The following are the abstracts that were submitted to ICSA. They are provided to help you choose which conference sessions to attend among the more than 100 available. We have not as yet performed any editing for capitalization, grammar, or style. The abstracts are divided into three sections: (1) presentations (2) panels (3) preconference workshops
A cultic case-study illustrating the concept of “UNITY”: A seventh social influence process. Based on, PRE-SUASION: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade (2016, ROBERT CIALDINI), Chapters 11 and 12. [Presented in preconference education workshop.]
The six social influence processes described by Robert Cialdini in his book INFLUENCE (5th ed. 2009) are well known. He has now added a seventh: “unity” or “shared identity” to his earlier descriptions of: reciprocation, consistency, liking/similarity, social proof, authority and scarcity (both physical & emotional). The concept of UNITY however, seems to be of another order of importance – since it apparently includes all of the other six. Further, it is not only a social influence process, but also a GOAL of all these processes. Humans have survived by using the evolutionary advantage provided by social groups (see E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth, 2012)- – and Cialdini’s seventh social process/goal of “shared identity”/”unity” focuses precisely on the group’s survival. “Shared Identity” is a major goal of cultic groups, and the speaker will illustrate this process with a case study of his own cultic group experience.
A Shepherding update: the case of University of Arizona from Maranatha Campus Ministries to Hope Church and the current cult-like controversies continue
The University of Arizona in the twenty-first century began receiving complaints about Faith Christian Church and later Hope Church both descendants of Maranatha Campus Ministries.Why are there ongoing shepherding like problems and alleged similar cultic practices prevailing? Reoccurring reports are appearing in Florida with ongoing harm multiplying and university students are encountering “brainwashing” allegations with real victims crying out for help. What is similar to the shepherding movement historically and what new developments are different? Where harm and abuse are reoccurring, it is important to understand how to recognize it and respond to it. The need is serious and providing healing and recovery to the hurting will be presented and resources provided. Learn about the tools and approaches available to address this ongoing phenomenon on our University campuses.
Adult Perspectives on Totalistic Teen Treatment: Experiences and Impact
This presentation will summarize thesis research conducted by graduate student, Mark Chatfield, from the Family, Youth, and Community Sciences department at the University of Florida. This qualitative study analyzes semi-structured interviews with adults who, as adolescents, resided within totalistic treatment milieus such as, juvenile justice programs, residential treatment centers, boot camps, wilderness therapy courses, religious conversion programs, and therapeutic boarding schools. The term “totalistic” refers here to degrees of insularity and program characteristics associated with autocratic treatment programs, the psychology of totalism, and total institutions, which utilize a closed group dynamics approach to affect global personal change. Little is known about the way totalistic teen treatment programs affect adult development. Many studies seek to quantify program effectiveness relying on limited outcome measures which do not consider the full range of effect or the potential for negative impact. Although professional ethics assume that providers will utilize the least-restrictive and least-intrusive methods of care, little is known about the subjective experience of restrictiveness and intrusiveness within these settings. The design of this research is informed by literature which emphasizes the need to consider the perspectives of the treatment recipients alongside descriptions of what the outcomes are intended to be, or imagined to be, by. This study is guided by larger questions about the nature of persuasion and healing, and the role of indoctrination in treatment settings. Central questions guiding this study are: What is the difference between teen treatment and thought-reform? When are treatment programs comparable to cultic organizations? Related to these larger questions are more-tangible, and empirical, research questions: 1) How were totalistic teen treatment methods experienced? 2) How do participants describe the immediate effects of the program? 3) How do they describe the long-term impact of the program?
After the Cult: Who Am I?
After the Cult – Who Am I? According to Judith Herman in Trauma & Recovery (1992): “Traumatic events call into question basic human relationships. They breach the attachments of family, friendship, love, and community. They shatter the construction of the self that is formed and sustained in relation to others. They undermine the belief systems that give meaning to human experience. They violate the victim’s faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into a state of existential crisis….” According to Judith Herman in Trauma & Recovery (1992): “Traumatic events call into question basic human relationships. They breach the attachments of family, friendship, love, and community. They shatter the construction of the self that is formed and sustained in relation to others. They undermine the belief systems that give meaning to human experience. They violate the victim’s faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into a state of existential crisis….” … which brings the former cult member to the question: After the Cult ‘Who Am I’? Living in a cult or closed high demand group or relationship is a traumatic experience that may leave former members feeling as though are strangers in a strange land, unfamiliar with the language, customs, sense of meaning and skills that those in the general culture seem to possess. In this interactive workshop we explore the process of the re-definition of self that takes place upon leaving (and often begins even before leaving) a cultic group or relationship, for both first generation former members and those born or raised in these environments. We will discuss psychosocial developmental building blocks of safety, trust, competence, self-esteem & autonomy, and look at developing healthy relationships with healthy boundaries, as these often require revisiting after experiences in high demand groups. While it may be a scary process to confront the traumatic experiences and also take risks in re-defining oneself, this opens the door to hopefulness and possibility. [Attendance restricted to former members of cultic groups and relationships.]
Boundaries: After the Cult
Rosanne Henry and Elizabeth Blackwell
People exit cults confused about their own identities and how to relate to others in mainstream culture. Identity issues stem from the diffuse or excessively blurred boundaries within cult systems: Just like enmeshed families cultists become over-concerned and over-involved in each others’ lives. This pressures members to adapt to the cult and promotes cohesiveness at the expense of autonomy. In contrast to these diffuse boundaries within the cults leadership enforces rigid boundaries between the cult and the outside world which fosters isolation and dependency. For those born/raised in these cult/families boundaries were violated earlier and even more systematically resulting in a loss of safety and security in important relationships. A shame control model of abusive family interactions is presented to explain these boundary violations along with the developmental implications. Experiential and neurobiological views of boundary management are discussed along with strategies backed by research.
Brief overview of Catholic Movements accused of being Cult-like
When compared to European Catholics, United States Catholics appear to have very little knowledge and awareness of ¨Catholic Cults in Our Midst¨. Attempting to fill this vacuum, the present paper presents a smorgasbord of Catholic movements and groups which have come to the attention of Catholic researchers during recent decades. In general terms, Catholics, and especially the Catholic Hierarchy, tend to assume that ¨The Church¨, because of its doctrinal orthodoxy, is free from cults, sects and other questionable groups; these being considered an outside threat to be guarded against. The Trojan Horse in the City of God is usually associated with dangerous progressive doctrines, such as Liberation Theology and Base Communities, zealously held at bay by the Rome´s watchdog Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Recently, priests, professors, professional psychologists and sociologists, some Catholic, have begun to question the above assumptions, by going beyond doctrinal orthodoxy (modus credendi) and questioning the way of life (modus operandi) of some associations accused of harming the members spiritually, psychologically and sexually. Other Catholic institutions begin to appear in the news and to catch the eye of the perceptive Catholic: the Legion of Christ and its Regnum Christi Movement, Italian foundations like Communion and Liberation and the Focolare Movement. Once we have the courage to scratch the surface, other groups, large and small, appear on the horizon of being potentially harmful to their members. Can we find more questionable Catholic movements operating in the USA and Canada ¨in the heart of the Catholic Church¨? A recent French study, From Bondage to Freedom, listed fourteen harmful Catholic communities, five of which have already received official interventions. The presentation will explore and describe these questionable Catholic groups and movements in an effort to heighten Catholic and Christian awareness.”
Carlos Castaneda, Harold Garfinkel and the Breaching Experiments
Carlos Castaneda, the famed faux-anthropologist and hero of the psychedelic era, became, in the last decade of his life, a full-fledged cult leader. He taught thousands of followers Tensegrity, a movement technique he claimed had been passed down by twenty-four generations of Toltec shamans. In this presentation, I will focus on Castaneda’s relationship with his mentor at UCLA, the brilliant and controversial sociologist Harold Garfinkel. Garfinkel, who sat on Castaneda’s dissertation committee, was famous for his “breaching experiments,” in which he aimed to reveal the “socially agreed upon” nature of reality. In these experiments, participants’ sense of reality was methodically broken down. In one instance, students were sent home for vacation with the following assignment: without revealing what you’re doing, behave toward your family as if you are a lodger at an inn. This violation of – in Garfinkel’s view – society’s hidden rules frequently led to considerable emotional disorientation among participants and family members. Years later, when Castaneda launched Tensegrity, he would employ this technique, among others learned from Garfinkel (to whom he dedicated his last book) in order to help followers break their attachments from their families. They needed to do this in order to become “sorcerers,” who would, if they followed Castaneda closely enough, be able to follow their leader into another dimension. Following his death in 1998, five members of his inner circle attempted to do this by making “the leap” – committing suicide. Death itself, they believed, was a social construct. More broadly, I will argue that Castaneda’s practice as a cult leader was essentially a breaching experiment taken outside the confines of academia. Where, unlike the trials conducted by Garfinkel, Milgram, Zimbardo and others, it never – until Castaneda’s death – came to an end.
Caught in the Vortex: Dynamics of Psychological/Emotional Manipulation and Entrapment in One-on-One Cultic Dyads and Small Groups
While it is understood that the dynamics involved in one-on-one cultic dyads and small groups are very similar to larger group cult dynamics, as well as situations of interpersonal violence, there is little in the literature that has explored these inner workings to any great depth. Rather, the characteristics of cult leaders and the methods of thought reform in larger cultic groups are often extrapolated to one-on-one cultic dyads and small groups with the awareness that such experiences are often more intense and may be more traumatizing due to the focus of attention on only one person or on a small group of individuals. This presentation, based on personal experience, experiences of others and the existing literature, particularly on traumatizing narcissism, will begin to explore specifically the methodical, often slowly and carefully executed, processes frequently involved in the creation of a cultic dyad or small group. The use of personal characteristics and vulnerabilities, belief systems and even core values as means to manipulate, entrap and control will be addressed, including understandings of power differentials in relationships that may make certain individuals more vulnerable. Similarities and differences with large group cultic dynamics will also be highlighted. The presentation will conclude with recommendations for family members of those involved in cultic dyads or small groups, for those aiding in the healing process, and for former members as they attempt to regain their lives.
