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Dabby and other clinic officials pushed Van Meir to embrace "social therapy"a homegrown brand of psychotherapy advanced by Newman as "a new science of human development." Newman, who is not a licensed therapist, was discussed with reverence at the clinic, and Van Meir was also urged to sign up for expensive lectures with him in New York. "They made it clear to me that unless I took the next step and attended these [sessions], I would never understand their practice," she said.
In New York, however, the $150-per-person talks turned out to be sermons in which Newman "rambled on and on about his confusing politics." Clinic patients were also urged to shell out for the sessions, she said, and several told her they were baffled by them. "It was very, very unethical what they were doing," said Van Meir.
Part of Newman's therapy recipe revolves around theater, and Newman, 70, is the author of dozens of plays. To that end, the Atlanta center promoted readings of Newman's works, and, to Van Meir's alarm, even recruited patients to panhandle on the streets for donations to their theater. The center called the solicitations "street performance" and even paid for a Newman aide to fly in from New York to teach patients how to better "street perform," Van Meir said.
Leaders of the center also told Van Meir that they belonged to a secret "inner Marxist group" led by Newman. But when Van Meir raised questions about Newman's background, she said she was rebuked. "They would say those were political allegations from their enemies."
Patients were also lured into Independence Party tasks, she said. One of Van Meir's patients was recruited after he attended a Newman lecture in New York. "He said he had met with Fulani and her group, and they were all talking about getting this guy Bloomberg elected," Van Meir said. "I thought, 'All they really want him for is political work.' "
Van Meir said she ultimately concluded that the therapy was merely "the bait" and that the goal was to enlist patients in Newman-tied causes. "I believe they will use any way they can to get kids involved. For them, the end justifies the means."
Van Meir later filed a complaint with Georgia officials. "There is an ongoing, active investigation," said Kara Sinkule of the secretary of state's office, which licenses therapists. Van Meir said she also relayed her concerns two years ago to the New York attorney general. Dabby, director of the Atlanta center, denied the clinic had recruited its patients. "We don't do that," said Dabby, who said he is a longtime pal of Newman's.