not so much that I am skeptical of some of the exercises used but I do think the same results could come without the fringe, new age, spiritist activities.

    I also wonder how much has changed since you were involved. Most of the people who are sharing their experiences with me are from the last 5 years. I will value your point of view as I post more content on NWTA. I am also looking at this from the point of view that some faith traditions are not consistent with the activities conducted and so should be warned.

  16. Dr. Throckmorton,

    I appreciate your comment on NWTA especially the rational tone of you post. You seem like a man that can dialogue on this controversy in a respectful way.

    It seems NW really triggers people, both those who have participated and those who haven’t. I’m 44 years old and went through the weekend in MAy of ’93. Next to sobering up in AA (May 88) it has been pivotal in steering me on a path of spiritual, emotional and mental growth. Let me emphasize here that it was one of many things, including one-one-one therapy, that have been instrumental in choosing individuation and giving me a sense of what mature, clean manhood is.

    A lot of the comments I’ve seen above seem hysterical and down right exaggerated. I’ve never seen the abuse, humiliation, screaming etc…these people talk about. Maybe on one of the weekends retreats some person got abusive and screamed but that is isolated. I’m not trying to protect, deny or deflect criticism from NWTA..It definitely has its faults. My mother was in psychotherapy and was abused by her therapist. Abuse has occured many times in your own discipline. Would I say that all psychotherapist and psychiatrist are quacks and abusive? To the contrary. I know to well how important these professions are and how much positive work they’ve contributed to the community. I’m a high school teacher. I’ve been one for 15 years. I’ve seen abuse and I’ve reported it. I know most teachers are good and would never condemn the whole public school system because of the screw ups of a few.

    So then that brings me back to NWTA. I’m no longer active in NW but own so much to it. My father and I were estranged for many years. He did the weekend two years after I did (at my behest). I participated as a staff member. During he weekend, we had the opportunity to talk face to face, man to man (not father to son) for the first time ever. It was skillfully facilitated and I was ably to feel safe enough to speak my truths to him, tell him about my self, let him see my pain and hurt from the past. Then, I looked into his eyes and got to hear the mountains of hurt and pain he had stuffed and repressed for years and years. It was truely a magical moment (actually an hour!). The truth was spoken in a safe container, in a huge circle of men looking on, with competent facilitators (not novices as some suggest). I can’t think of a more powerful way for a father and son to interface on such a real level. It never would have happened on our own volition. Could it have happened in another therapudic context….sure. But I’m glad it happened with some of my best friends around and some strangers. I will say, that that weekend didn’t solve all the problems we had, but it started us down the road to healing to a point now where we interact on a more real level and are more like two friends then the sick dysfunctional relationship we had for years.

    I hear your concern about the “novices or non-trained facilitators” that lead the weekend. This is legitmate. If the weekend was billed as therapy or something similar then I would be on board for shutting NWTA down. It’s no more therapy then when I sit down with troubled students and talk to them and listen to them share profound feelings.

  17. Perhaps there’s something about people’s intentions and expectations going in to it. There are things I don’t like about Warrior culture, and there were parts of the weekend I didn’t really care for. Still don’t.

    But, I went with the expectation that I was going to just “experience” the whole weekend, integrate what I felt valuable, and leave what I didn’t. That’s what I did and I it was overall a positive experience, with a couple parts of it being near-breakthrough and quite cathartic concerning some issues I’d been trying to work through. I continue to participate with the same attitude.

  18. Warren, those who have gone through the MKP weekend, tend to go on to attend, what they call, Integration (“I”) groups, which usually meet once a week. This helps the men, further their work, and the principles of MKP. Given, your attention and the media’s attention to those who have had, so-called negative impacts, maybe they should form support groups, their own type of “I” group. Maybe not call them “I” groups, but “whine” groups? Not meaning the whining that is necessarily unreasonable, but in that it is repeated and to some onlookers, bordering on irritating. Not, saying I consider myself to personally think of these as such, just a thought or suggestion for folks to consider.

  19. My experience with the weekend is about like this man’s story. You have to understand the situation to understand why people stay. You are berated for wanting to leave and peer pressure is used to get you to stay. There are as many staff as people paying money to be there. The pressure is very real and once you stay you have to tell yourself something in order to make it ok. Even people who stay in it, I think are doing the same thing. THis is supposed to help and I did it so it must be a good hting. Looking back I should hae spent my money on something else.

  20. Warren said:

    I start with an account by an alum of the weekend and the follow up program, used by permission but anonymously.

    If he had such a negative reaction to the weekend program, why go to a follow-up?

  21. I’ve done this weekend, and his description is a bit dramatic. Even men I know who didn’t care for it as much don’t describe it as negatively as this man does. I’ve staffed as well, and the intent is nothing like he seems to have experienced.

    I’ve also done the Journey into Manhood weekend, and I would easily recommend that one to anyone, while I would be more selective with NWTA. Both weekends, however, were very meaningful growth experiences for me personally. Two of the best things I’ve done.

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