Child Sexual Grooming in Alternative Religions
This presentation identifies various strategies and techniques that sexual predators in alternative religions use to gain access to, and then violate, children for sexual purposes. Using legal documents, scholarship, and journalistic sources, we identify activities and assertions that abusers use to either disarm parents or guardians or draw them into the abuse environment themselves. We also discuss both psychologically manipulative and violent strategies that abusers use to actually commit their crimes. We conclude by offering comments about the prevalence of such violations in alternative religions, and strategies that concerned parties might consider to reduce the risk to children in these groups.
Child-Monk and Child’s Desire. Psychoanalytic and Anthropological Study on the Limits and Abuses of a religious tradition?
This paper is about a psychoanalytic and anthropological research on child ordination in buddhist tradition. According to buddhist texts, the Buddha himself ordained his own son at the age of 7, who became the first Sāmanera(novice monk). In this religious and educational context, Monastic schools for « child-monks » and monastic life of the child raise the question on limits of child’s desire and the desire of the Other(in lacanien terms). We are refering here to a popular srilankan teledrama on a « child-monk » (podi hamuduruvo or podi saadu). In this case, can one talk of a battle against the feeling of guilt in order to avoid accusations made by human rights organisations or of a satisfaction gained, by the people, from seeing a « child-monk » living as any other child. Indeed, two buddhist traditions should be further explored : the Lesser or small Vehicle(Hinayana), centralised and controlled by the State autorities, and the Great Vehicle(Mahayana) with more independant and smaller sects. In moste countries (Tibet, Thailand, Sri Lanka), some families send at least one boy to be ordained, some others send the child with « bad » or « blank » horoscope. Ordination as a novice provides for poor children and orphans material needs as well as a basic education. Child ordination persists usually under the protection of the state. How to protect the child-monk from child abuse, exploitation and mental manipulation? How the temple operates with power of éducation and teaching? Our intention is to discuss some case studies of abused “ex-child-monks” and of chidren lived marginal situations. To what extent is it possible to regulate “master-pupil” relationship in buddist tradition, to control and to avoid abusive sitations. All of these issues will be discussed, based on the concepts such as desire, drive, sublimation, fantasy, ideal and infantile conditions and psychical vulnerability will be treated through a transdisciplinary approach : historical, anthropological and psychoanalytical.
Colliding Worldviews: Ministering to Those Traumatized in Bible-based Cults
If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse. Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God.”-C. S. Lewis Bible-based, cultic experience erodes the very core of one’s existence and throws the victim into an existential crisis. Disconnected from one’s self, others, and God dismantles the basic tenets of life and faith. It is not enough for the therapist to just lead the “client” to psychological “wholeness” if their soul/spirit is left untouched. All Bible based cults are not only thought reform environments, but specific “spiritual cultures” in and of themselves (language, beliefs, spoken and unspoken taboos, rituals, values and shared symbols). To be effective in counseling those “culturally” different there must be an awareness and appreciation of the vastness that exists between the ex-member’s spiritual worldview and value assumptions, and that of the therapist. The Chinese character for crisis is made up of two symbols; one for opportunity and one for despair. The prepared therapist working with this “client in crisis” has an opportunity to help them begin to find healing and avoid despair. This workshop will explore issues and approaches that are specific to Bible-based cults:
- First contact; do’s and don’ts, vulnerability and honesty, etc.
- Considerations (client); assessments, global spiritual functioning, fears and failures (spiritually), etc.
- Considerations (therapist); basic understanding, finding appropriate homework, basic books, specific group, resources, etc.
- Approaches; self-esteem issues, boundaries, destructive Biblical thought reform, etc.
Communicating to Recruit, Restrain and Retain – The Changing Mormon Narrative
Mark Giles; Ashlen Hilliard
The Mormon (LDS) Church – a faith-based, high-control organization – relies heavily on communications expertise and considerable spin to recruit, restrain and retain its membership. With real growth (recruiting) now almost flat in the Americas and Europe—and members “leaving in droves”, according to some sources—the Mormon Church is maneuvering to maintain control (restrain), while retaining members and its brand as an expanding, influential global institution. This slowly flattening growth appears to correspond to the advent of the information age, as potential recruits and members are increasingly exposed to credible online accounts of controversial history, doctrinal changes and incidents of cover-up. While this threat to the church is real and of concern to its leaders, it has vast wealth at its disposal to support strategic communications campaigns and build multi-million dollar temples across the globe to support its brand. Doing so stretches the perception-reality gap in its favor, influencing the external audience—especially the more vulnerable and often less informed in Africa and other third-world regions—and the internal audience—its base of active members, as well as “redeemable” inactives—to perceive and believe that the church is stable and still growing rapidly. It’s a strategy the Church of Scientology also appears to employ, distracting its members—and other key stakeholders—from the hard reality that the organization is in decline. Mark Giles, a former Mormon missionary now referred to as one of Canada’s chief cult experts, and Ashlen Hilliard, a passionate ex-Mormon advocate who has worked with those leaving fundamentalist Mormon polygamous communities, will provide some historical analysis, discuss the Mormon Church’s recruiting problem and its indoctrination efforts to keep members on the “true” path (restrain and retain), and highlight where the “battle” of audience opinion may move in the years ahead.
Cult in Contemporary China in the perspective of social transformation.
This project intends to grasp the status of cult and explores its causes in contemporary China, thus to provide better policy suggestions to deal with the cult. Based on a large number of empirical investigations, this paper shows that the multi-facials characters of the cults in contemporary China. Besides being harmful, study shows other social and culture features. It is fusion of a variety of cultural elements and have hierarchical organization system, it has involved of many people and continue to develop new branches. The interaction between domestic and foreign cults makes cult problems more complex. The characteristics of cult problems in contemporary China are closely related to the transformation of Chinese Society. The imperfection of social development makes the cults have a living space—the change of social members’ living style and the imperfection of social support system, The growth of spiritual and the lack of culture, diversity and conflict. Based on this point , the contemporary cult prevention countermeasures should be establish a series of social measures, including building social trust , perfect social support system, establish a good cultural ecosystem, make full use of legal means ,accurate positioning, accurate strike, strengthening exchanges and cooperation of international anti cult.
Cultic Theory & Intervention for Pimp Controlled Sex Trafficking
In 2017, Free Our Girls conducted 53 qualitative interviews and gathered quantitative data from over 1500 female victims and survivors of domestic pimp/gang/familial sex trafficking. These are the two largest data sets on domestic sex trafficking in US history currently. The quantitative data will be published in 2018 and the qualitative interviews will be published in a book in 2019. For the past 4 years, Megan has been researching pimp controlled sex trafficking using cultic theory and framework and adapting successful cultic intervention models. Presentation at the ICSA conference would introduce this theory on domestic pimp controlled sex trafficking to cultic theory professionals with the goal of receiving additional feedback and guidance on future theory development, as well as having this high-demand group formally recognized within cultic studies.
Difficult challenges raised in custody and visitation disputes
Carolle Tremblay; Steve Eichel
The numerous and difficult challenges raised in custody and visitation dispute from an attorney’s and a psychologist’s point of view: Sharing three decades of experience in custody cases.
1- The children’s rights and their best interest as the starting point of all decision. The international legal acknowledgment. Is there a best interest and a best best interest?
2- The parental rights and obligations : Where do we stand in term of freedom of thoughts, beliefs, religious beliefs, and the legal parental right to make decision for the children about medical treatment and schooling
3- In cultic / closed groups who is really making the decision concerning the children and who is in fact the opposing party in a custody/visitation dispute?
4- The necessity to fully understand how a group and its leader function, the beliefs and the vocabulary used prior to taking position or giving legal advice. The duty to inform the Court
5- How to avoid the trap of freedom of beliefs
6- Criminal act and international kidnapping: No one is lilywhite
7- The child may be torn simply by being in contact with the ex-member parent: The necessity to share knowledge with an expert.
8- The emotional condition of an ex member client seeking custody and/or visitation rights
9- Examples of various cases
DisUnification Churches? An Enquiry into Post-Charismatic Factions”
Even when they do not expect to do so, charismatic founders of new religions have a tendency to die. It is then that the sometimes fragile threads that held his (or occasionally her) authority as supreme can start to snap. This paper looks at the schisms that have emerged since the death of Sun Myung Moon in particular, but also at some other religions that have lost the leader from whom they had accepted a near-unquestioned authority. What, the paper asks, are the competing narratives? To what extent are these drawn from the departed founder, and to what extent are they innovations serving particular beliefs and/or interests? Under what conditions might the warring factions re-unite, or are they unlikely ever to accommodate to the others’ strongly held positions?
Dreams of Meeting – On Leaving the Closed Brethren
This paper reflects on the dreams and process of M’s psychoanalysis, recounted in the first person, as M considers leaving the Closed Brethren where she is a fourth generation member. For purposes of this paper, M is a composite of several women, including the author, who have grown up in the Closed Brethren, left this high-demand group, and sought out psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. The Closed Brethren originated through divisions within the Plymouth and Exclusive Brethren. Most Closed Brethren groups use abusive practices such as shame and shunning to control their members, often resulting in dissociation of life experiences during childhood. Mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder are more prevalent in adults who have grown up in this high-demand environment. This paper proposes and illustrates that the psychotherapy of choice for women who have left the Closed Brethren is one based in contemporary relational psychoanalysis, as considered through the lens of thinkers such as Jessica Benjamin, Philip Bromberg, Marie Hoffman, Daniel Shaw, and Donald W. Winnicott.
