The Strange World of Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. at

For quite some time I’ve wanted to respond to the writings of Mark Dombeck at but have been constrained by time. Now that I have some time, I’m rather stumped. The reason for this is that rather than wanting to respond to one outlandish article, I’m now in the position of trying to respond to a series of articles written by Dombeck that so resembles a series of arguments on why some particular number of angels can dance on the head of a pin. How does one respond to pages and pages of armchair wisdom on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin arrogantly dispensed as wise, compassionate counsel by a guru of “mental health”? Where does one begin?

While it is understandable that he would write an article without any scientific reference using the format he does, what I do find surprising is that when challenged with scientific references that show him far off base, he continues on in the manner of, “I am very sympathetic to the anger of those who argue that I’m incorrect in my assertion about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I am very sorry for what happened to them. But what one must understand is that angels are only one thousandth of a millimeter in width so of course many thousands can dance on the head of a pin and they love you. These people need to learn to trust.”

Dombeck’s writing is all nonsense with no support except for the testimonials of those who are “in recovery” which, as far as scientific evidence goes, are directly parallel to and as valid as the “scientific evidence” offered in television infomercials and Wednesday-night prayer meetings. Having such value, they can be taken as worth no more or no less then the testimonials in latest infomercial for an herbal penis enlarger.

Instead of challenging every incorrect statement of Dr. Bombeck’s which would take pages and pages, I’ll restrict myself for the moment to only one small paragraph from AA Is To Shame As A Hot Knife Is To Butter.

While the central theme of the article as expressed by the title is so bizarre, so “Alice in Wonderland,” that I don’t know where to begin, perhaps by restricting myself for the moment to one small paragraph I can begin.

The sentences from the paragraph are in italics.

For those of you who don’t know—AA is a fellowship of alcoholics who come together regularly for the purpose of helping themselves and other alcoholics who desire help to stop drinking.

This is indeed the way AA presents itself. However, this is far from the actual truth of the matter. AA, as Dr. Bombeck noted, is a 12-Step fellowship. Of these fellowships, there are hundreds ranging from being addicted to one substance/behavior or another, caring about other people, being messy, being a Fundamentalist Christian or having the disease of caring about anyone with one of these “spiritual diseases.” There is a 12-Step “program” of conversion for almost any ill imaginable.

All have the 12 Steps as a central theme. The Steps themselves are the core of a program of indoctrination into neo-Buchmanistic religion. The Steps themselves were written with the sole purpose of codifying Oxford Group “spiritual principles” and winning converts. They were written by a member of the Oxford Group (Bill Wilson) before AA existed.

Rather than AA being a fellowship which “comes together to help themselves and other alcoholics,” AA is just one more of the hundreds of “fellowships” which will use one problem or another, one painful difficulty or another, as leverage in the manipulation to conversion to the 12-Step religion.

Step group members do not want to hear about anything to “help the alcoholic,” or to help anyone for that matter, except 12-Step indoctrination. If anyone seems in danger of stopping or moderating without AA, every effort will be made to sabotage their success.

This is not to say that the majority of AA members are not sincere. However, sincerity alone is not a substitute for a willingness to see what actually helps and what doesn’t help. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are extremely sincere. That does not mean that they have valuable advice to give in emergency rooms on blood transfusions.

Multiply AA by the hundreds of separate 12-Step fellowships which claim to hold one problem or another at bay “one day at a time,” and what the Step groups amount to is a cure-all for all of humanity’s problems.

AA is a volunteer organization that exists to heal and serve alcoholics free of charge.

This is incredible nonsense. They don’t “heal” anyone but convince them they are sick forever and must be obedient to “the programme of His Kingdom” for their entire lives. No one ever gets well and gets the ok to leave.

It is also extremely misleading to describe them as free. Yes, one can go to a meeting in a church basement and not be coerced into contributing anything into the hat that gets passed around. However, there is a lot more to AA than simply the thousands of meetings.

AA is very careful to give themselves plausible deniability for all actions of their members outside the meetings themselves. For example, AA clubhouses are clubhouses that allow only AA meetings and usually some other 12-Step meetings, are operated by AA members and are often financed by the government under response to the plea of “helping alcoholics and addicts.” While of course they are AA and nothing more or less, they will not only deny being AA but for the most part sincerely believe it. The same goes for much of the multi-billion dollar treatment industry.

A treatment center owned and operated by AA members that only hires 12 Steppers, has “group therapy” that consists of using group pressure to get acquiescence to AA doctrine, and whose one and only purpose is to indoctrinate the patients into AA is “not AA.”

Front groups like the NCADD, which work to get legislation passed that is helpful to the Step groups (e.g. coerced indoctrination) and to “educate the public” in AA theology disguised as “alcoholism science” is “not AA.”

