Skip to content

Tag: pseudoscience

“Therapy” for Entertainment = Pseudo-psychology (not to mention unethical)

Dr. Phil is not a psychologist, but he does play one on TV

Dr. Phil performs “therapy” for entertainment purposes only.

Dr. Phil is an ENTERTAINER, not a therapist.

  1. Dr. Phil is a Doctor.  He has a Ph.D. in Psychology.
  2. Dr. Phil is not a psychologist.  He is not licensed as a psychologist.  
  3. Dr. Phil used to be a psychologist.  He used to be licensed.
  4. He cannot practice psychology,  and what he does is not actually the practice of psychology.
  5. Yes,  he can call him self Dr. Phil.

Source: Paul G. Mattiuzzi, Ph.D.

Read more about “Is Dr. Phil actually a psychologist?by Paul G. Mattiuzzi, Ph.D. at this link.

The following clip was published by the Dr. Phil Show on Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Watch the clip and ask yourself if this seems like legitimate therapy to you.

Here is the blurb posted below this clip on YouTube written by the Dr. Phil Show:

Tom and Karen claim their oldest daughter, Madison, drinks, smokes weed, steals, is violent, and a bad influence on her 13-year-old sister, Liz. Madison says she would “do anything” not to be living at home, but when the 15-year-old is informed she’s been enrolled in a residential program for women and teens, she rejects the idea saying, “You’re sending me away…as if sending me away is going to help?” Watch to the very end to find out what Madison does, when Tom says they’re committed to getting her help.

Dr. Phil uses the power of television to tell compelling stories about real people.

The Dr. Phil show provides the most comprehensive forum on mental health issues in the history of television. For over a decade, Dr. McGraw has used the show’s platform to make psychology accessible and understandable to the general public by addressing important personal and social issues. Using his top-rated show as a teaching tool, he takes aim at the critical issues of our time, including the “silent epidemics” of bullying, drug abuse, domestic violence, depression, child abuse, suicide and various forms of severe mental illness.

Category: Entertainment

Notice the YouTube category is ENTERTAINMENT.  Also notice, disclaimers (aka the small print) shown at the end of his show that reiterates that this show is for entertainment purposes only.

This poor family is in crisis and needs legitimate advice from a licensed family therapist, not a “Television Therapist” that participates in dispensing pseudo-psychology as therapy, despite the fact that he should know better with his educational background being in psychology.

There are no scientific studies and no evidence that support the legitimacy of the types of programs that Dr. Phil recommends.

However, I have seen in the credits of the Dr. Phil’s show that these programs advertise, in other words, sponsor the Dr. Phil show. So yes, Dr. Phil gets kickbacks for recommending these programs to desperate families and obviously has no problem doing so without any regards as to whether or not they are harmful or helpful.

I take huge issue with the paragraph that Dr. McGraw has used the show’s platform to make psychology accessible and understandable to the general public by addressing important personal and social issues. Instead, he has made the science of psychology even confusing to the general public by presenting himself as a legitimate therapist, which he is not, and by promoting pseudo psychology which is NOT legitimate, evidence-based psychology.

The show’s writers state that Dr. Phil uses his top-rated show as a teaching tool, he takes aim at the critical issues of our time, including the “silent epidemics” of bullying, drug abuse, domestic violence, depression, child abuse, suicide and various forms of severe mental illness.  I don’t understand how he can allow this to be written about his show when he is well aware of the fact that he is teaching false psychological approaches to therapy, he uses bullying tactics to get these parents to enroll their daughter in this program in which he knows there is a possibility that these programs could possibly cause a client to become more depressed, to eventually partake in drug abuse or be abused by these unregulated, unsupervised businesses claiming to be therapeutic programs. 

Maybe Dr. Phil isn’t aware of the dangers of these programs.

NOPE! This is not the case. Even if this was the case, it seems the responsible thing for him to do would be to have his staff do some research on these programs.

But the fact is that this issue has been brought to his attention. In fact, there was a Dr. Phil show called “Children Sent Away: Trapped and Tortured?” See the clip and read more about it here.   Find one paragraph taken from that page:

Dr. Phil’s guests say the residential treatment centers they encountered as troubled teens did more harm than good. Marianne says she was abused at a therapeutic boarding school — and that her mom, Tami, did nothing to stop it. The two come face to face for the first time in five years. Can they call a truce and work on rebuilding their relationship? And, Nick and Theresa say they felt trapped and tortured at the residential treatment program where their mom, Leslie, sent them. Can these siblings find forgiveness?  

That was from 2013, yet here he is four years later still promoting the “services” of these so-called therapeutic businesses.