Eating Disorders, Self-Mutilation, and Suicidality in Cultic and High-Demand Groups
Disordered eating and/or self-mutilation can play a significant role in the life of someone involved in a high-demand or cultic group. These forms of self-harm can serve as a non-verbal protest, a dissociated enactment of the wish to cut the cord that binds the member to the leader. Two primary factors combine to produce self-harm: the imbalance of power in the relationship between the group’s leader and the members, and the tendency toward dissociation, which arises out of trauma. Group leaders inflict overwhelming trauma on members, affecting the nervous system profoundly. The trauma response includes a pattern of intrusive hyperarousal alternating with numbing or dissociative responses which can cause the mind to snap and shut down, resulting in an ongoing dissociated state of consciousness. This snapping can happen suddenly or slowly or may be a more gradual process of subtle changes resulting in profound personality change, Those who become attached to group leaders who neglect, hurt, or abuse them also become attached to the pain experienced at their hands. That is, having become attached to people who inflict pain and suffering, they develop an attachment to pain and suffering, to others who inflict pain and suffering, and they are prone to develop the same kind of relationship to themselves. Two cases will be presented. One is that of a woman born into a high -demand group, who developed a life-threatening case of anorexia while in the group, but began to recover after leaving. The other is a case of a young man who became involved in a theatre group in adolescence, who went on to cut and burn himself, developed something of an eating disorder, and had suicidal thoughts while involved. His dissociative floating at times became so severe that he went in and out of psychotic states.
Entheogens and Entactogens: Cults and Drugs
The majority of ancient religions began with or surrounding the use of a mind-altering substance. These substances known as entheogens and entactogens appear to enhance the user’s connection with the divine and a sense of oneness with creation. Others may be concoctions that invite death as a transformational experience. Changes of perception to enhance consciousness remain at the core of most modern cults that may or may not employ a psychotropic substance. The speaker will give a brief history of drugs at the core of ancient cult experience as well as address psychoactive substance use in contemporary cults, therapies, and religions. The speaker will direct a discussion regarding the danger and the value of substance use within a self-sealing belief system.
Escaping Scientology and Coming to Terms With Your Story
A former Scientologist of 16 years, author Karen Schless Pressley will use her book, Escaping Scientology: An Insider’s True Story (published 2017) as she explores “escaping” as a process that took three attempts over nine years to finally leave, and another decade to heal. Karen discusses the post-Scientology risks and ramifications including dealing with PTSD, as well as types of therapy that were most effective in her healing process and personal restoration, particularly her college education. While completing her MA in Professional Writing, Karen discovered the healing qualities of writing with connections to narrative therapy, and developed the handbook, Coming to Terms With Your Story: Writing to Heal, as a guide to help former members of high demand groups. Karen shows how she used these writing techniques to write and publish Escaping Scientology.
Ethical standards for thought reform consultation work
Piotr T. Nowakowski
The author analyzes ethical standards for thought reform consultation work. He means especially the codified standards formulated by organizations and individuals conducting such service. The examples of the ethical standards codified by a cult awareness organization is the Declaration of the Dominican Centres of Information on New Religious Movements and Cults (Poland) or the ethical standards of the Cult Education Institute (USA). The point of reference are also professional papers such as “Ethical Standards for Thought Reform Consultants” by Carol Giambalvo, Joseph F. Kelly, Patrick L. Ryan, & Madeleine Tobias, where particular standards were also codified in a clear and contentful way.
Everyday Cults – and the Art of Recognizing and Addressing Destructive Dynamics in Mainstream Groups, Businesses, Churches and in the Self-Help Movement [Presented in preconference education workshop.]
This presentation engages participants in recognizing how cultic dynamics can and do manifest in mainstream organizations of all kinds in every layer of society. It cultivates an atmosphere of active participation while developing tools to appropriately address these destructive practices. Everyday Cults are groups that are commonly considered socially acceptable – dismissed as harmless, alternative, or ‘weird’ – but are, in fact, slowly stripping members of their autonomy, potentially leading to mind control and emotional, financial and other abuses. Using examples of Everyday Cults in self-help, business, civic, and religious groups, Buglion will guide participants to recognize specific cultic traits and how they have morphed to appear more acceptable in current mainstream culture. A core tenant of the presentation is that destructive practices can exist in any group. Therefore, Buglion will also discuss the essential need for truly healthy leadership and the capacity for group members to be able to identify healthy leadership as well as the techniques used by cult leaders. Drawing from proven strategies of effectively confronting cultic abuse (from ICSA journals and books), Buglion will offer how one can adapt them to a mainstream environment in a non-confrontational and self-empowered manner. Buglion will offer precise and replicable strategies for addressing the prevalence of Everyday Cults. She encourages others to engage in community and education forums in a non-threatening way that promotes understanding, inspires compassion and motivates listeners to look more critically at their own lives and the groups around them. This presentation is part of a research project on Everyday Cults, being launched by Buglion.
Family Counseling for Second Generation Adult Cult Survivors
1.5 CE hours for mental health professionals
Family Counseling for second generation adult cult survivors (SGAs) is different from that of first generation adults. First generation survivors often need to integrate back into the outside world and into their families while processing their trauma and abuse. Second generation adult survivors need to process not only the abuse and trauma they suffered, while figuring out who they are, but also negotiate a new normal for family relationships. Many SGAs leave their families in the cult and may be cut off from or suffer from strained relationships with families they leave behind. Other SGAs may leave the cult with their family , but may need to determine new ways of figuring out relationships without cult involvement. Couples and family members may be walking uncharted territory in working out new relationships in the outside world. This session will give help/tools for working with SGA survivors and their families. Case studies will be utilized to increase understanding of family counseling principles with SGA families.
Family involved in Cultic Groups Influence on Young People: An Analysis Based on Media Coverage and Interviews
Family is a core concept both in Chinese culture and society, and a key to understand almost all social phenomenon, including cultic problem. There are 9765 reports related to cultic groups in the full text database of Chinese Major Newspapers from 2001 to 2010. the People’s Daily has 82 reports with more detail on cases of cultic victims from 1999-2010, and these reports referred to 69 cases of death, and more than 40 injured cases. In the website of Kaifeng, a website devoted itself to exposing cultic groups, there are hundreds of writings written by ex-members with detail information about how they were involved in cultic groups, and how family members, relatives and neighbors influenced each other. These reports contain a lot of information about how young people were persuaded by their parents and involved in cultic groups, and in what kind of life condition young people live in the family that parents were ex-members in a cultic group. These reports also provide some clues to make interview for more information about how the children suffered in their growing process. In our study, at first, we will make qualitive analysis of the reports and writings, to describe personal influencing patterns, such as parent-child, child- parent, brother-sister, relatives, and neighbors. Second, we will describe how young people born, raised in cultic family, suffered, were abused by their parents or organizations by interview. At last, we will make some suggestions for young people to exit or be away from extremist groups.
Foundation Principles of Critical Thinking [Presented in preconference education workshop.]
Human thinking, left to itself, is inevitably biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Sloppy or shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated. Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the elements inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them. This talk will explore the fundamental skills and techniques for foraging through the plethora of “”fake news”” and information as a means of skillfully overcoming our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.
Victims of coercive influence for decades have suffered real harms, but can they get real legal remedies? Unfortunately, courts have been reluctant to grant relief, or even allow these victims to have their day in court. Now, for the first time, there is reason to hope that judges will finally permit these cases to go to trial. This talk will discuss the search for a legal theory to open the courtroom door. From brainwashing, to undue influence, to predatory alienation, judges may now be willing to listen to victims and their mental health experts who can give scientific legitimacy to the reality of psychological injury caused by what the California legislature used to call “artful and designing” persons. The development of the Social Influence Model, and why it is already having success, will be explained.
The present project examines government regulation of destructive groups claiming to be religious and therefore protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The project examines notable precursors of government action, forms of government action, and primary consequences of this action. This part of the project focuses on government regulation of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), given the group’s long duration, high profile, strong power base, and creative flouting of the law. For several decades, from the 1953 Short Creek Raid until the early 21st century, federal and state governments minimally intervened in the FLDS despite mounting evidence of child abuse and other illegal activity by group members. The government’s laissez faire approach to the group lessened to some degree with the 2008 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, Warren Jeffs’ resulting conviction for child sexual assault, and Texas’ seizure of the Ranch. More recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has pursued several actions targeting the group leadership, pursuing a strategy akin to that previously used against the mafia. In one case, for example, the DOJ alleged First Amendment violations based on the towns of Hildale and Colorado City having acted as arms of the FLDS; Civil Rights Act violations, based on discrimination against non-FLDS living in the Hildale-Colorado City region; and Fair Housing Act violations, stemming from denial of housing and utilities to non-FLDS. There are signs, however, that the government’s response has been largely ineffectual. The present project documents historic and modern federal and state attempts at FLDS regulation and considers avenues for enhanced government involvement in FLDS operations (however unlikely to be taken). With this perspective, one might better advocate for at least an incremental increase in effective government regulation of other purportedly religious, destructive groups operating in the U.S.
Helping Former Members Work with Dreams of an Abusive Group: Opportunities for Recovery through Engaging with Dreams
People who have exited a cult, extremist group, or abusive religious organization may experience dreams that involve returning to the group or feeling as though they have never left. Former members can find these dreams disturbing, and may experience them as nightmares. And yet, these dreams offer rich material that can help with recovery. This session will present the findings of a research study, in which the use of a simple self-administered “dream interview” created a safe environment in which to explore the images, feelings, and associations that dreams of an abusive group conveyed to the former member. The presentation will show how the dream interview process helped address issues commonly experienced by former members, such as a lingering tendency toward polarized (“black and white”) thinking, difficulty trusting oneself after having been trained to rely on authority figures, loss of a primary source of meaning and guidance, and difficulty establishing a sense of belonging in a community and developing healthy relationships. For example, we will see how directing questions to characters in a dream that the dreamer considered “scary” (such as leaders of the former group) helped the dreamer reduce the level of fear that a nightmare had induced, observe parallels between emotional patterns in the former group and in one’s post-group life, develop strategies for self-care, and enhance one’s sense of personal empowerment through the self-administered interview process. The session will include an explanation of the theoretical grounding of the dream interview approach in Gestalt theory, research on nightmares and attachment styles, the Jungian concept of the shadow, client-centered dreamwork, and the International Association for the Study of Dreams’ ethical guidelines. Attendees will be provided with tools and guidance for using the dream interview approach, including a questionnaire worksheet for conducting self-administered dream interviews.
