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There are more disturbing aspects of the proliferating group sessions. Among some 200 Stanford University undergraduates exposed to a wide variety of personal growth workshop experiences, the overall "casualty rate" those who suffered psychological impairmentwas 8%. Perhaps even more significant was the discovery that a so-called charismatic leader, or trainer, within the movement produced a casualty rate of 14%. Psychiatrist Louis A. Gottschalk of the University of California, after participating in one encounter group of eleven, diagnosed "one borderline acute psychotic withdrawal reaction" and "two severe emotional breakdowns with acute anxiety" within that group. Irving D. Yalom, chairman of the American Psychiatric
Association's Task Force on encounter groups, reports that after one T group session 10% to 15% of the members consulted a resident psychiatrist for such adverse responses as anxiety, depression, agitation and insomnia.
The explanation could lie in the possibility that some leaders themselves may desperately need what they preach. At most growth centers, anyone can join the movement as a trainer with little experience. He learns on the job. Many such trainers are unequipped to recognize the casualties they produce. Their approach tends to be simplistic. "If expression of feelings is good," says the A.P.A. report sarcastically, "then total expressionhitting, touching, feeling, kissing and fornicationmust be better."
The movement is also well aware of what it calls the "reentry problem." Writes Jane Howard in Please Touch, the result of a year's participation in the human potentials movement: "Just as it is hard to be sober when nobody else is, I found what thousands of other veterans of groups have found: that it is hard to re-enter 'back-home' reality after the intoxicating communion of a successful encounter or T group." Sometimes recognition that the world has not changed is more than the returning grouper's new sensory awareness can take ... in which case he either turns into a "T-group bum," endlessly circuiting the growth centers, or into a copout. An alarming number of such refugees from reality leave their wives, families, jobs and communities.
Youth's Disaffection. The dangers are real. But the human potentials movement cannot be dismissed as a passing fad. "There is increasing concern for the humanization of organizations," says Dr. Vladimir Dupre, executive director of N.T.L., "an increasing desire by people to feel more connected with each other, to act on their own environment rather than feeling acted upon."