‘Psychology Today’ Probes Validity of NXIVM’s Claims

Psychology Today has published an article online by Alan Jern, Ph.D., dealing with the question of whether there’s any validity for NXIVM’s psychological ‘techniques’, and whether they were beneficial in some way to those receiving it.

It’s called Did the NXIVM Cult Actually Help People?HBO’s “The Vow” returns to give NXIVM defenders a voice.’ Doctor Jern talks about the second season of the documentary ‘The Vow’, and how ‘the main narrative spine of the second season is Raniere’s ensuing trial.’

Alan Jern, PHD.

‘But if that’s all it had to offer, it might feel a little stale or repetitive’, he writes, ‘after all, Raniere’s high-profile trial concluded over two years ago. Instead, the series goes beyond its first season in a compelling way by delving into the murkiness of NXIVM’s impact on its many devotees and the thousands of people who went through its Executive Success Program.’

Salzman’s Tourette claims are examined.

The author notes how ‘The Vow Part 2’ gives a voice to NXIVM defenders, most prominently Nancy Salzman.

‘Hearing from these people may provoke conflicting feelings in viewers. On the one hand, it may provoke pity for people who are still deeply in the throes of a harmful, cult-like ideology. On the other hand, it may provoke curiosity about whether NXIVM genuinely helped some people, despite the undeniable pain it inflicted on others.’

We have had reason to comment that on multiple articles: how a bogus narrative develops that the ESP curriculum was a ‘wonderful force for good’. It’s a narrative that Alan Jern is willing to put to the test in good faith.

Alan Jern notices how the Tourette claims rely not on scientific studies, but on a documentary made by a layman.

‘Salzman points to her success at treating Tourette syndrome using the methods she developed at NXIVM as evidence of the good they did’, he writes.

Jern talks about a ‘sense of ambivalence’ when watching the interview of Isabella Constantino, ‘who underwent intensive therapy at NXIVM to treat her severe Tourette syndrome years ago.’

‘Constantino, whose tics are now gone, nevertheless feels betrayed by her time in NXIVM: ‘It’s true, I stopped ticcing, but I become broken in other ways.’ ‘

The author of the article is prepared to accept the possibility of the claims that Salzman and her team may have found an alternative and effective treatment for Tourette, but remarks that ‘it seems highly unlikely given the group’s well-documented history of lies and manipulation’.

He notes that their approach ‘is not dramatically different from the Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT).’

Jern: Nxivm’s ‘penchant for secrecy and refusal to follow the norms of science means that their research was scientifically pretty worthless’.

In ‘Part 2’ Salzman makes her usual complaints about being betrayed by her former deferential pupils:  “17,000 people got good results. Where are they?”

Alan Jern reminds us that ‘getting good results through NXIVM’s programs is not necessarily evidence of their effectiveness.’

After much goodwill in his examination of NXIVM’s claims, Doctor Jern can’t help but come to a devastating conclusion: ‘Despite NXIVM’s obsession with being taken seriously by influential people and mainstream institutions, their penchant for secrecy and refusal to follow the norms of science means that their research was scientifically pretty worthless.’

About the author

Paul Serran


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    • It’s a slippery slope when government starts licensing philosophy – which is what life coaching really is or should be. Where do you draw the line between philosophy and religion and licensed practices?

      • Thanks Frank! If they are doing the same exact thing and giving counseling to those in need…isn’t it the same thing? Why in the world would anyone go get a 4-8 year college degree and get college loans, when a GED graduate can do the same thing and just call it “coaching”?

        • People use degrees and licenses to give the public confidence that they know and agree to certain things governed by licensing boards. They do it to make money.

  • Nancy wasn’t psychiatrist or a medical doctor. Her findings aren’t valid. Nancy was a witch doctor. The only two doctors nxivm had that could have validated Tourettes claims were too busy branding people and doing fright studies.

  • 17k people ran to the hills from a criminal organization and finally realized they got scammed. And many went to other cults like Landmark…or went solo and setup their own coaching companies. It lives on…just all just changed brand name but do the same thing. Nancy is just to narcissistic to realize that ESP was actually successful. It brainwashed so many people who went out and are carrying on the same mission under different company names and business types. Life coaches have exploded across the country. The scam lives on.

  • Landmark Forum says “we aren’t a cult”. Jehovas witnesses say “we aren’t a cult”. Flds say “we aren’t a cult “. Scientology says “we arent a cult”. Shoemaker says “we arent a cult”. If you have to say you aren’t a cult…you’re a cult.

  • I have been thinking about this whilst watching the Vow s.2. Nancy S was an ex nurse and is a good speaker but I don’t think she really thought about the “tech” too much. Some people are helped with stuff like this simply because they want someone to listen to them. Some doctor’s surgeries in the UK now have a person in the waiting room to talk to the old people there who are not really ill,just very lonely. So first people may be helped just by being given almost anything. Someone even paid me to life coach them once and it really is dead easy to do.

