SF, US Craigslist awash in fallacious Scientology depression counseling ads

SF, US Craigslist awash in fallacious Scientology depression counseling ads

Summary: Hundreds of new Craigslist ads in San Francisco and other US cities target people seeking help and counseling for depression and panic attacks. The ads do not reveal they are for Scientology. UPDATED: Counter ads informing the public are the result of an Anonymous campaign.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Health, Legal
41
craigslist

Across the US, Craigslist is being flooded with hundreds of postings that advertise counseling services for depression, anxiety and more - but the unnamed "non profit organization" posting the ads is not licensed for counseling.

The ads posted by the dozen in San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia and elsewhere do not say the word "Scientology" or "Dianetics" anywhere on them.

All of the ads have a Dianetics Hotline number for contact, and many provide an address for each city's local Dianetics Foundation.

The ads leading to local Dianetics Foundations look like they're from counselors, therapists, mental health support groups, networking clubs, and even detox programs.

In San Francisco, dozens of the ads were posted on October 1st.

Update October 2, 2:20pm PST: ZDNet has learned that counter posts on Craigslist across the US are coming from the entity Anonymous, based on research and discussion in this Anonymous Activism thread. They have also posted an alleged Church of Scientology how-to document on successful covert Craisgslist spamming.

Search San Francisco Craisglist in the "community" section using the Dianetics Foundation phone number for a sample selection.

A September 30th San Francisco Financial District ad "Help for People With Anxiety" reads:

Do you have anxiety, stress, or depression? Come to our group. We have free workshops and lectures as well as counseling available. Call (800) 801-3944 and ask for Dana.

We are a non-profit organization and we care. 701 Montgomery St San Francisco, CA 94111

The clandestine Scientology ad headlines in San Francisco offer Panic Attacks ReliefDepression Assistance, a Group for Depression, Anxiety, and StressHelp for People With Anxiety and Relationship Support and Classes - and much more.

All of the postings lead to the Church of Scientology.

The ads claim to be from "a group" or a "non profit organization."

Most of the ads point out that the counseling and range of help is free. Some of the ads promise free life coaches.

If anything is well known about the classic personal challenges in Bay Area startup, tech and hacking arenas, it's that techies are acutely prone to depression and anxiety - and that boot-strappers typically can't afford health insurance.

Promising free mental health help for depression and anxiety (with counseling) conveniently preys on the Bay Area's tech population, many of whom can't afford a psychiatrist or medications.

The bait-and-switch Craigslist ads may not be specifically targeting tech professionals, but the population's predisposition toward depression and anxiety is certainly more vulnerable than most to Scientology's specious marketing.

Someone has noticed Scientology's sneaky ads and in the past few days have been posting prank ads which point out that Scientology is behind the mental health counseling ad campaign.

The prank ads have obvious headlines such as San Francisco's "Do you have imaginary friends" Are they from other planets?"

One anti-Dianetics headline says, "Free life coaches are worth every penny you spend on them!" and lists the various phone numbers and addresses for Dianetics foundations that have been used as contact information in the problematic Craigslist ads.

The concentration of the deceptive ads is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and appear to have started around September 27.

Two other big targets have been Austin and Houston, Texas - incidentally also technology and startup hubs.

Some response ads for Austin Craigslist have been very direct warnings. Using the same headline as one of the cloaked Scientology ads, one warning states:

Did you know that this ad is ONE OF over 100 ads currently posted by Scientology on this board? These ads promise to resolve all of your problems, whether they be: depression, stress, anxiety, relationships, divorced, self esteem, fears, etc. . ...but they never identify who they are, or what their professional credentials are.

What you need to know is this - these ads are posted by Scientology people who lack any professional credentials for counseling.

(…) Beware of them - all ads with these phone numbers: (512) 474-6631 and (512) 626-0588 (sometimes mis-typed as: (512)6260588).

Business Insider reported yesterday that the Craigslist ads outing Scientology's tricky postings are coming from hacktivist entity Anonymous, but so far none of the response ads state that Anonymous is directly taking credit.

A few of the covert Austin Craigslist ads from Dianetics claim something not seen in the San Francisco Scientology ads, "Detoxification Program Now Being Delivered."

Many of the Scientology ads in targeted cities across the US have similar mistypings in the local Dianetics Foundation phone number included on the ads.

On Houston Craigslist currently around 100 of the Scientology ads remain.

The sneaky Houston Craigslist Dianetics Foundation ads offer the same as San Francisco - panic attack relief, depression counseling - for as far back as early September, and continue up to the present.

