Prehistoric Aggression: More Reasons Katie Holmes Was Smart to Avoid Scientology Marriage Counseling

In its print edition today, the New York Times is catching up to something we printed on Wednesday about the weirdness of Scientology's marriage counseling.

After news broke that Katie Holmes was divorcing Tom Cruise, various news outlets relied on Scientology PR to give the impression that, as ABC put it, "the church concentrates on improving couples' relationships through therapy." That sounded warm and fuzzy, but then we showed how Scientology's marriage counseling actually works by going right to the source: the actual counseling instructions laid down by church founder L. Ron Hubbard.

The Times today is publishing a story that hints at those instructions without, for some reason, quoting Hubbard and explaining that the ritual involves an auditor asking only two questions: in Katie Holmes' case, she would be asked, "What have you done to Tom?" and "What have you withheld from Tom?" repeatedly. For hours. At nearly $6,000 per 12.5-hour "intensive."

We can't imagine why the Times is leaving out that detail in what is otherwise a very good piece. But we're going to advance the story anyway: it turns out Scientology marriage counseling is weirder than even we let on!

We had assumed, based on what we were told about the Scientology movie, The Married Couple, that the subjects of this counseling would be interrogated until they gave up secrets like infidelity or stealing that had been going on in their relationship, um, you know, like here on this planet.

But we plum forgot that these are folks who believe that Scientology's "tech" allows them to investigate the experiences down their "whole track" of existence, which can be millions of years in their past!

As ex-Scientologist Patty Moher put it in our comments Friday: "I'm not surprised Scientology didn't use my marriage counseling data against me. After all, it would have been kind of weird for them to discuss my past life indiscretions where I killed my husband during an intergalactic battle! The delusion ran really deep."

We confirmed with an expert on Scientology technical processes, Claire Headley, that "whole track" experiences could definitely come up in the marriage counseling process -- even for a "pre-clear" like Katie Holmes. (Although Tom, as an OT VII, might have some interference from his body thetans, which is indicated in the policy under "OTs.")

Last night, I talked to Matt Plahuta, a Colorado resident, who went through Scientology marriage counseling about 20 years ago, when his wife at the time went whole track and turned the process into space opera.

He confirmed that the counseling consisted of being asked over and over, "What have you done to [spouse's name]?"

The point is to pry out of you secrets that you've been holding back.

"The auditor is supposed to keep the person focused in current time," he says. "The auditor in our case tried, but my wife kept going whole track."

She was describing something she had done to him in previous eons. "It really was her recollection of doing something to me back then," he says. "I was sitting there thinking, this is fucked."

Matt said he rarely saw Scientology's marriage counseling ever do anyone any good. "It didn't ever work. It didn't help our marriage...Scientology says they have the answers to everything. They promote how they can fix marriages. But it's not that great. Divorce is really common in Scientology," he says. Even with his wife going whole track, they eventually divorced.

Today he's married to someone else, Cindy Plahuta, who went through her own ordeal with Scientology marriage counseling.

I told her I was interested in what her sessions were like, but admitted that I felt like it might be an intrusion.

"In Scientology you have no private life," she said with a laugh. "You really don't. It's all out there." As one spouse and then another are asked to spill their secrets over and over again, anything they say is written down and recorded in their files.

"The first time I did it with my ex-husband, it was pretty fast, and I just wanted to get it over with," she says. "We got to do it under 'chaplain rates,' which was about $200. The second time it was excruciating. We paid the intensive rate -- $7,800 for 12.5 hours."

And for that money? "They ask you the same question, over and over," she says. "We got done with this back and forth thing, and then we got sent to the chaplain. [Scientology's version of a sort of small claims court.] It is so unbelievable what you have to do to get a divorce through the Church of Scientology. If you don't go through the church you're threatened with being declared a suppressive person," (Scientology's version of excommunication).

Cindy wanted nothing to do with that process, and filed for divorce in the courts instead. "I was kind of done. I didn't want to go to the church. I had gone to my parents house in the middle of Florida," she says. "But I started getting phone calls there. They had tracked me down...they left messages on my parents' phone. It got to the point that it was so embarrassing."

She relented, and agreed to go through Scientology's version of divorce. "I was a resident of California, where I should have got 50 percent of everything. Instead, I had to agree to what my husband wanted, and I got nothing. I did it just to get him to stop pushing and creating pressure on me through the church. It was two or three years of utter harassment."

After that experience, she met and married Matt, and then the two of them began having doubts about the church itself. After Cindy read the 2009 Tampa Bay Times expose, "The Truth Rundown," she began contacting the former church executives who had spoken out in it. Matt joined her in pulling away from the church more and more.

They paid a heavy price for that decision: each of them has grown daughters who disconnected with them and no longer have any contact with them because of their decision to leave the church.

"My son was disillusioned with Scientology for ten years," she says. "He's done."

But then she tried to talk to her daughter about pulling out. "I told her what I was seeing. I took her to lunch and told her what I'd been reading. She said, 'Mom, that's just unbelievable.' She went home to California, and the next day I had an e-mail from the DSA of Orange County," she says, referring to a local official there.

"She turned me in."

She gets emotional telling me the story, and I can understand why.

"I was so close to her, you have no idea. We look alike, we talk alike," Cindy says.

For a year, she says, the two of them were able to stay in touch as long as Cindy agreed not to say anything negative about the church. "OK, I can do that, I told her. We did that for a year. But then about a year ago, she told me that I needed to call the ethics officer at Flag," she says, referring to Scientology's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. Cindy refused, and offered to talk about it when she flew to Orange County, California the next week to see her daughter perform in a ballet.

"The next day she e-mailed me, and said don't come. I haven't heard from her since."

Her daughter is 35.


Well, I know this piece started out as a lighthearted look at Scientology's bizarre marriage counseling, but it turned into yet another heartbreaking story of disconnection. It's funny how often that seems to happen.

OK, class, we'll rely on our illustrious commenting community to lighten the mood and come up with the sorts of whole track secrets Tom and Katie might have been keeping from each other until they underwent the penetrating process of infallible Hubbard tech. "What have you done to Tom, Katie? What have you withheld from Katie, Tom?"