History of support groups and networks for those affected by high demand/high control groups and relationships
Support groups and networks in many ways have been a source of help, information and support for not only former members but also those who have a loved one entangled in a high demand/high control situation or relationship. This talk will chronicle the history of selective support groups and networks since the early 1970s (such as reFOCUS which is a support network for former members and the monthly support group for former members held by the Goldbergs, etc.). Additionally, characteristics of a successful support group will be discussed in order to give some guidelines to those considering the formation of a support group.
How Do You Mend a Broken Heart-Balm Statute?
Most people assume that the reason cults can get away with breaking up families is because they receive enormous legal protection from the religious freedom clauses in the United States Constitution. In actuality, cults that break up families receive more legal protection from little- known laws called “Heart-Balm Statutes” than they do from the Constitution. Courts have repeatedly held that religious practices such as “shunning” family members are not protected by the Constitution, yet the Heart-Balm Statutes preclude family members victimized by shunning from bringing lawsuits. In this presentation, Mr. Grosswald will argue that the shunning of family members causes such a grave harm to individuals and to society that victims of the practice should be entitled to sue for damages. Mr. Grosswald will discuss the history and purpose of the Heart-Balm Statutes, and will argue that the purpose of such statutes is not satisfied when they are used to block lawsuits by families who have lost contact with loved ones in cults. In fact, the use of Heart-Balm Statutes to protect cults that break up families was never contemplated or anticipated by the legislators who created the Heart-Balm Statutes. Thus, Mr. Grosswald will argue that society needs to re-think the Heart-Balm Statutes. He will urge the audience to begin talking with their elected officials to advocate for a change in the law, so that families victimized by cult-related shunning will have a legal remedy.
How Grief Becomes Disenfranchised When Losing a Child to a Cult
This workshop discusses how grief is a normal response to loss, why grief work is important and how people respond to loss as defined by Bowlby’s phases of mourning. Important factors that help mourning proceed normally when dealing with the loss of a child will also be addressed. The absence of several of the factors that support normal mourning creates an unusual type of grief called disenfranchised grief. This is the grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially accepted. We will discuss the consequences of disenfranchised grief and the reasons that it occurs, how loss through death differs from loss of connection with a child who is alive, and how to deal with unresolvable grief. Losing a child to a cult is a psychosocial loss that can be viewed along a continuum of reversibility to irreversibility. The workshop concludes with a list of effective ways to cope with the loss of a child.
How to Get Legislators to Pay Attention
This talk will describe the process by which NJ Safe and Sound was able to get a bill through the NJ Legislature. Need to communicate with Pompelio regarding specifics. We are also interested in asking him to contribute to the planned legal book.
Korean New Religious Movement Founder’s Religious Experience and its Corrective Healing Deisgn of the Current Religions: A Jamesian Approach
Chae Young Kim
The purpose of this paper will outline psycho-spiritual features exposed in various personal religious experiences of Korean New Religious Movements’ founders and their corrective healing design of the current religions, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity and other national folk religions in Korea. In each Korean NRMs, like the case of the other region, those religious experience materials are dispersed from a key founder’s through an ordinary participant’s experiences but not yet collected or accumulated systematically. Nevertheless ordinary participant’s experience materials are too numerous to handle them in a single paper. So in this paper four key founder’s religious experiences and their corrective healing design of the current religions in Korean NRMs will be chosen for a comparative sketch. They are Choe, Je-U(Suun1824-1864) of Eastern Learning, Kang, Il-Sun(Jeungsan1871-1909) of Jeungsan related diverse religious movements, Kwon, Shin-Chan(1923-1996) and Yu, Byeung-Eun of Salvation Sect, Yoon, Hong-Sun(Julia 1947-) of Naju Mary’s Arch of Salvation. For the development of this essay, William James’ perspective of religious experience and its healing dimension elaborated in his Gifford Lectures, The Varieties of Religious Experience will be introduced to articulate psycho-spiritual features in the four key founders’ religious experiences and their corrective healing design of the current religions in Korea. Above all, James’ typological understanding of religious persons including religious founders as the sick soul type and the healthy- mindedness type.
Learning from Those Who Got Away
Ashley Allen, Janja Lalich
This panel will describe what worked and what didn’t work for individuals who were born and/or raised in a cult when they entered mainstream society. Discussions include dealing with aftereffects, family relations, therapy, group support, personal relationships, career and education concerns. The data are drawn from interviews with 65 adult children of cults, as well as panelists’ personal testimony.
Legal Theories: Overview and Potential Strategies
Robin Boyle Laisure
The presentation will cover various legal theories that have been used, or could potentially be used, primarily in the United States. The legal theories to be addressed will include a discussion about the federal Human Trafficking Statutes, Stalking Laws, and Emancipation Laws for minors. These theories will be explained as they relate to cult phenomena.
Like Straws Carried Together by the Waves of a River: How Ideology is Connected to Child Abuse Within the Hare Krishna Movement
Eric Bernasek, Nitai Joseph
The international Hare Krishna movement, including ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) and its offshoots, has an unfortunate track record when it comes to the abuse and neglect of the children in its care. ISKCON in particular had very serious problems with child abuse and endangerment within its secondary schools (referred to as “gurukulas” within the movement). Those problems spanned at least two decades and were first exposed in 1996, leading to a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Though ISKCON officials and rank-and-file members alike presently insist that the organization’s problems in this area are now ancient history, having been successfully addressed and corrected, reports of new incidents continue to surface. The cause for these problems can in part be attributed to institutional shortcomings, but the movement’s underlying ideology – and the representation of that ideology within its foundational texts and mythology – contributes significantly to a culture that invites neglect and abuse of its most vulnerable members. This presentation will briefly summarize the history of child abuse within the Hare Krishna movement, including accounts of recent allegations, before proceeding to an analysis of the movement’s core texts, the statements of its leaders, and the representation of those ideological concepts within the movement’s mythology. It is our intent to show that the Hare Krishna movement’s problems with child abuse are, if not caused by fundamental ideological tenets, at least exacerbated by them, and that ultimately those concepts prevent the movement’s members from instituting the sort of changes that might prevent those problems from continuing to recur.
Mentoring: A model for intervention with former members
Samie Brosseau, Ashley Allen
Mentoring has a long history in child welfare and professional/organizational psychology. With that history comes a significant research base and an increasingly nuanced understanding of mentoring in all its various forms. Research has supported mentoring as providing many benefits including increased self-efficacy (Lau, Zhou, & Lai, 2017), increased self-confidence and self-esteem (Lucas & James, 2017), increased professional identity and greater career satisfaction (Eby et al., 2008; Johnson, Jensen, Sera, & Cibora, 2017), better physical health and professional competence (Eby et al., 2008), and reduction in delinquent behaviors both as an intervention and as prevention (Schwartz, Chan, Rhodes, & Scales, 2013; Rhodes, 2016; Lucas & James, 2017). At its root, mentoring is a relationship, and with that comes all of the complexities that relational systems encompass. However, mentoring relationships are also situated within their environment and thus the communities and cultures within which they exist are essential to understanding the mentoring relationship. This presentation will explore what mentoring is, how it functions, and the forms it can take (i.e. formal mentoring matches, natural mentoring, and hybrid/mixed type mentoring). This presentation will also introduce mentoring into work with former cult members, especially those born or raised in cults. And it will look at mentoring program development and implementation in a non-profit organization serving former cult members, Liberation Point.
New Challenges from Cultic Movements in Post Qigong Fever China
It has been over twenty years since the mass qigong fever movements in China. Great change has taken place in social milieu, policy making, public opinion and the movements themselves. The most successful and controversial movements such as Zhong gong, a Confucian, socialist and corporate styles operation and many others have undergone various transformation. Based on first handed field research in several provinces in China, this study would try to scrutinize new challenges posed by cultic movements in Post Qigong Fever China in three aspects as follows. The first aspect is the transformation and dynamics of cultic movements, especially new characteristic and tendency of extremist of the movements in rural areas and big cities alike when the leader is deceased. The study would not focus on a single group and try to draw a bigger picture. The second aspect is cult awareness in education sectors facing new global challenge. In new media age various form of online cult crime targeted at Chinese youngsters is on the rise. The current situation would be evaluated. The third aspect is exit counseling and social support. Based on interviews of exit counselors, volunteers, the study would reveal several current difficulties in helping professionals in China. As a researcher and educator in Chinese Academy of Sciences, a seven year membership of ICSA provides the author beneficial resources on cult prevention and education on campus. Possible future cooperation with the newly established Center for Cultic Studies (CCS) in University of Chinese Academy of Sciences would be discussed.
Second generation adult (SGA) former cult members have many unique challenges, not least of which is parenting their children. Most people model their parenting after their own parents’. This is not possible for adult children of cults who are acutely aware of the dysfunction of their cultic upbringing. We have no healthy role models to follow and may feel completely lost. Issues arise that are unique to our situation and it is impossible to get guidance from popular parenting literature. For example; how do you explain your bizarre history to the children and how do you explain strained relationships with family members? Discipline will be a struggle as well since adult children of cults did not experience healthy forms as discipline in their own childhood. When children were disciplined in the cult it was experienced as abuse because it was never intended for the benefit of the children. It was intended for the benefit of the cult leader and to promote his/her agenda. These issues are compounded by the SGA’s tendency toward perfectionism. We are easily overcome by feelings of inadequacy with regard to our parenting ability. These topics and strategies for healthy parenting will be discussed.
