An Evaluation of the est experience by a National Sample of Graduates

Study of est training participants by Earl Babbie and Donald Stone Department of Sociology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.
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  Biosci Cornmun 3: 123-140(L977) An Evaluation of the esr Experience by a National Sample ofGraduatesrEarl Babbie and Dorwld Stone Department f Sociology, University f Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Department fSociology, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.Key Words. Survey design Overall assessment Emotional problems Getting better .Life changes subjective eports Expectation Mental health and relationships Meaning n lifeAbstract. Secondary xamination fdata collected n 1973 n an est-initiated urvey fa probability sample of 2,000 graduates elected rom a population of 12,000. Data con-cerning graduates overall assessments f the est experience, etrospective atings of satisfac-tion, emotional problems, changes n life, and other categories f response, are presented.The study concludes hat graduates re strongly avorable n their reports of benefit n awide variety of life conditions, These enefits o not appear o diminish over ime. Specificsuggestions or further studies are presented.IntroductionBeginning with the advent of sensitivity training in the late 1940s, what hasloosely been called the Human potential Movement has - in its many, diverseforms - become an established feature of contemporary American life. Duringthe past three decades, millions of Americans have participated in encountergroups, Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, Silva Mind control, Rolfing, T'ai chi,Primal rherapy, Arica, Psychosynthesis, and countless other programs (20,27, 29,33).In more recent years, ncreased public attention has been given to theErhard seminars Training (est), wfuch more than 90,000 people have partici-t Portions f this material ere presented n a panel iscussion psychiatry and LargeScale Awareness raining Groups' t the 1976 annual meeting f theAmerican sychiatricAssociation n May 13,1976, n Miami Beach, la.  BabbielStone 124pated n since t was begun n 197 1. The standard raining s typically conductedover the course of two consecutive eekends, aking approximately 60 h alto-gether. Between 200 and 250 persons participate n a typical training, ed by atrainer and assisted y a team of graduate-volunteers. rainings are typicallyconducted n hotel ballrooms or school ecture halls.As the popularity of esl has grown, so has mass media nterest n it. By now,hundreds of magazine and newspaper rticles, books, and radio and televisionfeatures have examined the esl experience. Some of the acounts have beenbasically avorable o est (9,11,32), and others ave been basically nfavorable(8, 16).\&'hile esl graduates are frequently criticized for being overzealous n re-counting their experiences f the training (and of life afterward); negative ac-counts of the est training have not been acking. Given the anecdotal nature ofthe mass media data on est. t has been difficult to determine he relative balance of graduate-attitudes egarding he 60-hour experience.The lack of reliable data describing he esr experience as been of specialconcem to psychiatrists, sychologists, nd psychotherapists. any reports onthe techniques employed in the training, as well as the benefits reported bygraduates, uggest o some that the esl training addresses any of the sameproblems and issues addressed y psychotherapy. Despite he fact that the eslorganization wams prospective rainees hat the training is not therapy andshould not be taken by those n need of therapy, some herapists wonder f theesl training presents danger o those n need of therapy.The purpose of this report is to provide representative mpirical data re-garding sl graduates nd heir experience f the esl training. n addition, we willdiscuss ome of the methodological roblems nvolved n the assessment f suchexperiences nd present pecial nalyses elevant o those problems.Let's look briefly at some of the characteristics f the people who havetaken the esl training. Following that short graduate profile, we'll turn to anexamination of their experiences f the training.A Brief Profile of GraduatesData gathered by the est organization tself provide a certain amount ofinformation about who has aken the training. As of July, 1976,there were atotal of 85,731 graduates. f these, 4%were women, and he medium age of allgraduates, s of 1976, was around 33 years of age.In addition o these asic data, esl maintains ecords f graduates n selectedoccupations. While hese ecords are probably ncomplete, hey show 15% of lhegraduates n the field of education, 3% in the health professions, % in themedia, and 182 about O.2V) arnong he clergy.  An Evaluation f the est Experience y a National Sample f Graduates 125It is tempting to make inferences bout 'self-selection' into the training bycomparing his profile of graduates with the larger population from which theywere drawn. Unfortunately, it would be extremely difficult to determine hepopulation to compare he graduates with. In the case of age, or example, hestandard raining s imited to those 3 and older, although special rainings havebeen done for those aged 6-12. (As of July, 1976,2,716 chlldren had beentrained n the special rainings.) An analysis f graduate-age ver ime, however,presents clear rend toward younger graduates.Geographical actors urther complicate nferences bout self-selection. hetraining is offered in only selected ities, so it is not readily available o thenational population. Yet many people ravel o another city to take the training,so we can't simply compare graduates with the populations of those cities nwhich the training s offered.The Study DesignThe analyses hat follow represent a secondary examination of data col-lected in a November, 1973, survey nitiated by esl to provide an exploratorydetermination of whether graduates xperienced ny harmful changes ollowingthe training, and whether there was enough change eported to merit furtherstudies.The srcinal study was designed nd conducted by an ndependent eam of(noncs/) researchers.2 or purposes f the srcinal study, a probability sampleof 2,000 graduates was selected rom among he 12,000 who had been out ofthe training for at least 3 months at the time of the survey. A lengthy(680 items) self-administered uestionnaire as mailed o the sample. he 1,204respondents o be analyzed epresent a 64% return rate, based on the 1,895persons who were reachable y mail. Three independent ests of nonresponsebias suggest hat the responses f the l,2M participating graduates rovide arepresentative icture of the 2,000 srcinally selected nd, by extension, of eslgraduates ore generally s of late 1973.r'z The primary esults f their study ave een eported eparately nd urther nforma-tion about he eport an e obtained rom he esr oundation. 3 The possibility of nonresponse bias was tested on the basis of three different groupsof 'nonrespondents': (a) a short questionnaire was sent to those who failed to return theprimary questionnaire, and 153 of those responded; (b) a subsample of 60 nonrespondentswere chosen for telephone interviews, and 54 of these were interviewed, and (c) subsequentto the cutoff point for the processing of primary questionnaires, another 54 were received.Each of these 'nonrespondent' groups was compared with the 1,204 respondents whoare the basis for the analyses in this paper. Despite minor variations, nothing in thosecomparisons suggests hat nonresponse constitutes an important source of bias n the study.  'Att in atl., how do you feet abouty0r exPerience f the training?'Percentage distribution of ratirEson a scaLe of I -7{n =1J87)1.9 1;13456',7_ _veryfavorable Fig. I. Graduates'overall assessments f the est experience.Babbie/Stone An Oveniew of Reportswhile the srcinal study was not designed or the purpose of documentingthe possible benefits of the est training, a few of the 680 items in the ques-tionnaire offer an indication of the respondents' ersonal assessments f thatmatter. The most general evaluation of the training was provided by an itemasking graduates o assess heir general experience of the training on a scalefrom I (very unfavorable) o 7 (very favorable).The overall distribution of responses s presented n figure l. The meanresponse was 5.99,, and half the respondents ave he training a 7, the highestpossible score. f a rating of 4 can be taken as representing neutral positionregarding he training, nearly 9 out of 10 gave a favorable assessment, hile I inl6 was unfavorable.other items n the questionnaire end a greater degree of specificity o thisoverall endorsemeni. For example, respondents were asked o rate, retrospec't26
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