Only for five days in September (23-28) did the Dianetics Houston Craigslist ads identify that the postings were actually for Scientology.

Laws around advertising as a therapist are strict when it comes to misleading a reader. In California a psychotherapist - licensed or unlicensed - must "... avoid any advertising that is, or can be reasonably construed as false, fraudulent, misleading, or deceptive. The omission of important information, as well as the inclusion of certain words and phrases, can render an advertisement false, misleading, or deceptive."

But the Scientology ads don't claim to be from psychotherapists or offer psychotherapy.

The Scientology ads also do not claim to offer accredited counseling - just counseling.

If they did, they might fall under the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) advertising rules and Code of Ethics, which state:

Mental health counselors advertise the following: highest counseling-related degree, type and level of certification or license, and type and/or description of services or other relevant information concerning areas of clinical competence.

These statements will not be false, inaccurate, misleading, or out of context.

The Craigslist Terms of Use forbid "False or fraudulent content" but it remains to be seen whether or not the disguised Scientology ads offering mental health care would fall into that realm.

Like with anything - perhaps especially when Xenu is involved - this is definitely an instance of 'buyer beware.'

Topics: Health, Legal

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

41 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • IRONY

    The irony of all this, is that Dianetics is the only thing that works.

    "Counselling" is "giving advice."

    Dianetics doesn't do this. It allows YOU to find out for YOURSELF.

    The ONLY person who can advise you is YOU.

    Believe me, I'm not saying this because I work for Dianetics or because I might get something out of saying this. I'm saying this because I've studied it and used it for over 40 years and I know it works.

    That's all.
    johninsapporo
    • You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

      Because your imaginary friend the space alien gave you the secrets to the universe?

      Look, Scientology is no sillier than any other religion. It's just worse at hiding it.
      jbhelfrich
      • It's floor wax. It's a dessert-topping.

        Scientology might be no sillier than others as a religion, but it is far more dangerous as a half-arsed form of psychological counseling, developed by a college drop-out and performed by unqualified people. (They're advertising the counseling part, not the religion, in their ads.)

        Scientology likes to flip back and forth between secular and religious, as is convenient, all the time, but it's always about the money.
        Rick Mycroft
    • It's just ANOTHER useless RELIGION...

      ...for people who are too weak minded to make their own decisions on their own lives.

      Only this one is a guise for removing large amounts of money from people's bank accounts.

      Oh wait a minute, ALL religions do that.
      It'sNotMe
    • Missing the Point, johninsapporo

      The campaign is not about Scientology per se, but their underhand tactics. They place ads promising help for sufferers of abuse, depression, divorce. The ads don't mention that if you email them or call them, you're calling a local Scientology 'org'. They are trying to lure in people at their lowest ebb. They are also spamming some areas so badly that you can't find anything BUT their ads on the site. It's wrong, and against the Craigslist rules. So Craigslist are being asked to uphold their own rules.

      We can discuss Hubbard's crackpot theories another time!
      Jael-L
    • Irony? Nice Try

      Listen Sciloon,
      Saying that "Dianetics is the only thing that works" is just a dangerous and ridiculous statement.
      LRH (and now Miscavige) have only one goal with Scientology. World Domination by "Clearing" the planet. You think that means Clearing one of their reactive mind.
      What it really means is Clearing your bank accounts and wallets. It is a money scam. That is all it ever was. MONEY. And for forty years, you have been a huge sucker. When is Super Power going to open? Can your OT Powers answer that question?
      osuzanna7@...
    • Really

      johninsapporo, what a L Ron Hubbard troll! I know people who were not Scientologists but did work at your facility near Hemet, CA. Everybody, that is where the people without money in the "church" wind up. The people I know are regular people and didn't even like working at the Hemet slave factory. Scientology is a cult pure and simple. Brainwashing.
      LeoScott
    • Scientology is a lie and a scam

      L. Ron Hubbard was proved many times over to be a colossal liar and a drug addict. The evidence is everywhere and cannot be disputed. Anyone with a background in the physical sciences would laugh uncontrollably at the idiocy he wrote in All About Radiation...

      One of the first nuclear physicists my hairy bottom....
      Eman101
    • Iron Pyritey

      "I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this."
      -- Emo Phillips

      John, what's telling you that Dianetics is the only thing that works?
      Rick Mycroft
    • Okidoke

      I don't need no Dianetics to advise myself.

      My patented Baloney Detector, based on the very unsubtle signs of mental instability demonstrated by the members of your church/therapy/whatchamacallit (its current pope/grand poobah/corn on a COB first and foremost), advises me that Dianetics is 100% pure baloney.

