Nov 02 2017

Victories of the Heart Breakthrough Weekend Research Fails to Show Positive Impact in Quantitative Measures

Published by at 9:46 am under Counseling & Psychotherapy

Psychologist Josiah James Miller evaluated the Victories of the Heart Breakthrough weekend as his dissertation for his doctorate. It was recently published online and is a treasure trove of ideas helpful to the Victories organization. You can read the dissertation here.

by Miller, Josiah James, Psy.D., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2017, 119; 10159295
A interesting aspect of this research is Dr. Miller’s message of the importance of this research. He states:
“Victories of the Heart, the program that evaluated in this study, has been in operation for almost thirty years and has served over 5,000 men in the Chicagoland area and ought to be studied in order to better understand its impact on those involved in their retreats.” (Miller, p.2)
Miller is correct in noting the importance of studying this program to get a better understanding of its impact on participants. Someone like myself who has studied Victories and its principals for 27 years would say, “..yes, after 30 years, it’s about time someone took an academic approach to evaluating Victories.” We have to note the research was only on the Breakthrough weekend, no other Victories program.
Victories and its principals have had a clear bias against any public evaluation or criticism. I myself was threatened with lawsuits 4 or 5 times for publishing information considered negative about Victories and some principals.
The late Kurt Schultz and I may have been the first leaders to have participants evaluate their experience at the end of the weekend. We provided the results to Rick Simon who I believe was the executive director at the time. I think Rick may have distributed the results but I’m not sure. There certainly is no public record of evaluation results anywhere on the Victories website or internet. I have posted some of my leader teams’ evaluation results.
So, it’s curious Miller suggests Victories was interested in doing research on the Breakthrough weekend. He states:
“This program is looking for research to evaluate and enhance their program and the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement. This research has the potential to not only benefit participants and leaders at Victories of the Heart, but to better understand and improve the overall health and functioning of males in society.”
Was Victories and its principals really interested in researching the impact of the Breakthrough weekend? They must have had some interest as the research was completed. However, the research results failed to show any significant change in perceptions of gender role conflict and social support and the other variables studied.
I’m quoting Dr. Miller’s description of his quantitative findings here:
“There were no differences between levels of perceived social support in participants before and after having attending the Victories Breakthrough Weekend with a pre-retreat µ of 54.16 and a post-retreat µ of 54.10. There was a slight trend toward decreased levels of gender role conflict following participation in the retreat with a pre-retreat mean of 58.88 and post-retreat µ of 51.71 (see Table 2). However, these differences were not statistically significant with a p value of .175 (see Table 3). There was a slight trend toward increased levels of flourishing and psychological wellbeing following the retreat with a pre-retreat µ of 38.64 and post-retreat µ of 41.10 (see Table 1). However, these changes were not statistically significant, p = .419 (see Table 2). As such, any significant findings or correlations presented in this study cannot be attributed to participation in the Breakthrough Weekend.” (Miller, pps. 31-32)
What did the research’s negative quantitative findings mean for Victories and it’s principals? I can imagine, knowing the principals involved, that it was not a positive experience.
However, if Victories was more of a system open to critique and feedback, there are several valuable qualitative results. One worth noting here was the finding that the Breakthrough experience may have had a positive impact on the male participant, many of the men did not experience a positive impact on their relationships and families.
Dr. Miller states:
” Transparent within several narratives was the theme of men “slipping” back into their old ways, particularly within struggling marriages where the participants were not concurrently involved in couples counseling and parenting classes. Two man reported not having significant relationship problems with their partners prior to or after the retreat and another reported being in couples counseling and parenting classes with his wife prior to the retreat but not experiencing significant change in his marriage until after he returned home from his Breakthrough Weekend. That being said, the remainder of men in the qualitative sample reported having significant difficulties forming and maintaining romantic relationships following their Breakthrough Weekend. In particular, two married men that were interviewed expressed a degree of frustration and discontent with having difficulty maintaining their therapeutic gains as well as seeing these benefits extend to their relationships.”  (Miller, p. 55)
Victories and its principals would benefit from taking these findings to heart. I will continue to write about them and am very grateful to Dr. Miller for his excellent contribution to scholarship in this area.

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