She wouldn’t be the first celebrity to join a cult, but Leah Messer insists that’s not what happened after she became involved with the Mastery in Transformational Training organization, MITT, back in August. But what is MITT? Learn more about the controversial organization that has fans talking — and trying to warn the Teen Mom 2 star.

What is MITT?

Essentially, it’s a self-help group. According to the organization’s website, the trainings aim to “create responsible and creative world-citizens.” They call themselves “Harvard for the mind,” promising “a stimulating, experiential environment where you can start to build the next level of your life.” MITT is based in Los Angeles, California, and was founded by a woman named Margo Majdi who was introduced to transformational trainings in 1980. In 1998, she bought the rights to the training and revamped the program to become MITT.

What are transformational trainings?

Transformational trainings aim to motivate and inspire you to change your life. MITT is taught through workshops that include “an action-oriented, experiential learning program that addresses all dimensions of human nature: intellect and emotions, body and spirit.” The site explains that the five-day curriculum includes interactive discussions, dyads (“a one-on-one interaction with another participant”), mingling and games, small-group exercises and working directly with one of the trainers.

What does MITT cost?

As of December 2019, an FAQ on the company’s website cites a “currently discounted” price of $495 for the five-day workshop. When the California State University of Northridge’s school paper, The Sundial, wrote about MITT in 2011, the piece’s author, Kristin Hugo, cited a price of $695. Additionally, she wrote that a secondary, more advanced workshop cost $995, side programs cost $495 and the final program costs $1,295. 

Why do people think MITT is a cult?

According to several online reviews, the program can quickly become controlling. Essayist and author Rosecrans Baldwin wrote an article about participating in one of the organization’s workshops for GQ in November 2018, explaining how he felt “mentally crooked from several days of emotional manipulation and little sleep” during the program. He claimed that the rules about what he could and could not do — allegedly including when he could go to the bathroom, speak and eat or drink — were strictly enforced.

Some reviews on Yelp warn those interested to “run as fast as you can” and “stay away,” calling the organization “100 percent” a “cult.” One claimed, “People are treated like animals and no respect is even shown unless you follow every rule to a T. (These rules are absurd, like you can’t use the restroom or drink water during the entire lecture [and] you can’t say bless you if someone sneezes.)” Another calls it “just a business,” but warns those who check it out to trust their guts.

Radar Online cites a lawsuit filed against the training program by a woman named Dana Sabre. In December 2017, Sabre sued MITT for “fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and more.” Her allegations included claims of “brainwashing,” “massive psychiatric stress” and “sexual violation.” However, after the organization filed a Notice of Motion and Motion to Compel Arbitration, Sabre requested the case be dismissed without prejudice. According to Radar, a post-arbitration status conference scheduled for March 2019 was never held.

How is Leah Messer involved in MITT?

The MTV star talked about joining the trainings back in August, and in October, Radar Online reported that she was actively trying to recruit fans to the program as well. One woman named Rachel Chitwood claimed that Leah, 27, asked fans over Instagram Live to contact her if they were interested. When Rachel did, she got a call from the reality personality to discuss MITT. When Rachel eventually realized she couldn’t afford the program, she claims Leah “got mad and became mean.”

On December 9, the star defended her involvement. After fans called out the organization on one of her Instagram posts, she fired back, “EVERY. SINGLE. NEGATIVE comment on this post can UNFOLLOW ME!!! IF YOU DON’T SUPPORT ME NOW, then you NEVER will! Sooo #unfollowme. … I’ll continue to stand for what I believe in and share my truth. You can appreciate me for who I am or you can unfollow me. I will attract an audience that believes in my vision for my life and the world or you never supported me to begin with, you just ‘follow’ me for your own social media satisfaction.”

Is Kailyn Lowry involved in MITT?

One of Leah’s best friends and her Teen Mom costar Kailyn Lowry is not involved with MITT and has actively spoken out against it. According to Rachel, the MTV star contacted her to warn her about the organization, claiming it “targets weak people who can be manipulated.” According to Instagram DMs obtained by Radar, Kail, 27, has worried about her friend and tried to reach out to Leah. “I don’t want to lose her as a friend, but I also don’t think any of this is OK,” she wrote, according to one screenshot.

Now, however, the friends seem to have put their differences behind them. “Just wanted to tweet that even though there’s some stuff going around about Leah [and] myself, I truly came from a good place [and] expressed my concerns to HER,” Kail wrote on Twitter. “We worked it out [and] this will not affect our friendship.” Leah shared her own message of support, writing, “[And] I’m glad you directly came to me. I love you, bb! 😘 It definitely is NOT going to affect our friendship. We actually get to be even closer after our first disagreement. 😜😘”

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