      After all, what's true is what's true for me, isn't it ?

      Wow, that was easy.
      kemist2
    • Sure it works

      Yeah, the Scientology scam works wonderfully isolating rubes, marks, and suckers from their money, that's true.
      Fredric Rice
      • Don't forget...

        Isolating them from their families as well. Can't have contact with those SPs.
        gayeld
    • Dianetics is Science Fiction

      Originally published in a science fiction zine, the eventual book Dianetics was created out of Hubbard's mind.

      The results and examples listed in the book have no documentation to back them up.
      Soulo_Guero
    • And what has it cost you?

      How much money have you had to give to the Church for the privilege of finding out yourself? How many friends and family members have you had to disconnect from?
      gayeld
    • IRONY 2

      Counselling is giving professional advice to help people cope with everyday life.

      Dianetics doesn't do this. It asserts that you must have some trauma in your past and focuses on finding it and reliving it until it "goes away"; this is a rinse and repeat processes and each time there is a charge. Freud called this regression therapy but he didn't use an "e-meter". Sometimes regression therapy works, sometimes it doesn't.

      The main problem with regression therapy is that research has shown it can result in invented memories that the subject believes actually happened. Invented memories are delusions by another name. Hence regression therapy has become unpopular amongst modern counsellors, even Freud dropped the idea due to lack of evidence of real therapeutic effect.

      Dianetics exacerbates this problem by claiming such traumas can be from past lives going back "billions of years".

      Modern professional counsellors provide a range of coping mechanisms and work on changing the subjects perception of their world. It's a very effective non-drug alternative for many people finding it hard to cope with life.
      DeanFox01
  • Not surprising

    Not surprising that Scientology would target the tech industry. Tech is awash in money and Scientology will happily trade "free mental health help" for everything a new member owns.

    I wonder how many of its current members were below the poverty line at the time they were inducted?
    Programmer1028
    • Techies Vulnerable (and Scientology loves vulnerable)

      Techies do not have to be as versed in scientific philosophy as say, a psychologist, because in their world, proof is quite obvious - things either work, or they don't. So while being more steeped in math and scientific knowledge, a techie might not understand what constitutes "proof" when dealing with a psychological therapy. A techie might fall for scientology's "try it and see if it works for you" come-on, and if they experience something, they might not consider placebo effect, group pressure, love-bombing or other factors that made that something occur. Instead, they might simply think "hey, this works!" and down the rabbit hole they go. And yes, I speak from experience.
      Scnethics
    • Techies

      Well, Programmer1028, if they were poor when they went into Scientology, they'll be much poorer and up to their eyebrows in debt shortly afterwards. You don't advance in the {church} uless you pay, and pay big.
      Jael-L
  • "Dia" through + "nous" mind or soul, Dinetics means "trought the mind"

    The funny thing about this article is that the person who wrote it assumed that if you didn't do any "official psychology PHD" for 10 years, and didn't read the big books with opinions by the "official authority" of mental health in 2013 and went to the different meetings... then you don't have any understanding of human beings, and you can't help anyone. This is actually pretty funny, considering that the only thing that the school of psychology is teaching today is that the person can't be helped, but rather be treated with drugs for the rest of life. As a 20 year old guy who actually had big problems in life (and I saw different psychologists, "experts" as you call them) the only thing they did for me was prescribing me drugs after the first meetings, or just telling me what my problem was, like they knew better than me. I walked out every time felling worst or the same as before. The only thing that changed my life and actually made this problems disappear forever was Dianetics. It is the only process that discovered where these aberrations or irrational thoughts come from and how to get rid of them, and it is the only process that can increase one's IQ (anyone's IQ). Even the sanest person can become more sane by using Dianetics. After some Auditing there are real IQ testing that one can take and actually see with his own eyes that his ability to do math, problem solving and rationality improved.. but first of all one can feel it in life. This is very different than the expert opinion that "IQ can't change, it is all related to you brain, and no one is able to do anything about it". Dianetics is not a weird belief in some entity, but a very scientific and very precise methodology to get rid of past trauma that causes problems in the present time... because guess what, irrational thoughts don't come from a virus or a brain issue (unless you felt the stairs and hit the head so hard that make a hole in it, or have cancer), they come from pass trauma and only from pass trauma... and now you can get rid of it. Dianetics is a very precise technique and it works, and you don't have to believe me on that, but try it by your own.. the person who wrote this article know nothing about it... eventually.
    JackFerreira
    • Really?

      Based upon your tenuous grasp of the English language and basic writing mechanics, I am wondering how low your IQ was before starting Dianetics.
      Eman101