The Dr. Phil Show does not allow comments on videos about these programs because they know there will be many of them who disagree with them. Wouldn’t a legitimate, ethical therapist want the general public to become aware of both positive and negative opinions about the programs he suggests?

Lastly, why doesn’t the American Psychological Association (APA) speak out about this television show that is doing so much to delegitimize the real science of psychology?

I would love to hear from someone who is a member of the APA address this.

I would also like to hear all thoughts and comments about this issue, to get both positive and negative opinions in the public eye.


“Therapy” for Entertainment = Pseudo-psychology (not to mention unethical)

What is Pseudopsychology?

pseu·do·sci·ence /ˌso͞odōˈsīəns/

noun – a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.

Leave a Comment

Free Book (Until June 4, 2017) Dead, Insane, or in Jail, A CEDU Memoir

Free Book – Until June 4, 2017

Click on the image of the book to the left to order your free copy of Dead, Insane or in Jail: A CEDU memoir.

Take a peek inside to see how the teen treatment businesses of today operate.

CEDU – Charles E. Dederich University

Synanon Spawned Many Programs. Synanon went from being an adult drug treatment center to a so-called religion and finally became a murderous cult. This is the program that spawned many of the troubled teen programs that exist today.  CEDU is a direct descendant of Synanon. In fact, it is often said that CEDU is an acronym for the Charles E. Dedrich (founder of Synanon) University.

About the Book:

Excerpt: “Zack Bonnie was fourteen when his parents sent him to a “Troubled Teen” facility. The author takes readers there, in a thrilling psychological read. Sequestered where bizarre cult-like techniques become the norm, see for yourself exactly what the controversy is about. Should we mold a child’s behavior using the tools of brainwashing? With coarse, brutal dialog and authentic source materials, this nonfiction memoir, the first in a series, exposes the secrets and tells it all. Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir is named for the range of options open to the author at 14 if he ran away from the cult his parents inadvertently inducted him into.

Get Your Copy Free Today.

For more books on these topics, see our Amazon Book Store.

Leave a Comment

2017 Update on Shane Absalon

Update on Shane Absalon’s Murder Conviction Appeal.

In July of 2016, I was contacted by Jim Drummond, attorney for Shane Absalon, regarding the appeal of a murder conviction.

I wrote some of what I learned from Mr. Drummond about Shane Absalon’s case in a previous blog post called, A 1986 confession in Straight, Inc., leads a murder conviction in 2012.

A quick summary of the case is as follows:

Shane Absalon was court ordered to the Dallas-Ft.Worth Straight, Inc. as a condition of probation for a charge of criminal mischief in July of 1986. During his time at Straight, Shane was coerced by staff to admit responsibility for a murder commited in 1984, even though the police had eliminated him as a suspect.

23 years later, in 2009, after seeing a news report about the cold case, others who sat in Straight, Inc. with Shane, including his oldcomer, decided to come forward to report they heard him confess to the murder in a group confrontation.

There were very few clients in Straight who weren’t coerced to confess to things they didn’t do in the interest of appearing to “get honest,”  by admitting to all the supposed awful things they did before the program, in hopes of someday getting out of that program/hell-hole. 

Photo by Lori Rutherford This is Shane & Ryley, his daughter, in 2009, about 9 months before his arrest.


I recently heard from Mr. Drummond. He thanked for supporting Shane but regretted to report that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied the state habeas corpus application for a new trial.

In turn, I would like to thank all of my readers who responded to Mr. Drummond’s request for affidavits about the coercive forces that were prevalent in the Straight, Inc. program.

Straight, Inc. is still tearing families apart in 2017. Above is a photo of Shane with his daughter Ryley in 2009, about nine months before his arrest. Shane had put his Straight, Inc. experience behind him and began to live a normal life. He was gainfully employed, married and had started a family when he was “reported” by his fellow Straightlings one final time.

For more information about Shane and how to contact him see this blog post: Time to spread holiday cheer.


The Seeds of Resilience

Learning from the past, and seeds of resilience.

//Resilience is defined as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences, according to the American Psychological Association as stated in their guide, The Road to Resilience.

One of the steps on the road to resilience, as stated in the guide mentioned above, is learning from your past.  We must examine the past to learn from it. In part, provides information to help those who have had experiences in abusive and fraudulent treatment programs review the past and learn what happened, how and why these things were ever allowed to happen, and how and why survivors reacted as they did. In turn, survivors will discover what they have been through and decide how to use these insights in a positive manner in the future.

