Not so deep in a Brisbane Reddit thread, an article raises some interesting questions about a personal development organization called Real Education.
Our curiosity was aroused and the investigation began. When we started talking with former participants, we heard stories about transformation, psychodrama, breathing and baring in the forest. Our conversations with the participants and the organization itself lasted for many months.
REducation has been around since 1996, when its founder Murray Masarik, along with his wife Denise, started the “Real Man” workshop. It was a weekend experience for men looking to improve themselves and develop a deeper understanding of their relationships. Since then, their offer has grown.
The organization runs a range of workshops, as shown in this table that we found among their promotional material. They said Food that their programs have had “incredible results that have changed the lives of over 12,000 participants to date.”
The personal development movement emerged in the 1970s. Since then it has grown into a massive global industry.
From Tony Robbins-type celebrities to small business-style life coaches who run one-on-one sessions via Instagram, there are minds to mend and money to be made.
Today, the industry is worth $ 50 billion a year.
Of all their workshops, the Real Man and Real Woman experiences are the key offerings of Real Education. Known to the Real Education community as “mountain workshops”, these experiences cost up to $ 4,395 and are touted as “innovative” and “dynamic”.
True education said Food they use more than 40 modalities; many of which are not taught in traditional clinical training areas and most of which are not available in traditional clinical settings. According to the organization, their practices can help those who have not found a solution to more conventional counseling or therapy.
Michelle arrived at her first Real Woman workshop in 2017 feeling lost. She had been prescribed antidepressants to improve her mental health, but she was looking for a more holistic form of healing.
She left Real Woman One feeling like she had found her solution.
“I went through this world, like ‘I’m so healed; I’m such an amazing woman and I was so ready to do Real Two, ”she says.
Her first mountain workshop was the last time she took an antidepressant.
But mountain workshops are not all positive transformations and walks in the forest.
Some former participants told us about heavy breathing and nudity. Carl has been involved in Real Education on and off for eight years. He remembers one night when everyone was dancing around the fire when everyone, including Murray Masarik, started to undress. Carl told us he had a history of sexual abuse and found that undressing in this setting was outside of his comfort zone.
True education said Food, “At no time are participants forced to participate in nudity”, and detailed information is provided prior to each activity.
But perhaps the most confronting activity in the mountain workshop is called “dotting”. True education said Food this “pointing” is a type of group therapy where you deal with some trauma from your past.
“It would be considered psychodrama in today’s world,” says Rose, who was a participant and a member of the Real Education team between 2004 and 2009. “And they actually recreate the trauma, and they … Make people relive that memory. “
After her stint at Real Education, Rose studied clinical psychology.
She says: “For the majority of people who go to mountain workshops, it’s a really positive experience. But I’m concerned about the maybe, five or 10 percent that… actually make their trauma worse.
True education said Food that the aim of the scoring is to “deal with the traumatic experience of their nervous system, their mind, their emotional state, their beliefs and to free themselves”.
This pointing process can evoke past experiences of sexual assault.
Jess participated between 2012 and 2014 and remembers hearing a woman tell about her experience of abuse as a child.
“They had made her lie on her back and they had someone on top of her to put her back together, so she could fight them,” says Jess.
“I was just like… this is the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen in my life.“
“Basically what I interpreted as a reconstructed rape scene.”
Michelle remembers another woman’s dotting process which was also linked to sexual assault.
On the mountain workshops, you start as a participant and can climb the different crew levels.
This hierarchical structure means that participants can deal with trauma with a crew that does not have officially recognized qualifications or skills.
When we asked Real Education about it, they said that the most experienced team had run no less than nine workshops, and many of the team were life coaches.
Unlike psychology, life coaching is not regulated in Australia. Considering that practicing psychologists are held responsible by a code of conduct, there is no equivalent in the personal development industry.
There is also no independent body or organization where consumers can file a complaint against organizations or individuals in the life coaching space.
“There is nothing in the world of personal development that holds people like Real to be accountable on an ongoing and regular basis,” says Rose. “There is no one watching”.
Rose says if she were to walk into a Real Education mountain workshop today, knowing what she knows now, she would come out.
“It’s so wrong,” she said. “It’s not safe to do these things with vulnerable people. And I didn’t know it at the time ”.
Real Education says they have already adopted similar standards to professions such as counseling.
By many accounts, Real Education co-founder Murray Masarik is a talented host and speaker. When we asked Michelle what words she would use to describe it, she replied, “Interesting, Power, Control” and “The King”.
Carl told us, “Murray had a way of walking into the room and getting everyone to have their eyes and attention in just one second… I saw him as a role model or, or even a father figure. “.
But former participants have told us that there is an element of secrecy around Real Education and its practices.
“I felt I was tied to this secrecy and this confraternity confidentiality,” Carl said. “This is probably one of my first experiences where I tell people what’s going on up the mountain.”
Real Education says they have no objection to individuals talking about their general experiences at the workshops. It is said that it is by word of mouth that people find out.
But the documents of the organization show that those who have done the workshops are told, “what happens in the mountain / seminar, stays in the mountain / seminar”.
Throughout the production of this story, Food had been in contact with Murray Masarik. But at some point, the conversation suddenly stopped.
As it turns out, Real Education is no stranger to legal action. We had heard of a situation that had occurred in 2018 …
Five employees, who were also participants and crew members, left the organization. One of them had been Murray’s partner.
There were a lot of rumors and speculation about the organization around this time. But here’s what’s in the public folder:
Each of the five women who left Real Education in 2018 claimed Fair Work.
Three of the women settled in and the other two took out their things.
Food understands that there are legal agreements that prevent women from speaking out about the nature of their complaints.
Separately, former participants told us that they feared the professional and personal lines were blurred.
“I know Murray had relationships with people who were involved at one point,” says Judith.
Judith was involved in Real Education between 1997 and 2003, and was there for the first Real Woman workshop.
“In my opinion, there should always be this independence in the relationship between a practitioner or professional and a client or patient.”
“It’s so unethical. He’s in a higher and higher position and he’s got, he’s got that control… almost like a teacher or someone you admire, ”she says.
When contacted by Food, Real Education has denied that Murray Masarik had any dealings with former participants, saying “the allegations are false.”
They say that the crew is prohibited from intimately engaging with participants for at least a month after a workshop, and that they are certainly not aware of “inappropriate” sexual relations between participants and the crew or leaders.
There are other issues around Real Education related to running their business. In 2018, the company went into voluntary insolvency after three years of non-payment of tax.
The liquidator discovered that they had negotiated when they were insolvent and that Murray and Denise Masarik together owed the company more than $ 100,000.
Three years later, Real Education continues to trade under a new ABN.
Real Education affirms that the longevity of their organization – 25 years of activity – testifies to the overall management and the quality of their services.
Lawyers for the organization deny that Murray and Denise are unfit to be directors and say ASIC has made no findings to this effect.
They continue to run their intensive weekend workshops.
Real Education says their program is unique and won’t appeal to everyone.
They admit that some may not be in favor of what they are doing and say they have no problem getting people to voice their views on it.
“You know, I’m very, very happy and grateful for the growth and learning… I can’t say how much it has helped me grow and be free from so much pain,” Michelle says. “But on the other hand … No.”
Food does not suggest that individuals associated with Real Education have committed an offense.