Overvaluation: the goal of thought reform and the key to control
Former members of cults initially blame themselves for trusting in a belief, worldview or a person that later turned out to be a fraud. Those who get help after leaving learn quickly that entering into a cult mindset is more complicated than they could imagine and self-blame is a simple but unreasonable conclusion. The many views on thought reform answer the “what happened” question but not really the “how” question. How did my brain “see the light” and conclude the cult was probably the only place I could find truth. It has long been suspected that cult indoctrination involves the survival reward center of the brain, the same area that gets hijacked by repeated doses of alcohol or drugs. Massive investment in research on the science of addiction has identified three other areas as contributing to ongoing use of alcohol or drugs long after negative consequences have far outweighed any benefit for the addict or alcoholic. These areas of the brain have been identified as being vulnerable to repeated chemical messages from the survival reward center. Together, they are supposed to perform reality checks and assign relative values to behaviors that provide something greater than expected. The implication is that thought reform techniques might induce a form of process addiction, keeping members dependent on the group and its leaders long after it makes sense.
Psychological Manipulation, How Cults Do It and How You Can Resist Them [Presented in preconference education workshop.]
The essence of the cultic experience is that we have all been manipulated. Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change a person’s behavior or perception through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics. This talk will explain the manipulative process, including Paul Martin’s brilliant description of the characteristics of the manipulator. My current PhD research will show how one of the primary mechanisms for getting people to behave in ways that are not in their best interests is exploiting cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. Cults create cognitive dissonance by getting people to commit to behavior which goes against their personal beliefs. Cults manipulate people with methods of undue influence to take advantage of the vulnerability and turmoil resulting from internal inconsistency. The presentation will include resources and solutions for ‘cult-proofing’ yourself and others against psychological manipulation.
Psychopathological characteristics of Members and ex-Members of Psychological Abusive Groups attending a Clinical Psychology Unit
Vega González-Bueso, Juanjo Santamaria
Most of the authors conclude that the basic defining elements characterizing Psychological Abusive Groups are the abusive nature of their strategies, the continued duration of their application, and the goal of the submission of the group members (Rodríguez-carballeira et al., 2013; Rodríguez-Carballeira et al., 2015). These authors define these type of groups as a process of systematic and continuous application of pressure, control, manipulation, and coercion strategies to dominate other people to achieve their submission to the group. It seems clear that these intrinsic characteristics and practices will have negative consequences in members mental health, but the available evidence on psychological aspects of cult members is scarce and the findings on that topic need to be interpreted with caution (Aronoff, Lynn, & Malinoski, 2000). More controlled, specific and clinical research is needed to clarify the psychopathological characteristics of cult members and ex-members, to improve the prevention and the treatment of these patients. The objective of this work is to present the psychopathological characteristics of members or ex-members of PMG attending the Psychological Manipulation Groups Unit in AIS-PROJUVENTUD.
Reawakening Your Spirituality After a Cult Experience
Doug and Wendy Duncan
Spiritual abuse is widespread and can be found in all religions. Cultic/spiritual abuse occurs when leaders use their position of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate. The cult leader portrays himself as the truth-bearer and members are led to believe that God has specifically chosen him to bring light into the world. The cult leader’s claim that God has given him a unique and special revelation justifies his role as the leader and his right to exercise control over his members. Followers are taught to accept the leader’s authority as divinely mandated. In whatever manner the abusive leader uses God, karma, salvation, the threat of damnation, the promise of enlightenment, or other spiritual promises/threats, the result is the same: spiritual abuse. Any doubts or questions are quickly extinguished by the leader utilizing intimidation, humiliation, and fear. Over time, the devotee adopts the cult’s view of God and has difficulty leaving because of the fear that doing so means they are leaving “The Truth” and even God himself. When an individual manages to separate from a cultic or spiritually abusive group, he faces myriad issues of a physical and psychological nature. Defining and reclaiming post-cult spirituality is often postponed while the individual sorts through day-to-day life outside the cult. However, acknowledging the damage and recapturing one’s spiritual identity is a core task of recovery. How can we reawaken our spirituality? How do we fill that emptiness of the soul? How do we get past the feelings of confusion and disillusionment? How do we recapture a sense of purpose? This presentation will focus on:
- Obstacles in transitioning out of a spiritually manipulative group/religion
- Expunging the image of the god of the cult
- Recovering your faith
- Reconnecting with your spiritual self”
Recovery- From Victimhood to Surviving To Thriving
There is a great need to talk about the recovery process. The one line that’s always heard is “recovery is individual” and while this is absolutely correct, it may be very confusing to people who were born and raised in a cult since individuality is not something that we know anything about. My talk will be about my own path to recovery. My hope is that by telling my personal journey, the levels and steps to it as well as commonalities between mine and what I’ve seen other SGAs go through, it’d shed some light in what it truly takes to recover. My hope is to encourage those that hear for the first time how long it’s taken others to recover and to let them know that there is a light at the end of that tunnel.I will also cite examples of others SGAs and their journeys (with their permission) and talk about the similarities and differences. I hope to present statistics on recovery and speak about different methods and what’s worked for me and what hasn’t as well as what’s worked for others and what hasn’t.
Research on challenges that young people are facing in Internet society
Peng Xue, Baoxiang Fan
The paper firstly discusses the undesired challenges brought by destructive cults’ communication online to young people. The purpose of the paper is to raise high awareness of online developments by many destructive cults. With the growing popularity of mobile Internet, especially among the young, the ways by which a majority of people read daily information habitually have been through various mobile terminals. Under such a circumstance, destructive cults’ speeches can be more influenced by means of mobile network, whose noticeable advantage is its enormous power of information communication. However, it is a pity that young people are the potential ones who can easily be harmed most due to their unique features. The methods used in this paper cover literature review, survey research and statistical analysis. The paper presents two research models. One is the transmission model with multiple nodes appropriate for both offline communities and online communication. If a young individual has been surrounded by his or her family who believe in a destructive cult and is meeting online platforms operated by this cult’s members, this unlucky young individual is less likely to cult-proof. Another is the behavior tolerance model on online cultic exercises behavior to show the extremely low tolerance degree based on sample data of a case study. Such an environment that young people live are full of threats. They could be living at high anxiety level. A real example citation well supports this logic. The conclusions of this paper are as follows. Throughout Internet tools exploitation by many destructive cults, it enables their believers to strengthen the harmful thoughts mutually and to create a usual way to brainwash those tools’ young users. Therefore, the emerging online platforms should be worth sufficient vigilance and awareness.
Social Dynamics within Cultic Groups: An Exploration of the Social Forces and Processes that occur in High-Control Groups
This paper takes a sociological approach to cultic research. Here, specific and powerful social forces emerge when an individual joins or is born into a cultic group. These dynamics grow in intensity according to the cult’s level of isolation from wider society and the degree of coercive control practiced on the individual members. Part of this social dynamic is obviously the pivotal role played by the guru or leader. However, a considerable proportion of cultic experiences occur in social settings with ‘peers’ in the absence the cult leader – particularly in cults of a larger scale. This paper will explore these ‘peer-to-peer’ cultic social dynamics in order to give a fuller picture of the day-to-day experiences of individuals who get caught up in cultic groups. Based on an analysis of these social experiences, I hope give some important insights into how and why people not only join cults but why they subsequently choose to remain. Issues will be covered such as: Personal and sexual relationships between group members; The competition between cult peers for ‘power’ within a particular cult hierarchy; Money and possessions, The private and public spaces for individuals in a cult; And other related aspects of the social environment within a cult.Sociological, psychological and other more biographical sources will be used for this presentation. In addition, the author will draw upon his own experiences of living in a high-control ‘artistic’ commune based in Austria known as the ‘Friedrichshof Commune’ between 1981 and 1990.
Special Problems with Writing Fiction about Cults, Extreme Religions and High-Demand Groups
The speaker will look at the occasional challenges presented to a serious literary author who wishes to write about people caught up in extreme religions or high-demand groups. The speaker will cite examples from contemporary literature and from his own work (his upcoming short story collection, Prophet and Loss, will be available at the conference). The speaker will look at the challenges presented by writing about groups the author never personally participated in, and about writing across gender and culture.
Spiritual Abuse in Islam
I will go over my experiences of educating on spiritual abuse and working with victims of spiritual abuse in the Muslim community. I am the founder of www.inshaykhsclothing.com I will cover often used justifications for Islamic manipulation. This includes false analogies from the Quran and from Islamic spirituality. I will go over signs of spiritual abuse, what parents should look for in their children, and what women should be aware of when learning from male teachers. The problem of men taking secret second wives then divorcing them without any legal recourse is a growing issue and those women are often mobbed and marginalized. Then I will go over consequences of spiritual abuse, such as apostasy when atheist arguments of religious figures using religion as a control mechanism begins to resonate with victims of spiritual abuse. Also, I will go over victim self-blame, and communal blame of the victim. Anger is a healthy reaction to being conned, and being treated with no dignity hurts self-respect. Seeing this as a spiritual problem puts the blame on the victim rather than the abuser. Being bullied and ostracized gives victims PTSD that can last a lifetime and creates a negative association with religion. Then I will go over a brief taxonomy of bystanders to answer the question of why other leaders don’t do anything about it. This ranges from a culture of covering up abuse to ineptitude. Depending on time, I also want to go over how early Islamic scholarship opposed spiritual abuse. Finally, I want to leave the audience with ways to respond to spiritual abuse, to become up-standers, and to show support to those who have been abused and marginalized in their own communities.