[bctt tweet=”It’s definitely necessary to go back and reinterpret past events to find the strengths you have” username=”projstraightink”]

Reasons to review the past

Another reason to review our past experiences in bogus treatment programs is to investigate how these programs were legally allowed to exist back then and how they continue to exist without suffering any legal consequences despite repeated complaints and probes into these businesses. (Straight, Inc. opened its doors for business September of 1976, by November of 1977 a formal inestigation was being conducted due to complaints, yet the continued to freely operate for decades before changing their name and opening new spin off programs–some of which are still in operation today.)

Even if no one figures out how to prevent these harmful businesses from hanging their shingles, at the very least, we hope to educate the parents of today and of the future about the dangers of entrusting your child to a program without first researching its background history and credentials.

Yet another aim of this site is to be a resource of information that may help survivors move beyond understanding their past experiences to cultivate that knowledge into new strengths and insights.

[bctt tweet=”Some people not only bounce back but succeed in unimagined ways” username=”projstraightink”]

Sheryl Sandberg’s, (Facebook COO) speaks about resilience in her 2016 commencement speech to UC Berkeley

“The seeds of resilience are planted in the way we process the negative events of our lives.” ~Sheryl Sandberg


“You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It’s a muscle. You can build it up, and then draw on it when you need it. In that process, you figure out who you really are and you just might become the very best version of yourself.” ~Sheryl Sandberg

More Resources on Resilience:

The American Psychological Association has several resources about resilience at this link.

Psychology Today Magazine also carries several articles about resilience.

Here is a great example of a survivor resilience: Laura Faehner Reed’s story.


Do you have a story of resilience? 

What are you grateful for?

Please let us read it in the comments below.


Leave a Comment

An Answer to the Question: Why revisit the past?

May 11th, 1983 — 34 years later, May 11, 2017

“Why drudge up the past?” “Move on.” “Get over it.”

That’s what some people say in response to addressing the story of Straight, Inc. and other businesses pretending to be legitimate treatment programs. I understand where they are coming from when they say this, but they fail to understand that examining the past doesn’t mean you haven’t ‘moved on’ or ‘gotten over it.’ Conversely, forgetting the past doesn’t mean you have ‘gotten over it,’ or ‘moved on.’ 

It seems that the people who ask this question should review the reasons government-sponsored (a.k.a. public) schools, as well as private schools specifically, require history classes throughout a student’s educational career.

The explicit purpose of ‘drudging up the past,’ is to learn from it. We learn to avoid repeating the mistakes that were previously made, and we review what went into past successes to relay that knowledge to future generations.

You don’t forget a parent just because they passed away.

Straight, Inc., the ‘not-for-profit’ business that was posturing as a treatment center, permanently changed me and the trajectory of my life. When I walked into that building, I entered a world more depraved than I had ever been exposed to previously. That day May 29, 1982, marked the end of my childhood.

[pullquote]You don’t just get over it. You grieve, then you learn to accept your new reality and go about life accordingly.[/pullquote]Only a few weeks less than a year later, on May 11, 1983, (when I was still in the supposed 6-month long program) an exclamation point was added to the end of my childhood, as that was the day my father died. (Read more about that day here) I was still in the program during this time, and you don’t just forget a parent because they passed on. You don’t just get over it. You grieve, then you learn to accept your new reality and go about life accordingly. This is exactly what I did, both in response to my experience in Straight, Inc. and in response to my father’s death.

While Straight, Inc. didn’t directly cause my father’s death, it undoubtedly hastened its occurrence. The various circumstances in which the program put my father, and the incredible amounts of unnecessary stress this program caused him, without a doubt accelerated his journey to the grave. Straight, Inc., without due process and without a valid reason, stole the last year of my father’s life both from him and me. Do I harbor resentments? No, that wouldn’t be beneficial to me or anyone. Nevertheless, I do not wish for anyone else to be subjected to similar experiences.

Though the story doesn’t just end there. Every phase of my life has been affected by this program in various ways, even after leaving the program permanently in 1985. The ways in which my life was affected are too numerous to recount in this blog post. But suffice to say the program, and its connections even ended up playing a part in my mother’s death (January 09, 2012), though I didn’t discover this until a couple of years later. (This story will be told another time.)

We remember in order to learn from past mistakes and do better in the future.

You see, for some people (perhaps, most?), Straight’s effects never actually disappeared, they just hibernate until a significant event takes place in a person’s life. That person, in this case, me, may not even immediately realize the “straight-effect” is taking place, but that doesn’t stop it from occurring.

So to answer the “Why remember?” question about the Straight, Inc. experience, I have to say the most important reason to remember is to learn from what happened inside that dreadful place, to record what I have learned, and to teach future generations how to avoid making the same mistakes.

