The article Eyewitnesses and Leaked Document Reveal Events From the Last Week of Kristin Snyder adds a lot of important detail and context about her disappearance. Thanks for the great work.
I’d love to know what a real professional used to dealing with people in the midst of mental health crises thought of the situation now that it is better documented.
Overall, it fleshes out the picture of Kristin Snyder definitely being very mentally disturbed, even delusional, and suicidal – not to mention sleep deprived. And it all seems too real for her to have been faking it – NXIVM’s conspiracy theory about her staging her disappearance aside.
NXIVM’s EMs [Exploration of Meaning therapy sessions] bore some similarities to Scientology “auditing,” from what I can tell.
They’re based on an early psychological technique related to hypnosis called abreaction, which takes people through past traumas in an attempt to alleviate them, and which can produce a sense of relief and even euphoria. But it turns out that it is not long-lasting, with some subjects getting significantly worse rather than marginally better, plus the technique can induce false memories (including of supposed past lives), and so it was abandoned by professional psychologists by about the middle of the last century.
If an amateur like Ed Kinnum was giving Snyder EMs when she was in a troubled state, that’s a recipe for making things worse.
Something likely similar happened in the infamous case of Lisa McPherson in Scientology, where a young woman became extremely disturbed and ended up dead after the group’s attempts to avoid taking her to a hospital for real care.
Group processes used in NXIMV’s intensives probably had a similar basis and, so, could also have similar effects. Various human potential groups have used these sort of techniques because they’re a fairly easy way to produce impressive-seeming results – so much so that quite a few figures of early psychology were enamored of them until their long-term outcomes and implications were better understood – but their overall ineffectiveness, and dangers in a small but significant number of cases, are hard for untrained amateurs to grasp.
“Being at cause” is a concept heavily used in Scientology, and probably originating with it, though it’s really just a jumble of other ideas. As this example shows, it is badly defined and covers everything from realistic personal responsibility to what might be classified as “magical thinking” – and as Frank elucidates, is often used in cults to try to hold people responsible or blame them, for things over which they had no control or were not even involved in.
Chiappone Carlson sounds like the most dangerous amateur of all, with her dogmatic and heartless attitude regarding even things she was completely wrong about, such as suicide attempts – which are actually about 10 times more common than completed suicides (though still hardly to be dismissed).
And it’s interesting that they said that Snyder was going to return to class. That indicates she may have found a ride back with someone like one of the coaches – but also, if you click the ‘Transit’ option on Google Maps, at least now there’s a bus that goes most of the way, too.
In the big picture, this is a reminder that groups like NXIVM can be dangerous, and shouldn’t be practicing counseling or therapy without adequate training or at least professional supervision.
I checked in with a source and verified what I had suspected, that NXIVM was grossly negligent in not having even done due diligence and copied what other groups do; in the Landmark Forum (formerly est), for instance, they do a bit of mental health pre-screening and then have a psychological professional on call in case there is any question about participants’ state of mind.