Spiritual Abuse: Blaming the Victim
Dylesia Barner, Maureen Griffo
In the context of spiritual abuse, the phrase victim blaming refers to actions or words that hold spiritually abused persons partially or completely responsible for the maltreatment they endure. Victim blamers may use language to insinuate that weakness in the victim – not impairment in the abuser – led to spiritual abuse. Unfortunately, because victims of spiritual abuse often blame themselves for their involvement with spiritually abusive individuals and/or in spiritually abusive organizations, victim blaming only exacerbates already present anxiety, confusion, depression, and worthlessness. This presentation will educate attendees about spiritual abuse victim blaming, also addressing some of its underlying causes and its impact on victims. Implications for clergy members and mental health providers as well as exit challenges faced by victims that should be considered by those in connection with them will also be presented. Recognizing victim blaming as a global challenge faced by those who have been spiritually abused, the presenters seek to educate attendees about the importance of empathetic, attentive, and advocacy-oriented support.
Take me to your leader
The talk will describe my personal experience of entering a religious group to determine whether it was a destructive one. The process took place in Israel in the summer of 2015 and was part of my job as the clinical manager of the Israeli Center for Cults Victims. I was approved by the group’s leader to meet him and his followers both individually and as a group. My experience was emotionally intensive and overwhelming; it, at the same time, has deepened my emotional insights about cults and, especially, regarding groups that are allegedly placed in the “grey area”. The primary reason for my intervention was the fact that the leader of the group has recruited minors on the verge of legally becoming adults. This fact made their families extremely worried about the well-being of their children in the face of the deteriorating relationships with the quickly becoming estranged children. During my talk I would like to illuminate the following topics:
- What are the behaviors we need to pay attention to in such a process while distinguishing between the text and the sub text, the explicit and implicit, the hidden and the obvious?
- Why is it important to intervene even when the group’s destructiveness is still in question?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a process, especially, with regard to prevention and rescuing of group members?
- What are the potential ramifications of such a process on the therapist?
- Which actions were taken following the process? How did the process affect the group?
During my talk, I will be referring to various professional terms including projective identification, transference and counter transference, Narcissistic disorder, mind control, means of safety for the therapist, etc.
Terrorism and Cultic Control: Views of Practitioners
Leanne Smith, Chelsea Brass
As part of our continuing research to try to understand the type and extent of cultic control exercised by violent Islamist extremist/terrorist groups and the experience of individuals who have been involved in these groups, this paper will examine the experiences and observations of practitioners, those who work with individuals who have had such involvement, or who work to prevent this type of involvement by those who might get caught up in it. We will try to determine if their experiences can corroborate our previous research indicating group psychological abuse is part of the dynamic in these violent extremist organizations. If so, there may be opportunities to collaborate with those practitioners and share information across disciplines from the years of experience people in the cultic studies field have accumulated. As in our previous research, we will be using the Group Psychological Abuse taxonomy and scale (Rodriguez-Carballeira, et al) as an evaluation tool. Additionally, we will interview these practitioners to get their perspective on whether and how group psychological abuse is occurring with the population they serve, what’s currently being done to address the issue, how it’s working, and what additionally can be done about it. Our goal is to attempt to begin to answer the question of how, specifically, the cultic studies field, with its decades of accumulated research and experience, can contribute to this issue. The authors propose to share the answers we find in a presentation at the 2018 ICSA Annual Conference.
The Brainwashing Hypothesis: Recent Developments in Biopsychosocial Research
Building on my earlier work on this subject which defines brainwashing in scientifically precise terms as a relatively rare but theoretically important process of extreme resocialization of an individual’s cognitive and emotional responses, this paper discusses recent relevant research especially research using the fMRI tool, the social-psychology of attachment, and developments in our understanding of post-traumatic stress. The author is aware of the many sensationalist misuses and overuses of the term “brainwashing” that have led some to think it wise to avoid using the term entirely. However, I argue that these potentially observable and measurable changes in the brain can sometimes persist for long periods of time and can lead individuals to self-destructive and sometimes extremely socially destructive behavior. Therefore it behooves us not to throw the real baby out with the sensationalist or ideologically driven bathwater.
The Four Logics behind the Facts: An Examination on the Claims of Cult Members were Injured by Chinese government
Dingchen Ren; Qing Ye, Min Wu
Western human-rights lawyers, parliaments, governments, and international human-rights organizations have accused Chinese mainstream society of systematically injuring cult members in an organized way. However, several foreign embassy officials, journalists and scholars have questioned of the authenticity of these arguments following field trips in China. We have conducted a systematic review of the evidence provided by each party, and interviewed the relevant persons involved, including allegedly injured cult members, their families and doctors who have dealt with so-called injuries. As a result, we found that no evidence exists to support claim of injury. This raises the question of why injury claims continue to circulate in the international community without the support ofreliable evidence? We examine the authenticity of the alleged “injured” cases, and using both documentary material and field work, we discovered four logics hidden within the “injury facts”. (1)Market logic: under the guidance of market logic, the organizers take“cult” as its flagship marketing product, and re-packaged it into Qigong, religion or traditional culture. The cult organizers treat “injured claims” as a hot marketable product which functions as ideological communication, so that it remains widely circulated and undiminished. This lengthens the life-span of this product and sustains its impact. In addition, profits are shared with partners and subsequently strengthens association with users. There is a strong relationship between the market objectives of the doctrine and its political purpose. (2)The weak logic: cults implement moral strategy by playing the human rights and politics card, dressing themselves as “victims” to in order to attract sympathy. By means of emotional catharsis and street performances, rather than through evidence, they expect and induce their sympathizers to ignore contrary evidence. (3)The strong logic: the cult and its sympathizers pursue a hegemonic discourse with a strong pre-occupation of Western norms, and continue to repeat the unconfirmed “facts”and claims without regards to contrary evidence.Within this logic framework, they portray Chinaas weird with no progress in human rights. They completely ignore bioethics principles existing throughout traditional Chinese culture, because Chinese political system is markedly different from the West. (4) “Snot” logic: making themselves like “nose” which is difficult to shake off once it’s be touched. This kind of rogue actions are boring, and avoided like the plague. We will also examine the relationship between the four logics and discuss the mechanisms by which Chinese cults exist and disseminate abroad. The four logics are also major challenge for the Chinese government who offer reformation and rehabilitation programs for young people (especially the second or third generation of cults) who are recruited into extremist groups and are out of control.
The Freedom of Mind Approach to helping people raised in destructive environments
I presented in Stockholm at ICSA a general overview of my work with Second generation members of cults, but I would like to discuss my details about how I do my work- Particularly the work I do in my intensives in my office in Boston where we get down to identifying, neutralizing and laying down healthy patterns. My training by expert psychologist Daniel Brown who published the book, Attachment Disturbances in Adults: Treatment for Comprehensive Repair applied to psychoeducation concerning mind control programming and destructive hypnosis. For people with sufficient ego strength, and motivation, and time, I work with a person and key people in their family for six hour days, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (3 hours in morning, 1.5 hour lunch and 3 hours in afternoon.). This level of focus allows the former member to make enormous progress that might take years of weekly counseling.
The global challenge raised by young people recruited by radical Islam: A real crisis of intelligibility
When a penal sanction has ceased to be dissuasive because young people, in the name of faith, aspire their death and death of others. When – for certain not far from childhood-, they are not only defined by their random acts of carnage taking young innocent lives, but fully assume the desire of having to kill as many people as possible; it can be said that they have installed a new form of criminality , a new victimology (linked to ideological options turning into a political agenda) and a new criminal anthropology. Why and how seemingly young normal Muslims from any family background can be radicalised to such a degree that they are prepared to commit such acts? The dialectic should be a phenomenological one, embracing all the phenomenon involved such as the developmental status of teenagers, religious and pathological belief effects on the mind and behaviour other than dissociative, the cultic phenomenon in itself; installing a totally new form of alienation which introduces the notion of heroism, martyrdom and turn-key paradise to support the insupportable. A social phenomenology will explain the relationship with society and the level of tolerance which is socially and morally acceptable. A phenomenology of the “” cogito””, will focus the mental phenomenon producing inhumanity and barbarism and conversely, the problem of rational reconstruction of the moral judgment .( from Piaget to “”Kohlberg moral stages””) There is a chain of responsibility. New representations have to be created at a governmental level, in order to identify the basic principle of this new born era, in which analysis is defied and hereby all our core societal standards.
I will outline the usefulness of exploring personal experience and subsequent meaning making processes. This is followed by an exploration of the problematic issue of definition of spiritual abuse. I believe that the term Spiritual Abuse is a very broad term and can encompass a wide range of religions, spiritualities and experiences. As a result, this area has suffered from definition ambiguity for many years and continues to be debated by a range of social and behavioural scientists. Therefore i will focus my presentation in the context of the main stream Christian church. In my research i have found that this is a hidden population, which makes robust research problematic. This presentation therefore provides a basis for further study.Existing research and models of cultic abuse will be briefly presented. And I will compare those dynamics with that of spiritual abuse. As this segment will explain, the idea that cultic behaviours share a number of features with spiritual abuse. The presentation demonstrates a deficiency in the exploration of the internal and lived experience of SA. particularly in the UK and argues that to investigate this phenomenon holistically, the subjective, internal processes must also be examined. This presentation briefly explores the phenomenon through three case studies of those who have experienced it in differing ways.
The Move of God
In this presentation I will be briefly discussing the history of The Move of God, which is a religious high demand group founded in 1962 by Sam Fife. There will be special focus on the effects that The Move has on the children who are raised in it: what it is like growing up in that cultic environment and how these children cope with their upbringing and adapt to the real world when they leave this group as adults.