NOTE: (Also notice the “in lieu of flowers” blurb on the obituaries. This was printed in two papers in two states, and became a part of my permanent history. Just another reason to address this issue. )

In loving memory of my father.

In memory of William T. Barry (April 30, 1929 – May 11, 1983)

Washington Post – May 14, 1983

straight death donations
New York Newspaper – May 14, 1983 (below)   straight death donations

Tell us what you think about bringing this subject to the public’s attention.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below this post.

Leave a Comment

Series: First Investigation of Straight, Inc. (01/07/1978)- Part 1

[Originally posted on Jan. 16, 2016. Updated May 12, 2017]

January 1978: Report from 1977-1978 Investigation of Project Straight Inc.

Straight Inc. filed papers for incorporation on April 22, 1976.
Straight Inc.’s doors opened for operation on Sept. 1, 1976.
By November 1977, Straight was being investigated in response to complaints from the community.

Straight Inc. is referred to as Project Straight, Inc. because it was considered a project that was funded by LEAA and local contributions.

Please see the original documents here: 

Project Straight, Inc. is a private non-profit organization licensed as a day care program with foster homes.

An investigation was initiated in November 1977, concerning Project Straight, Inc. in response to reports from various people within the St. Petersburg community that there were problems with Project Straight, Inc., a private non-profit organization licensed as a day care program (yes, a day care program!) with foster homes.

How the investigation was conducted.

During this investigation, the task force conducted interviews with the following people:

9 members of the current Board of Directors

5 former member of the Board of Directors

13 members of the current staff

4 previous employees of Straight, Inc.

5 foster home families

9 graduates of the program

48 current clients (24 selected at random by Straight Staff and 24 selected at random by the task force team)

6 clients who, for one reason or another, had left the program prior to completion

2 parents who earlier had children in the Straight program

9 clients and/or their parents who we had reason to believe were either involved in or observed physical or verbal abuse.

A review of records and files was also carried out.

This blog post contains the information uncovered from the investigation interviews of current and former members of the Straight, Inc. Board of Directors.

Five Former board members were interviewed during this investigation.

In 2015, I sat down and thoroughly combed through a couple of reports written on January 11, 1978, by task force members. The task force was chaired by J.B. Holley and formed to investigate allegations being made against Straight, Inc. The interviews and documents collected by this task force corroborate the statements made in the telephone interview with Mr. Henson in November of 2001. (Mr. Henson’s 2001 telephone interview is here.)

The Henson Interviews.

Mr. & Mrs. L. A. Henson were interviewed together, with the following points being made by one or the other.

Important decisions being made without the Board of Directors’ input.

Mr. Henson felt that important decisions were being made without the Board of Directors’ input; e.g., certain aspects of the LEAA grant, hospitalization for staff, the decision to move from the Anderson Building, and the establishment of the Straight court. He also said that for a time there were no written minutes of the executive committee or the Board. After the issue was forced the practice of writing up the minutes was resumed.

Concerns about safety.

Mr. Henson had several concerns about safety; e.g., appliance left plugged in at the facility overnight, transportation of large numbers of clients in one car at one time, and foster home situations. He said that young, inexperienced persons do the investigations into foster homes, and he felt that a great deal of professional expertise, experience, and judgment, is needed in visiting and evaluating a foster home.

No written accepted procedure for handling grievances and/or complaints.

There is no written accepted procedure for handling grievances and/or complaints, and he feels the present procedure is not responsive to complaints of parents or staff. Although there is an advisory board, Mr. Henson states that they do not meet and function regularly.

Mrs. Helen Petermann is not qualified to serve as the staff supervisor.

Mrs. Henson feels very strongly that Mrs. Helen Petermann is not qualified to serve as the staff supervisor. He said that the decision to hire her was made at a Board meeting which he could not attend.

It was his feeling that originally no board member would have been willing to hire her, and then the Board took action to hire her. It puzzles Mr. Henson that this reversal took place.

He understands that Mrs. Petermann was fired from her position at the Seed. Mrs. Henson stated that she had observed Mrs. Petermann kick a client and that there were other witnesses.

Clients were told they could not discuss the program or even mention ‘Straight, Inc.’ to outsiders without receiving serious consequences.

According to the Hensons, the clients were told they could not discuss the program, or even mention “Straight, Inc.” to outsiders or they would be started over again in the program. Also a staff member was told he could not visit the Henson residence.

Mr. Henson thinks the program will fail eventually because of mismanagement, poor staff, autocratic decision making, personnel problems, and the lack of appropriate response to grievances and charges of abuse.

