Pathway Family Center Truth

Pathway Origins



Synanon, initially a drug rehabilitation program, was founded by Charles (Chuck) Dederich Sr. in 1958 in Santa Monica, California. By the early 1960s it had also become an alternative "Therapeutic Community", attracting people with its emphasis on living a self-examined life, as aided by group truth-telling sessions known as the "Synanon Game." Synanon ultimately became the cult known as Church of Synanon in the 1970s and the group disbanded permanently in 1989 due to difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service.

Read and view more about Synanon here:



By the early 1970s, the federal government itself had funded its own Synanon clone. It was located in Florida and Ohio and was known as The SEED.

In this program, teenagers who were using drugs or who were believed to be at risk of doing so would spend 10 to 12 hour days seated on hard-backed chairs and waving furiously to catch the attention of staffers, most of whom were former participants themselves. They would flutter their hands, begging to be called on to confess their bad behavior. Even before the excesses of the ’80s, parents were so frightened of drugs that they were willing to surrender their children to strangers for tough treatment to avoid even the possibility of addiction.

In 1974 Sen. Sam Ervin, a North Carolina Democrat, presented a report to Congress entitled “Individual Rights and the Federal Role in Behavior Modification.” Ervin and other members of Congress were concerned about federal funding for efforts to change people’s behavior against their will, seeing a fundamental threat to liberty if such efforts were successful. The report cited The SEED as an example of programs that “begin by subjecting the individual to isolation and humiliation in a conscious effort to break down his psychological defenses.” It concluded that such programs are “similar to the highly refined brainwashing techniques employed by the North Koreans in the early 1950’s.” Government funding for The SEED was subsequently withdrawn in 1974.

Read more about The SEED here:


On September 1st, 1976 Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappala founded a program virtually identical to The SEED, staffed by former SEED parents and participants. They named it Straight Incorporated. Straight Inc. was a nationally recognized non-profit drug rehabilitation program that produced hundreds of reports of abuse from adolescents and their families during its 15 years in existence. Despite allegations of abuse from escaped members and pending lawsuits, during its existence Straight Inc. won laudatory praise in Republican circles.

This program was highly controversial due to the style of therapy it used, called "Tough Love", that has been likened to brainwashing, and similar to the methods used on American POW's in the Korean War. Various accounts of abuse and lawsuits led to the end of Straight Inc. in 1993.

Read more about Straight Inc. and the troubled teen Industry here:


Pathway Family Center, Detroit was founded in 1993 by former Straight Inc. program director, Helen Gowanny, 15 miles from the old Straight Inc. facility near Detroit. Pathway Family Center, Indianapolis was founded in 1993 by former Straight Inc. Parent, Terri Nissley.

There have been several complaints reported by former parents and clients involved with Pathway Family Center concerning dangerous thought reform techniques and psychological torture within the program.

This site is dedicated to finding the truth about these reports and exposing what we believe are the same "inner core" techniques of brainwashing and exploitative coercion that have been found to be implemented in Synanon, The SEED, and Straight Inc., as well as a multitude of various behavior modification programs in the United States.

 See a chart of Straight Inc. spin-off programs (including Pathway) here