The paradoxes and dilemmas of (re)integrating into mainstream society
This paper presents the frequently encountered paradoxical phenomenon that clients often present which can be confusing to them and to the clinician. On the one hand, former members are relieved to be free to live their lives as they choose. On the other hand, they often miss the positive aspects of being in a cult, e.g. sense of purpose in life and the comraderie of people who shared their world view. This ambivalence is probably even more pronounced in people who were born and raised in a cult, given that they left behind the only world they knew and bravely entered a new world as a “stranger in a strange land.”1 This paper addresses these ambivalences, adapting a framework by Castro, Kintzle, and Hassan at USC’s Center for Innovation and Research (CIR) on Veterans and Military Families. These authors presented “paradoxes and dilemmas” which combat veterans encounter as they reintegrate into mainstream society and suggest that many of these dilemmas can generalize to other populations of trauma as well.2 Thus, it is very applicable to the ex-member cult population. The following paradoxes and dilemmas will be discussed in the presentation:
- Mixed emotions paradox (glad to be out but missing positive aspects of group life)
- “Back-there” paradox (similar to above: miss the sense of purpose, comraderie, etc.)
- Survivor paradox (happy to be out but feel guilty about leaving others behind)
- Morpheus paradox (physically/mentally exhausted but have troubled sleep, nightmares)
- Aschalasia paradox (want to enjoy life but unable to relax)
- Intimacy paradox (want to be close to others but mistrustful and guarded)
- Excitement paradox (glad to be in a less stressful environment but miss the adrenaline highs)
- Verbalizing paradox (want others to understand but fearful of self-disclosure)
The paper will address these dilemmas and suggest ways of handling them in therapy.
The Role of Creative Art in Cult Abuse Recovery
Ashley Allen, Moderator; Nori Muster; Diana Pletts
Creative art offers a holistic means of communication for those recovering from cultic abuse. The non-linear nature of art mirrors how people experience emotions. Moods and emotions may come over a person all at once, then unravel into multiple feelings. Art is a great way to work through emotions, and creating art may draw out buried feelings, bringing them to the surface for the recovering person. Over the last decade, the International Cultic Studies Association has provided a forum for ex-members to experience art and show their own art. Many conferences host the Phoenix Project gallery and Phoenix Live event for readings and performance art. ICSA also publishes ex-member artwork in their journals and on the Internet. Nori Muster, MS, will describe the evolution of art therapy, beginning about 1900 when Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud first recognized the relevance of symbolic content in his patients’ dreams, stories, and art. Nori will focus on two modern art therapy modalities: Humanist and Gestalt, and demonstrate an art therapy exercise. Diana Pletts, MA, will discuss negative messages cults teach members about creativity and art. She will detail the resulting difficulties people experience from these messages, and explain the benefits former members state they have experienced from creating their art and presenting it in the Phoenix Project.
The Same Modus Operandi of Religious Cults and Large Group Awareness Training
I will cover: My experience coaching-counselling-mentoring Youth – which is the 2018 Theme. 3 Biggest Youth Problems: 1. Sexual harassment, drugs-alcohol-internet addictions 2. Jihadists (20,000+ foreigner youths have joined ISIS), extremist, racist cults 3. Mental illnesses. 5 Youth Solutions: 1. Entrepreneurship 2. Learning 3. Charity 4. mental health 5. All Arts forms. The Same Modus Operandi of Religious Cults and Large Group Awareness Training e.g. The Cult Bait (free food, talks), The Cult Kill (stereotyping the degree to push the follower), The Cult Slavery (long-term strictness, daily brainwashing), including some case studies.
Thought Reform, Non-traditional Therapy, and Ethics
Mental health therapists have increasingly used new and un-tested techniques, and have increasingly used non-therapy techniques in their practice, such as essential oils, and facial tapping. This session analyzes these trends in light of research design, and professional ethics. The session focuses on the dangers of using strategies that have a higher risk for manipulation and exploitation of clients.
Understanding The Experience of African American Families and Individuals in Religiously Abusive Organizations
This presentation will discuss the appeal of abusive religious organizations to African American families and individuals due to a myriad of historical and social factors. The presenter will draw upon her personal experience of living on a religious compound as a teenager and her professional experience of working with African American families and individuals. Ways to better relate and understand the experience of African American families and individuals will be discussed. Implications for social change and increasing cultural competence of mental health professionals and the general population will also be discussed.
Understanding the Role of Shame in Cult Indoctrination and Recovery
Shame is what cult leaders hope to cultivate in followers; and shame, subtle and gross, is what may linger on, often not fully recognized and not clearly linked to the cult experience. With the presence of shame, conscious or not, it can be very hard to allow for the experience of dignity. Without reclaiming dignity, shame can hold the recovering cultist back. Using the theory of the traumatizing narcissist’s relational system, as well as attachment theory and trauma theory, this presentation will examine in depth the nature of shame. What makes shame a powerful tool for the cult leader? How does shame get used to control the follower? How can one identify and manage the vestiges of shame that cling, often long after exiting a cult? The theory of traumatic narcissism asserts that the cult leader must deny any vulnerability to shame so as not to lose his delusion of omnipotence. In order to ward off the presence of shame (associated to dependency) in himself, the cult leader cultivates dependency/shame in his followers. With the combination of love (charisma) and fear (authoritarianism), the cult leader creates an experience of disorganized attachment in the follower. Attachment to a needed other becomes disorganized, and the follower becomes prone to dissociation, when the one needed for a sense of security is terrifying. Loving the one that terrifies you literally blows the follower’s mind, a traumatic situation. Dissociation is the escape from traumatic experience when it feels like there is no escape. In this presentation, the various threads of these psychological theories will be woven together to explain the central role that shame plays in the cultic dynamic, and to point toward the universal need to be able to claim the right to one’s dignity in the process of cult recovery.
Using existing models of Child sexual exploitation (CSE) to help professionals understand coercive control in cults
Currently within the UK, professionals work with children and young people who are/at risk of being sexually exploited. Existing models of CSE are able to explain the different tactics used by perpetrators to lure in young people, to initiate them into sexually abusive behaviours and to keep them within these situations. As professionals we are able to highlight the difficulties in helping young people away from being sexually exploited due to the coercive control perpetrators have over their victims. My experience has highlighted that both coercive processes in recruiting children and young people are similar. This link between these different types of abusive experiences can help professionals to increase their existing knowledge. This may help them to safeguard children and young people from recruitments into cults in their own practise.
Voyeurism in the Media: Creating A New Narrative
In this discussion I will examine the fetishization of cults in the media, specifically film and television. The first part of the discussion will be a brief history of consumer demand for cult stories, the fascination with cults and cult leaders, and a survey of cults in pop culture and film. In the second part I will discuss my own experience, leaving a cult that has always been prominently depicted/featured in pop cultural discourse – Scientology. I will discuss how the narrative created by the mass media was the biggest factor in my reluctance to leave, as I fully believed I would never be accepted by the outside world given my background. In the third section I will offer the perspectives of three people who have grappled with this question on a grassroots level, who have agreed to be interviewed for this purpose. Starting with the question, “How does a victim transcend the pop culture narrative that stigmatizes them” I will share stories and perspectives from the organizers of Black Lives Matter, the advisor and director of the hit television show “Transparent” and the Oscar-nominated writer of Beasts of the Southern Wild. In closing I will explore creative ways to approach separating the born-into (SGA) experience from the prevailing Hollywood narrative of cult victim, in an effort at self-discovery and releasing ourselves of shame and stigma.
Wellspring method of providing psycho-educational and creative workshops in supporting recovery for survivors
Gregory and Angelina Sammons
In this session speakers will present an overview of standard and supplemental workshop material and strategies in providing supports for child through adult survivors. This presentation is meant for professionals, survivors and families. The workshop material being reviewed has been developed and implemented over the past 30 years of service and ranges from multi-media venues to creative art and music sessions. The attendees will receive valuable resources.
Who am I? A study on the influence of cultic childhood experiences on the development of personality and identity
Kathrin Kaufmann, Laura Illig; Chantal Kern
Every person has the right of life, freedom and safety͛ (article 3 Human Rights). ͚Everyone has the right to the free evolvement of their personality…͛ (article 2 constitution BRD) Which influence does the growing up and educational upbringing of children in new religious systems have on the free personality evolvement and identity development of an individual? Do pedagogically-intended educational and manipulative methods exist in new religious groups, which in particular influence the personality evolvement of children and young adults? Upon exit of a new religious group, is there a special need for managing and structuring everyday life of the former member? In their master͛s thesis research project, ͞Who am I? Cultic meaning of childhood experiences – a heritage for lifetime͟, three students from the Catholic University Aachen, studying ͚Social Work͛ with clinical-therapeutical major, address the central issues of ritual research in the German-speaking area, which has rarely been given special consideration so far. Under application of a scientific guideline in compliance with the theory of personality and identity development, qualitative interviews with former members who were born and raised in destructive groups have been utilised in the data collection process.
Who Harms Whom: The Offensive and Defensive Strategy in the Chinese Cult Movement
Qing Ye, Dingcheng Ren, Min Wu
“hroughout the 1980s cults in China prevailed. During the 1990s, mainstream Chinese society began to constantly criticize cults for inflicting injury on both their members and others, and each cult defended its actions as a passive defense party. However, since the Chinese government outlawed the cult, the positions have become reversed, and the cult organization now accuses mainstream society in China of harming their members. Consequently, Chinese mainstream society has become the passive defense party. In the past 20 years, the mainstream society in China and cults have endured several rounds of both attack and defense involving injury of cult members, and both sides have attained gains and losses. Based on examination of the reports of injuries on both cult members and others, and related field work, we attempt to answer the following questions: (1) Do cult members harm themselves or others as a consequence joining the cult? (2) Who hurts whom in fact? Who speaks for the victims and who spread rumors? (3) What changes occurred in the status of the attacker and the defender and what led to these changes? (4) What methods do the attacker and the defender use? What are the strategies used by both sides of the game, and what impact do they have? (5) What changes may happenin the future game? We also attempt to understand the thought processes and actions of cults and anti-cults in the game, and to surmise the later game models.Concurrently, these offensive and defensive strategies will also be reflected in a struggle between extremist groups’ recruitment of young people and Chinese mainstream society’s dedication to helping young people to exit the cult.