It was a critical issue with the Henson’s that the task force interview persons who are no longer with the program. They felt the task force would get only a partial picture of the program if they interviewed only those persons currently involved in Straight, Inc.

Another interview was conducted with Mrs. L. A. Henson and Mrs. Rose.

Mrs. Henson and Mrs. Rose were formerly intake-mothers with the Straight, Inc. program and Mrs. Rose was the mother of a former staff member in Straight, Inc.

Mrs. Henson and Mrs. Rose were involved in the formation of the Straight, Inc. program.

Mrs. Henson and Mrs. Rose advised that they were involved in the formation of the program as they and several other parents felt there was a definite need for a program of this nature in the community.

Mel Sembler said Jim Hartz was hired for his degree, but Helen Petermann would operate the program.

Mrs. Henson said she heard Mel Sembler, the president of Straight, Inc., tell her husband, Hap Henson, that Jim Hartz was hired for his degree and that Helen Petermann would operate the program.

Mrs. Henson and Mrs. Rose both said that they had no idea Helen Petermann would be involved in the program at the level she is now involved or they would not have supported it from the beginning.

Mrs. Petermann presses [the kids] a great deal for details involving anything related to sex.

Both ladies feel Mrs. Petermann has some problems, one of them is that she presses a great deal for any detail involving anything related to sex. Henson indicated that the ——‘s daughter had been in a group at one point in the program where she observed Mrs. Petermann down on the floor, in front of the group, demonstrating various sexual positions used throughout the world. This was in a female group conducted by Mrs. Petermann.

This coincides with information received from Diana Shanahan, a former staff member, in a previous interview.

Mrs. Petermann repeatedly kicked a new intake boy while he was being dragged out of an intake room by two young staff members. 

straight, helen peterman, helen petermann
Helen Petermann

Mrs. Rose stated that during one of the first intakes she conducted, she noted the youth was unusually quiet which was very alarming to her. She went to Helen Petermann and other staff members and told them of her fears with the youth. Mrs. Rose told them she did not want to be left alone with him because she thought he was going to go off the deep end.

Helen Petermann and young staff members Ron Solanas and Mike Shanahan went with Mrs. Rose back to the intake room. Mrs. Rose advised that when they entered the intake room Helen Petermann began to talk to the youth and the youth went off the deep end. The boy went rigid and was drug from the room by Ron Solanas and Mike Shanahan in that condition. She said each of the boys grabbed the new intake by his arms and dragged him with his heels dragging along the floor while Helen Petermann walked along behind the boy kicking him.

Mrs. Henson confirms this. She states she was an eyewitness to this incident and would swear to it in court. Mrs. Rose and Mrs. Henson also said that at the time this incident took place, it was also witnessed by Jim Hartz and [Solanes’s] wife, Debbie, who came in as it was going on.

Staff uses obscene language and ostracization to the detriment of the children’s welfare

Both Mrs. Henson and Mrs. Rose feel that some of the more negative aspects of the Straight program are the obscene language used by members of the staff toward clients and the practice of coventry. [Ostracizing.] Both feel this is very detrimental to the children’s welfare.

Mrs. Henson and Mrs. Rose feel that such a program is very definitely needed in this community, however, they feel the program needs to be cleaned up and operated as it was in the beginning.

Mrs. Bob Chapin’s interview:

Bob Chapin was involved with the Seed Program and helped get Straight started.

He resigned because he did not feel that he and his wife wanted to devote the time necessary to be members of the board. He feels that Straight is a good program, and would place his child there if needed. He personally feels that the staff supervisor, Helen Petermann, should be a younger person who could relate more to the children in the program. He feels that a follow-up program is needed for graduates from Straight, Inc.

Mr. Ted Anderson’s interview:

Kangaroo courts and tracking down runaways

Ted Anderson stated that the final straw that caused him to resign was when Jim Hartz reported on the establishment of what Mr. Anderson called “kangaroo court” consisting of clients trying other clients who break rules and setting their punishment. He said that Hartz reported that one of the punishments imposed was to make the client clean the bathroom floor with a toothbrush; he further said that the heard that the client was forced to drink the bucket of wash water.

He also disliked the practice of sending staff to track down runaways and felt that such clients should not be forced to return to the program.

The original concept of one-to-one attention has been lost with the extensive, no-control expansion of the program.

He feels that with the extensive, no-control, expansion of the program, the original concept of one-on-one has been lost. He feels that a distance restriction should be imposed and the client census should be held to a workable level.

Clients are kept out of school for too long.

He feels that the clients are kept in Phase I and II, and thus out of school, for too long a period of time. He is concerned about the lack of any definitive standards on which a client is moved from phase to phase.

