Can an LGAT change?

How the Next Level Intensive grew up and made good
by Chris Mathe

First, a disclaimer: I am currently the staff administrator for the Next Level Intensive and a graduate of its predecessor, Daybreak. Other than a small stipend I receive for each training, I have no financial stake in promoting the Next Level Intensive. What follows is my own opinion – full of my judgements and biases. I have been directly involved for the past five years in actively changing the program and believe we are on the right track towards creating a program that protects and honors its participants while providing an intense and very rewarding personal growth opportunity.

Many of the stories on the Awareness Page describe programs that, in varying degrees, both help and harm participants. Most of the programs seem to have very similar goals of producing greater self awareness, increased personal power, better relationships, releasing and healing of old hurts, and a better sense of purpose. Is it possible to reach some or all of these goals in a group setting without having to put up with humiliating and manipulative exercises, authoritarian control, and aggressive sales and recruitment techniques? We have found that it is not only possible, but even greater change and positive results occur when these negative aspects are removed.

Some History

Next Level Intensive started out more than fifteen years ago as a third generation LGAT spin-off called Daybreak. A husband and wife team, both therapists, decided to create a program that built on the structure of the LGATs, but with several improvements: Much smaller group sizes (16 max), more staff, a more therapeutic approach, and a weekly aftercare program. Despite being run by therapists and the other changes that both increased the program’s intensity and provided a more personal experience for each participant, Daybreak still had many of the same characteristics that drew criticism from participants of other LGATs.

Psychologist Dr. Ron Wu brought Daybreak to Sacramento in 1990. Over the next five years, he and his co-facilitator modified several of the processes and created more one-on-one time for the participants. For the most part however, the tone and attitude of the program remained unchanged. When his co-facilitator resigned late in 1995, Dr. Wu and his two staff administrators (one of them was me) and several advisory groups of graduates began an intense examination of the program, its goals, its assumptions, its exercises, and how it was staffed and facilitated.

Next Level Intensive Emerges

We started with the outcomes we desired:

We applied these goals to everything: the exercises, the homework, the tone, the staff, the facilitators, the celebrations, and the aftercare. Over the last five years, the program has changed considerably. In changing the program substantially, we ended our affiliation with the Los Angeles Daybreak program and renamed our program: The Next Level Intensive.

What has emerged is a program that is different from Daybreak and other LGATs in many crucial ways:

The Specifics

Both the 3 and 5 Day are packed with a variety of lectures, discussions, experiential exercises, writing assignments, sharing opportunities, and guided meditations. Below I have highlighted the goals and several of the actual exercises used in the program. I do this with some hesitancy because it is hard to convey continuity, context, and tone that accompany each exercise and significantly effect their power and effectiveness. My hope is that these descriptions will generate conversations that might supply the needed context.

First, some structural/housekeeping info: the program costs $1,850. A training is composed of two sessions with a 2-week break between sessions. The first session (the "3-Day") starts Friday at 5:30 pm and goes until Sunday at 5:00 pm and a short celebration following. The second session (the "5-Day") starts two and a half weeks later at 5:30 pm Wednesday night and continues through Sunday at 5:00 pm followed by another celebration. (The celebrations are just that: celebrating the participants. Nothing else. No recruitment. Period). The trainings are offered four times per year and take place in Sacramento, California. The price includes hotel accommodations for the 5-Day only.

3-Day goals:

3-Day Highlights:

In the 3-Day, some important exercises (some that you might recognize) are:

5-Day goals: 5-Day Highlights: Aftercare

The price of the training includes admission to six weekly aftercare meetings. The aftercare, called Living in the Light, meets year-around on Tuesday nights from 6:30 to about 9:30 p.m. and is available for all graduates. We believe that aftercare is an important part of this program because dramatic transformation, no matter how positive, can destabilize primary relationships, friendships and work. Living in the Light gives all graduates a safe place to work through these changes, learn more skills, and celebrate their successes. These meeting are run by experienced facilitators and are available on a walk-in basis for $25 per weekly session. For graduates that need individualized counseling, referrals to qualified therapists is available.


About the Author

Chris Mathe, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology, has been involved with deep, therapeutic change for five years. He has worked as a trainer, facilitator, consultant, executive coach, and senior-level manager for over twenty years. He currently serves as Staff Administrator for Next Level Intensive, an indepth, eight-day small-group therapy program. He can be reached via email at chris.mathe@sota.com

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