    Secondly elements of it are common sense – that it is wise to take some personal responsibility in life. However it seems then to go far too far and light scientology and indeed the FLDS group and many others requires every wrong to be the fault of the victim even when the victim is a true victim rather than just a making it up whinger. Cults take personal responsibility far too far. The essence eg that if you fall out with everyone always that that might be your own fault is accurate. Saying that if you don’t want sex with KR or any other cult leader then you must be at fault is clearly not.

  • How are “good results” measured? Such a sick joke to promote hope of treatment for a very challenging condition of Tourette’s, only for it to be another false claim by self-promoting money mongers.

  • “17,000 people got good results. Where are they?”
    -Nancy Salzman

    Ironically, Nancy asks the most pertinent question…..

    ….Where are they?

    Maybe “they” are like unicorns because “they” don’t exist……

    • “The NXIVM Vision: Creating a rational, ethical world.”

      17,000 people is such a paltry number for an organization trying to complete this vision for the last 20 years or so. At that rate, to reach all 7.8 billion people on earth today, they will have accomplished their mission in just 9.2 million years. I guess when I put it like that it doesn’t sound so bad.

      • Ice-Nine,

        Funky math 9.2 Million years.

        I wonder how Vanguard would respond to you.

        Your mathematical model got me thinking:

        20 years & 17,000 people

        So NXIVM recruited a daily average of 2.3 people a day.

        Not exactly world changing.

      • Someone do the math…add up how much each person paid on average. Then add up all the shell companies they had…. it was a classic criminal organization….shell companies…money laundering…and tax evasion. Why didn’t irs come down harder on them?

    • After most realized they got scammed…they ran far away and wanted to disassociate with a criminal organization. Most successful smart people also ran. Even though 17k took classes and bought the snake oil early on….most realized they were scammed early on and never returned. Nxivm didn’t have 17k active members. That’s how many took courses over 20 years. That’s only 1,176 a year. And out of 1,176…how many were truly active in the end?

  • Of course Nxivm did not discover a cure for Tourette’s.

    But what of Marc Elliot’s testimonial? His testimonial is meaningless. It’s no different from the testimonial of a snake-oil salesman’s paid shill. “Why after three bottles of Doc Schnitzels elixir, my lumbago was cured!”

    Anyone who believes this shit is a prime candidate for joining a cult.

    A lot of people, including Alan Jern, don’t really understand why claims made outside of a controlled study are worthless. Not dubious, not questionable, but worthless. Utterly meaningless.

    Let’s say I take a shot of Four Roses whisky every night before bed for three years straight. During those three years, I never once catch a cold. Does that mean Four Roses whisky prevents colds? No it does not. Does it indicate that the nasty rotgut MIGHT prevent colds? No it does not. It’s utterly meaningless, and imbuing it with meaning is the act of an idiot.

    There’s a powerful temptation to see connections where there are none. Resist this urge and make one step toward wisdom.

    • Nothing ESP/NXIVM did was peer reviewed in psychology or medical journals. At the time nxivm didn’t have enough journalists and writers penetrated into journals yet in order to manipulate news and science yet. If they had a few more years they would have had time to manipulate publications with nxivm members writing about nxivm.

  • Answer: Look in the closet.

    On what basis did any of Keith’s ardent followers accept that he was the most ethical man in the world?

    Even putting aside the fact that none of them had met even close to all the men (or people) in the world. What did Keith actually do to prove his ethics?

    The world now knows that Keith cowardly hid in a closet in Mexico and put Lauren’s life on the line.

    But even before the stunning display of Keith’s ultimate cowardice how did all these people just blindly accept that unprovable statement that “Keith is the most ethical man in the world” with absolutely nothing to back it up?

    Someone just declared this dude in Albany was the most ethical man in the world and all of these gullible people were like, ” Sounds true to me. Please take my money and my teenage daughter.


    The stunning lack of curiosity to not ask follow up questions about Keith being the most ethical man in the world is really perplexing. But then again these folks also accepted this over the top statement without laughing and running for the door.

    But truly, could a vanguard dead-ender, please answer: How on Earth was it determined that Keith was the most ethical man in the world? Was it a multiple choice quiz? How many people did all of you cult followers look at before declaring Keith the winner of the ethics contest and crowning him champ?

    Does it really seem like rational thinking to only know the limited pool of people you’ve ever met but still be able to declare somebody like Keith the most ethical man in the world? And again on what basis was Keith deemed the most ethical man in the world? Was there a panel voting? Says who? Keith?

    • Yep, all up there on Keith’s website: judo champ, 240 IQ, spoke fluent Latin at age 2…And they ALL believed it!

  • Either that’s a bad Psychology Today article, or Paul got bored writing his article and decided to yada yada the best part. I guess I’ll read it to see if it answers some of the questions that everyone (except Aristotle who already knows everything) has been wondering about.

      • I don’t think it hurt me. If I was seeing benefits, I would have considered staying. My experience was early on in the ESP reign. I assume my exposure to their teachings was more basic/intro level than in later years. This middling experience of mine is part of the reason I was hoping an article (with that intriguing title) in Psychology Today would break down what NXIVM was doing and toss out a conclusion as to its benefits or lack thereof. But, it ending up being a cop out article.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com