Poor fiscal management

He is also concerned about what he considers to be poor fiscal management. He claims that he had never seen a full and accurate treasurer’s report. He feels that major decisions are made by the president and the executive director, rather than by the board.

Jim Hartz is power hungry, staff time records are falsified, and Helen Petermann

Hartz, straight
Jim Hartz

is totally unqualified for the position of staff supervisor. 

He feels that Jim Hartz is power hungry and is asking for more and more authority to act unilaterally.

He states that staff time records are falsified in that only forty hours of work are shown, whereas fifty and sixty hours are actually put in.

The original intention of the founders of Straight was to bring the staff on board and train them before any clients were accepted. This did not happen.

He feels that the staff supervisor should be a young person and that Mrs. Petermann is totally unqualified for the position.

Letters from former Board members, which were included in the task force report:

This letter is dated Aug. 8, 1977, addressed to Mr. Melvin F. Sembler, President, Straight, Inc. P.O. Box 40052, St. Petersburg, Florida 33743

Dear Mr. President:

As president of Straight, Inc. you are bound by its charter and by-laws and said charter and by-laws do not confer upon you the authority to make a unilateral decision.

The by-laws provide that decision making authority rests only with the Board of Directors and/or its executive committee and that decision making grows out of a majority vote of said duly authorized decision-making bodies.

To the extent that you continue to make and implement decisions without majority approval of said governing bodies of Straight, Inc., I am becoming concerned that said unilateral acts on your part may expose me to loss or damage and/or expensive litigation. Hence, I am placing you on notice that should such a contingency occur I will then demand that you indemnify, defend, save and hold me harmless from the consequences of your unilateral acts. Should you then fail to do so I shall bring an action for indemnity against you.

Further, I disclaim any responsibility for your unilateral actions during your term as president of Straight, Inc. both in the past and in the future.


Hap Henson

Robert Chapin

Theodore Anderson

This letter of resignation was attached to the above letter.

This letter is also dated August 8, 1977. This one is addressed to Mr. Melvin F. Sembler, President, Straight, Inc., 6539 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida 33710

Dear Mr. Sembler:

We, the undersigned, submit our resignation as members of the Board of Directors of Straight, Inc. for the following reasons:

  1. It is our feeling and belief that as far as we are concerned, Straight, Inc., by no stretch of the imagination, follows the guidelines we envisioned prior to its inception.
  2. We do not feel the present Executive Director or Program Director have the necessary qualifications to rehabilitate preteens or teens, who have a drug or alcohol problem. Furthermore, we feel we cannot recommend Straight Inc. to our friends or citizens of our community.
  3. There is no method whereby a member of the board can determine how effective or ineffective the program is being administered. Factual information is not available to us. Roberts Rules of Order has not been followed at board meetings as contemplated by the original by-laws. Therefore, we cannot function effectively on a non-functional board and hereby submit our resignation.


Hap Henson

Robert Chapin

Theodore Anderson

Interview with former Board Member, Mr. Ray Bourgholtzer:

Mr. Ray Bourgholtzer resigned due to a conflict of interest due to a new position with the City of St. Petersburg. He indicated that he was unhappy with the administration of the program. He felt that the program was excellent and he enjoyed working with the children. He did feel that Mel Sembler was autocratic in his position as president. This member resigned in September 1976.

Interview with former Board Members Mr. & Mrs. Bauknight:

Mr. & Mrs. Bauknight feel that the president, the executive director, and the staff supervisor make all of the important decisions without Board participation.

They felt that the staff supervisor should be a younger person and that the incumbent was appointed without Board approval. They felt that the Board was a “rubber-stamp board” and did not, in fact, set policy. They reported that one of them witnessed Helen Petermann actually kicking a client for a minor infraction of the rules.

What task force member, John Bustle, wrote on January 11, 1978, about his interview with the Bauknights:

[Mr. and Mrs. Bauknight were] Former members of the Board of Directors with Straight, Inc. During my interview, I learned very little that we don’t already know and that is not already listed in the reports by other members of the team, therefore, I did not find it necessary to record very much of the information given by the Bauknights. I did find, however, that the Bauknights were able to furnish me with several documents. One document was represented by Mr. Bauknight as the original by-laws of the corporation. Mr. Bauknight also gave me a copy of his letter of resignation from the Board of Directors and a copy of the resignation from the Board of Directors submitted by his wife,  and finally a copy of the resignation submitted by Hap Henson, Robert Chapin, and Theodore Anderson, also former members of the Board of Directors. With these documents in hand and information which helped me gain some insight into the inner-workings of the corporation, I concluded my interview with Mr. & Mr. Bauknight.

