A Utah woman has filed a lawsuit against Lifespring Inc., a San Rafael-based facility with branches nationwide that specialize in "personal awareness training."
Maryellen Wurdelman of West Jordan, a former Lifespring trainee and employee, claimed she suffered severe mental and emotional damage from her 31/2 months of training at Lifespring.The organization was founded nearly a decade ago.
She also claimed she was not paid for her work as a Lifespring leader in Salt Lake City.
The suit said that although four courses offered by Lifespring were billed as participating in "human relations training" or "personal awareness training," they were fraudulent.
The courses offered psychological tools such as psycho-drama, guided fantasy, small-group encounters, sensitivity training and confrontation exercises, the suit said, but none of the practitioners was licensed to practice psychology.
Wurdelman said she paid $1,650 in fees and took the courses from Nov. 18, 1986, through February 1987.
"They were not educational in any generally accepted or understood sense of the word," the suit said.
Instead, they were "cynical, insidious and dastardly programs for covertly manipulating innocent and unsuspecting individuals into contributing free labor to Lifespring."
The purpose was to induce the trainees to obtain new recruits, the suit said.
Wurdelman said that because of the training, she suffered epileptic fits, anxiety attacks, chronic depression, periods of unexplained crying and made one suicide attempt.
Along with fraud and deceit, the suit alleges negligence, breach of contract, unfair business practices, violation of the California Psychological Licensing Law and Violation of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction against false advertising statements by Lifespring founder John Hanley.
It also seeks unspecified restitution to those damaged and appointment of a receiver to take possession of Hanley's assets to ensure restitution.