For those obsessed with cults and true crime, HBO's The Vow is a must-watch, as it portrays NXIVM in a way that's foreign to most of us who know of the group from headlines and Keith Raniere's 2019 trial.
The nine-episode HBO documentary series introduces the self-help aspect of the organization and steers clear of mentioning its reputation as a sex cult until three episodes in. Indeed, the NXIVM we see in the first few episodes paints it as a self-improvement group so strong it was even able to cure the nervous system disorder known as Tourette syndrome.
Did NXIVM really cure Tourette's?
A simple search on the Mayo Clinic's website explains rather plainly that while treatment can help a person with Tourette's control the tics that manifest in the form of repetitive movements or unwanted sounds, there is no cure for the condition.
How, then, were Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman able to use NXIVM's Executive Success Program (ESP) to help Marc Elliot and other young people who struggled with Tourette's to overcome their affliction?
The two were so confident about having developed a cure that they even documented their supposed treatments in a NXIVM-backed documentary called My Tourette's, which was released in 2018.
So, how did NXIVM treat Marc's Tourette's?
To hear ex-NXIVM and main subject of The Vow, Mark Vicente, explain it, "Marc Elliot comes into ESP and Marc Elliot has a pretty severe case of Tourette's, and in his first intensive, he's tic-ing like crazy and saying all kinds of words ... It's just a mess."
Then, seemingly by magic, a few sessions with Raniere and Salzman have him speaking so eloquently that he now makes a living as a motivational speaker.
This all seems to have happened through talk therapy. "Keith found a cure for Tourette's, which is a heightened version of what any of us do in ESP," Vicente says in The Vow.
The several-day program, which also costs thousands of dollars, would teach students to recognize their "limiting beliefs" so as to overcome their childhood traumas and find the source of their tics.
Vice reporter Sarah Berman, who wrote a 2018 long-form article entitled "I Tried to Make Sense of the Alleged Sex Cult NXIVM's Bizarre Health Claims," explained that the ESP approach to Tourette's "includes elements of hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, Scientology's Dianetics, and cognitive behavioral therapy." Vice notes that these therapeutic ESP methods have "not been tested in a scientific peer-reviewed setting."
But despite the lack of science and the fact that Raniere was convicted on seven felony counts, including sex trafficking, leading him to now face life in prison, Marc Elliot is still an advocate for the therapy that helped him overcome his incessant vocal and motor tics that interfered with every aspect of his life.
On his website, he writes: "Even with the recent events with NXIVM, Marc continues [to] be a proud supporter in their current battle against hate, something Marc has always stood for."