People have no trouble understanding that when Moonies have a weekend getaway for “world peace” that is operated by the Unification Church that it is indeed a Moonie operation. Because of the “spiritual principle of Anonymity,” people believe the lies of the Steppers when they band together under a difference corporate label to further AA goals. “That isn’t AA” sometimes followed by a sincerely expressed quote from a reading at the opening of most every AA meeting, “A.A. is not aligned with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution.” This seems to bring all query and thought to an end.

It is true that AA is not aligned with any other sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution AA. However, what is left out is that AA is its own sect/denomination, has its own politics, has its own organizations and has numerous umbrella groups aligned with it. (for further discussion of “not AA” AA organizations, see: How Far Carried? )

As I understand AA’s organization, they are completely self-funded – existing off internal donations and not seeking monies from external organizations.

I would hope that for anyone who is not a Step group member and knows even a tiny little bit about the Step groups knows that what Dombeck “understands” is plainly and simply 12 Step propaganda. The meetings were intended to be kept “purely spiritual.” They are purely for the indoctrination of new members. All other actions—“educational,” legal and legislative—are carried out through front groups under other corporate umbrellas. Even AA’s official magazine, the Grapevine, is “not AA.”

They insist on anonymity within their meetings.

Well, sort of. Certainly, such statements put newcomers at ease. However, no one is really anonymous in the meetings. Everyone knows everyone else. From what I’ve seen having been an AA member 20 years ago and have heard since, one doesn’t want to say anything in an AA meeting that one doesn’t want the group elders to use against them in the future. Nor do they want to say anything that they don’t want other group members gossiping about. (for further information, see 12-Step Horror Stories )

There is nothing about “Anonymity” that actually protects the members. Members are encouraged to reveal their “disease,” desperation and salvation by “treatment.” What Anonymity is about is protecting AA. When AA members get drunk and kill people in their vehicles, for example, they can be held up as reasons for the need for AA. This is directly opposite to what happened when AA’s founders were members of the Oxford Group. When Oxford Group members who had been boasting about their alcohol problems being solved by the Oxford Group in their efforts to proselytize and then became publicly drunk, rather than being a boon to the Oxford Group as they are to modern-day AA, they were a serious embarrassment.

An effect of this and similar policies is that people’s social status tends to fall away at an AA meeting. An AA meeting is a place where normally unequal people (in terms of wealth, status, etc.) are more equal.

All of this is so sad. There is no “more equal,” except perhaps in Animal Farm’s sense of “some pigs are more equal than others.” Claiming Time is claiming status. Those with most claimed Time are on pedestals and no criticism is allowed no matter what they do from those with less time. Any criticism is met with, “He has Time, what can you say for yourself?” or “Point one finger at someone else and you are pointing three at yourself.” or “You have to consider where he started from.”

None of these expressions are ever used against someone with more Time. They are reserved to keep those with less Time in line.

Most certainly, normal ways of acquiring status in society are nullified. For instance, if someone was to graduate summa cum laude or even was to find the cure for lung cancer, that would not increase his status in AA. However, someone who claims the most Time doing something that he had decided decades before he didn’t want to do anymore because continuing was simply too painful and that he shouldn’t have done in the first place, then he will have have the most status. It is irrelevant if he beats his wife, cheats welfare for decades, lies, betray friends, 13th Steps newcomers or does anything else reprehensible. He is the wise guru whose wisdom all with less Time, all the “pigeons” must acknowledge.

It would be like someone who quit smoking 20 years before being granted special status for having done so and being considered to have special knowledge of God, God’s Will, and everything about life that one must follow in order to avoid death. And all of this for stopping being stupid, for simply having quit smoking. (For some examples, see Miracles of Recovery and 12-Step Horror Stories )

I’m well aware that this blog entry is far, far from a thorough debunking of Dr. Bombeck. It is only a humble starting point. That is the best I can do at the moment with the wealth of misinformation and disinformation offered.

While I am far from naive on the matter, I still am most horrified to see someone who is supposed to be a member of a profession using science to help people mindlessly repeat cult propaganda.

Most of my life I’ve had close friends who were psychologists who were very, very important people to me. They are gone now and greatly missed. One thing they all had in common was their great respect for other people and the scientific method. They would use words like “autonomy” and were proud of the research base of their therapeutic techniques. Perhaps it is for the best that they didn’t live to see the likes of Dr. Bombeck taking over the profession.

More about all of that later.

For those interested in reading further about the Step groups, I’d like to recommend: More Revealed.

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4 years 4 months ago

The Strange World of Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. at is set up for comments on Ken’s Blog.

Clare Mason
5 years 11 months ago

Look at aacultwatch today. It looks as if Dombeck has reconsidered his views slightly. I have posted this on the orange papers forum to see what others have to say. It would be great if you could post there.
Kind regards

7 years 11 months ago

I read your story regarding “Kevin”. In all honesty you should disclose He hung himself. If people know everything they can decide if they want to use Kevins methods and see if they worked in the long run. I am not for or against AA and have no substance issues.