Letters of Resignation from the Bauknights:

Dated July 20, 1977

Re: Resignation

Dear Mr. Sembler:

I submit my resignation as a member of the Board of Directors of Straight, Inc. for the following reasons:

  1. Straight, Inc., in my opinion, does not operate along the guidelines envisioned by its founders.
  2. The Board of which I am a member is largely non-functional and exercises no control in the nature of establishing and enforcing rules and guidelines for the conduct of the purposes and functions of Straight, Inc.
  3. There is no method whereby a member of said Board can determine precisely how said program is being administered or the program is being conducted. To the contrary, program direction is entirely in the hands of the Executive Director and his staff without the benefit of Board monitoring as contemplated by the original by-laws.
  4. Major decisions involving the operation of Straight, Inc. are made without consultation of Board members or their approval.

Finally, I disclaim any and all responsibility for decisions which have been made outside of the framework of the Corporate Chapter and the original by-laws of Straight, Inc.


Mrs. Lila L. Bauknight


September 22, 1976

Dear Mr. President:

This will confirm our conversation of Monday last in which I advised you that I would not serve further as Executive Vice President of Straight, Inc. I want to alert you now so you can handle my replacement.

I have advised you and others of the Executive Committee that said committee and board are not operating as required by Florida Statutes, it’s Charter and By-laws. It is the function of the Board of Directors to set guideline parameters for the supervision, control, and direction of the affairs of the Corporation. On the advice of Counsel, I am advised, informed and believe that each member of the board has dangerous personal exposure to monetary loss for errors and omissions in failing to adopt those rules and regulations for the conduct of its corporate affairs that reasonable directors and officers would have under the same or similar circumstances. Further, for failure to audit the operations of said corporation to the end that it functions as intended.

There are voids in your insurance coverage. Money is being handled by non-bonded employees and officers. The value insured on the building is understated. There is no coverage for the Director’s and Officer’s errors and omissions. There is no coverage for Malpractice and as simple a thing as cutting hair, (malpractice item) is excluded under the General Liability policy. This is not intended to be a full list of your insurance needs. I suggest you employ an agent to survey your needs. Until last Monday I have not been requested to do so and now I would prefer not to do so.

We have not promulgated basic safety rules to protect others from unreasonable risk of bodily harm, loss or damage. This failure exposes the Board to possible claims for damages.

The Executive Committee has not functioned as required by Florida Statute. It has not been in executive session since August 18, 1976, and this despite the fact that you have been urged to comply with the By-Laws and hold such meetings. The By-Laws require weekly meetings or meetings as deemed required by its members (plural, not singular). To the extent, we have not met and errors and omissions have occurred I believe that the Executive Committee is guilty of misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance. I disclaim any responsibility for the unilateral actions of any officers or board members of Straight, Inc. which are ultra vires and without color of legality under Florida Statutes, the corporate charter or the By-Laws of the Corporation.

On further consideration, I respectfully tender my resignation as a member of the Board of Directors of Straight, Inc. as of the close of its special meeting on September 22, 1976.


Arthur W. Bauknight

Nine Current Board Members were interviewed during this investigation.

Here is the information that was gathered from nine members of the current Board of Directors who were interviewed:

  1. There seemed to be an awareness of the state licensing regulations, however, board members did not appear to be familiar with these regulations.
  2. All were familiar with the Straight rules and regulations.
  3. While it was reported that the board met frequently, there was no set date or time for such meetings.
  4. Most of the board members reported attending board meetings regularly.
  5. There appeared to be functioning committees of the board.
  6. Several board members had a family member or a close friend in the program.
  7. It was reported that the board establishes or approves all program policies.
  8. All board members were deeply involved in the program.
  9. The program does have an advisory board.
  10. It was reported that there was no written formal procedure for the board to handle grievances and/or complaints related to the program. Certain board members have been involved in handling such grievances or complaints.
  11. Only one board member reported knowledge of any violations of program rules or regulations. This board member felt that such incidents were primarily errors in judgment by junior staff.

The Straight, Inc. program was founded on and perpetuated by deceptions and dishonesty, which is why it was ‘controversial’ from its inception. Of course, Straight, Inc. was born from The Seed, Inc., the controversial program that came before it. We will visit The Seed Program in future posts. But first, we will look into some of the other interviews that took place during this initial investigation.

Please leave your comments about this story below. 




Pseudoscience vs. Psychological Science: Straight, Inc. operated on pseudoscience

Straight, Inc. operated using pseudoscience (as do many of the current tough love teen programs)

I was definitely drawn to study psychology to try to get answers to the questions I had from the moment I ended up in Straight, Inc. back in 1982. Of course I had just turned fifteen years old at the time, but I knew that I had experimented with drinking and drugs less than most in my high school. I drank a few times and tried to smoke pot a few times, but I never understood the thrill of ‘partying’ and it wasn’t anywhere even close to being central in my life.

When I first realized that my parents had tricked me into an adolescent drug rehabilitation center thousands of miles from home I was angry, insulted and glad at the same time. My mother in particular always seem to think I was an awful person. I always remember wondering what she would think if she had some of the other kids I knew as her child instead of me. Upon realizing where I was I figured, “she’ll finally realize I’m not this terrible person that she seems to think I am,” since I knew no drug rehabilitation center would ever accept me.” I rather enjoyed the thought of how humiliated she would be for making such a ridiculous mistake. However, that obviously wasn’t the way this whole thing turned out.

Straight, Inc. operated in a perfectly pseudo-scientific fashion, with plenty of its own folklore and clichés on top of using theories that could not be falsified. For the quickest way to understand ‘falsifiability‘ and the important part it plays in legitimate sciences please see the  quick 2 minute video above this post. Those who were in any pseudo-scientific teen programs will instantly recognize how none of the theories posed in the programs were falsifiable. Those who weren’t there, will understand more as this story unfolds.

If “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” why do I also believe “nothing ventured, nothing gained”?

Click on this image to read a post about pseudoscienceStraight, Inc. definitely should have worn this label.


According to Merriam-Webster, pseudoscience is defined as a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.

‘Psychology is a young science and is often in conflict with folk wisdom’ (Stanovich, 2010, p.18).

Often a person uses some folk proverb to explain a behavior even though, on an earlier occasion, this same person used a directly contradictory folk proverb to explain the same type of event. For example, most of us have heard or said, “Look before you leap.” Now there’s a useful, straightforward bit of behavioral advice—except that I vaguely remember admonishing on occasion, “He who hesitates is lost.” And “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a pretty clear prediction of an emotional reaction to environmental events. But then what about “out of sight, out of mind”? And if “haste makes waste,” why does “time wait for no man”? How could the saying “two heads are better than one” not be true? Except that “too many cooks spoil the broth.” If I think “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” why do I also believe “nothing ventured, nothing gained”? And if “opposites attract,” why do “birds of a feather flock together”? I have counseled many students to “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” But I hope my last advisee has never heard me say this, because I just told him, “cross that bridge when you come to it.”

The enormous appeal of clichés like these is that, taken together as implicit “explanations” of behavior, they cannot be refuted. No matter what happens, one of these explanations will be cited to cover it. No wonder we all think we are such excellent judges of human behavior and personality. We have an explanation for anything and everything that happens. As British writer Matthew Parris (2007) has said, “Folk wisdom is such a cowardly thing” (p. 28) By this he means that it takes no risk that it might be refuted (Stanovich, 2010, p. 13-14).

Psychology is a scientific discipline

A lot of people misinterpret psychology as common sense, but contrary to popular belief psychology is a scientific discipline. ‘Psychology provides conclusions about behavior that it produces from scientific evidence. Practical applications of psychology have been derived from and tested by scientific methods’ (Stanovich, 2010, p. 6).

According to Stanovich (2010), the three most important principles of the scientific method are:

  1. That science employs methods of systematic empiricism.
    • Systematic empiricism is systematic, structured and controlled observations.
  2. That it aims for knowledge that is publicly verifiable.
    • Publicly verifiable includes peer review and replication
      • Peer review is having a group of experts in the field review your experimental methods and conclusions to make sure it meets the necessary standards before it is published or accepted.
      • Replication means you have completed an experiment in such a way that other scientists can perform the exact same procedure and preferably come away with the same results. If they come away with the exact same results, this strengthens the evidence of the theory, if they come away with different results then review and revision may be needed.
  3. It seeks problems that are empirically solvable and that yield testable theories.
    • The theory must have specific implications for observable events in the natural world; this is what is meant by empirically testable. This criterion of testability is often called the falsifiability criterion (Stanovich, 2010, p. 12).
    • I will dedicate a future post to further explanation of the falsifiability criterion.

‘Many people are drawn to the discipline because it holds out the possibility of actually testing “common sense” that has accepted without question for centuries’ (Stanovich, 2010, p. 18)


Stanovich, K. (2010). Psychology is Alive and Well (and Doing Fine Among the Sciences). In How to think straight about psychology (9th ed., pp. 1-18). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

1 Comment
©2018 - Project Straight Ink. All Rights Reserved.