Why Young Muslim Kurdish Contacted ISIS in Syria and Iraq
Hazhar Ramazan Ahmed, Hersh Qadir, Hama Sur
The presenter has master degree in English Language and diploma in Religion of Islam at the same time he is leader of islamic culture association,through this panel want to show why Young people in kurdistan region of Iraq contacted ISIS in syria and Iraq cos they are more than 500 and some of them had been killed.finally the presenter want to show about the factors behind the radical islamic groups in middle east.
Wolves in Sheep Skin Encounters and Their Disastrous Effects
I was born and raised in a Christian home during one of the most famous Atheist dictatorships of Eastern European Communist regime, and learned from early age what discrimination and persecution means. Meeting secretly in homes in a country where the law prohibited such gatherings, listening to whispering testimonies when family friends talked about tortures and sufferings endured in prison, witnessing a favorite family music teacher face a mock trial and an unfair prison sentence, were just a few of the multitude of terrifying memories that marked my childhood. And that was just a beginning. Since I was 7 years old, I faced the major division that ripped apart my heart and family, after my father embraced the teachings of a “new religion” brought into the country by some foreign missionaries. They claimed to preach the Gospel based on Matthew 10 teachings, when Jesus sent his disciples in pairs of two, after having given their all to the poor to follow in Jesus footprints. The nameless celibate ministry, in which the ministers did not own a home and encouraged us “the saints” to meet in homes, was a way of preaching that appealed to my father who was searching for the “Truth” as described in the New Testament teachings. Being attracted by the kind support of the visiting Workers (ministers of the “Truth”,) at the time I was suffering major distress and injustice in the Atheist school environment, this is how my life journey began.
Working with DID for Mental Health Professionals
The presenter will discuss several case studies working in private practice with clients suffering traumas which resulted in Dissociative Identity Disorder. The traumas survived include incest, a parent with mental illness, and sexual abuse from family members at an early age. While none of these cases were specifically children growing up in cults, the process of working with these clients may be helpful to other mental health professionals.
Panel: An Approach to Exit Counseling/Intervention: A Case Presentation [Presented during the family preconference workshop]
Hana Whitfield; Jerry Whitfield; Patrick Ryan
Presentation will begin with introduction of exit counselors, and a brief history of length of time in their group, and exit counseling/intervention history. An illustrative case will be discussed in depth.
Panel: Born and Raised in Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and Transitioning to a New Reality
Deborah Schriver, Tonia Griffin, Jess Griffin, Vanessa,* Angela,* Alsandria,* Shaina,* Marcus* (*last names withheld at request of presenters)
On September 20, 2008, the FBI raided the TAMC compound in Fouke, Arkansas. Six young girls were taken into custody that night, and during the next few weeks other children were taken. The children were placed in foster care, and they refused to talk freely with DCS workers, social workers, therapists, or foster parents. Only after Alamo was sentenced to 175 years with no parole did the children begin to talk to their foster parents. Still, they were guarded. Hoping to help the children express their thoughts and feelings to heal, the foster/adoptive parents contacted Debby Schriver to work with the children to write their stories. Now these SGAs and third-generation adults are speaking out loud publicly for the first time. They will share their experiences growing up in Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, their forced exit from the only home they knew, and their thoughts and fears during the raid and subsequent days in foster care. They will discuss their transition to life outside the cult and speak to their unfinished work and successes. Topics will include their current relationships with parents still in the cult, their feelings about Tony Alamo’s 2017 death, and the support systems they have created with peers from the TACM and other spiritually abusive groups. They will discuss the ways writing their stories with a stranger helped them to move forward. Tonia and Jess Griffin will discuss the gaps in the foster care system and what they did to ensure a home that would be safe and nurturing to these children.
Panel: Christian Cults and the Concept of Hell
Robert Pardon, Michael Langone
The inculcation of fear is a control tactic that is commonly observed in cultic groups. Those that are ostensibly Christian will often use threats of hell as one means of instilling fear designed to strengthen leaders’ hold on group members. Though most mainstream Christians accept the concept of hell, cultic groups distort and misapply the concept. Frequently, those who leave cultic Christian groups can benefit by understanding how mainstream Christians conceive of hell and how cultic groups use hell as a control tactic. This panel will explore: (1) Historical and cultural contexts that may contribute to cultic formulations of hell (e.g., Dante’s Inferno, what we would today consider inhumane punishments for misdeeds). (2) Contemporary ideas about hell that are inconsistent with cultic views. (3) Cases of former cult members whose recovery involved a reevaluation of the views of hell that resulted from their group experience.
Panel: Creating Understanding Between Generational Subgroups in Cults and Addressing the Questions of Responsibility, Shame, and Guilt [Presented during former member preconference workshop.]
Ashley Allen, Heidi Hough
After leaving cultic groups, those who joined as adults, those who were born or raised in cults, and families of those involved in cults often come together at such places as conferences and workshops to gain knowledge to aid in processing their experience, network with other professionals working in the fields, and share their work in this field with others. Because of the different experiences and perspectives between these constituencies, painful feelings and triggers and can arise. In an effort to create more understanding, we suggest a panel of various sub-groups within the cultic studies field to exchange ideas on the difficulty of connecting post-cult. We will have an ex-member that is first-generation and had previous knowledge of the world before joining, an ex-member who was born into the cult but had parents who were first generation and therefore still had an idea of how the outside world works, an ex-member who was third or fourth generation in a cult and therefore even the parents were already born into a closed system, a family member of someone who was involved in a cult, as well as a moderator who works with all four sub-groups.”
Panel: Distrust, Betrayal, and Resilience: Counseling Clients Who Were Harmed Through Previous Psychotherapy
Madeline Tormoen, Steve Eichel, Daniel Shaw
The risks associated with psychotherapy have not been sufficiently addressed. This researcher used multiple case study design to develop a description of the therapeutic interventions 32 experienced psychotherapists recommended for assisting psychotherapy clients who were harmed through previous therapy. Participants answered questions through the use of an anonymous online survey related to the treatment of betrayal trauma, management of countertransference, fostering of resilience, and the report of professional misconduct to oversight agencies. Participants suggested the following interventions are helpful when psychotherapists assist clients who were harmed through previous therapy: (a) acknowledgment of the client’s betrayal; (b) clarification of the roles, boundaries, and expectations associated with psychotherapy; (c) strict boundary maintenance, peer consultation, and careful countertransference management; (d) respect for client distrust, mutual power, and a humble therapeutic presence; (e) empowerment and validation of the client; (f) containment of the trauma and request for frequent client feedback; (g) conscientious assistance with the report of misconduct; (h) reduction of self-blame; and (i) promotion of post-traumatic growth. The benefits of distrust and advantages of formal feedback tools were discussed. A need for clarification of the specific responsibilities psychotherapists should assume in relation to the report of professional misconduct to oversight agencies was identified. The presence of professional betrayal of harmed psychotherapy consumers was acknowledged. Key Words: Iatrogenic Outcome, Betrayal Trauma, Interpersonal Trauma, Countertransference Management, Resilience, Ethical Oversight, Trauma Recovery, Psychotherapy Abuse, Sexual Exploitation, Rupture of the Therapeutic Bond, Client Feedback.
Panel: Domestic Violence and Cults
Linda Dubrow-Marshall, Moderator
Mind Control in Domestic Violence and Cults: The Struggle to Break Free
Across the spectrum of power and control, domestic violence (DV) and destructive cults share commonalities such as deception, isolation, environmental control, and identity demolition. These factors exacerbate exploitation and human rights violations. From this perspective, intimate partner violence (IPV) may be viewed as a cult with one member, and a cult as “domestic violence in a fabricated family.” In truth, no one makes a conscious decision to engage in a cultic relationship. Intimate abusers don sheep’s clothing during a “honeymoon” period, and high-demand groups deceptively recruit with love-bombing and sophisticated techniques of social and psychological manipulation. Mind control is utilized to create and maintain a framework of oppression, while the innate, profoundly human drive to form attachments reinforces trauma bonds. Due to misconceptions about cultic systems, members may be mistakenly viewed as exercising “choice” through free will to remain committed in an abusive setting. This myth perpetuates a biased, “blame-the-victim” mentality. Recognizing the aggregate forces at play allows us to enter the cultist’s inner world and to empathize with their entrapment in a web of fear, shame, unhealthy boundaries, and cognitive distortions–a prison without bars. Relevant to DV, IPV, and cults, this presentation will explore techniques of undue influence that facilitate seduction, indoctrination, and maintenance, and will dissect the anatomy of a “mind lock” that impedes escape, even when seemingly possible. Familiarity with cultic systems of oppressive control is critical to supporting populations of victims, survivors, and their families.
Panel: Heroes or Psychopaths? Cultic Studies Lessons for Today rrom Re-examining Three Controversial Figures from History
William Goldberg, Stephen Parsons
When considering modern day cults and cult leaders our proximity to events can make it difficult to form objective understandings of these phenomena. It can be instructive to take the long view by examining historical cults and their leaders. This panel will look at three historical figures who inspired great devotion in their followers but arguably also caused much harm. The story of Joan of Arc is well known and has taken on a semi-mythical quality. The story includes visions and messages from saints and angels, her heroic leadership of the French army while still a teenager, and her fiery execution at the age of 19. Stephen Parsons will re-evaluate her story using modern literature on psychology, religious experience and cultic leadership. John of Leiden emerged in the early 16th Century as a leader of the Anabaptists, a persecuted religious minority, and became a key figure in the brief establishment of millenarian theocratic rule in the German city of Munster. Tony Jenkinson will draw parallels between his story and modern cultic leadership. Auguste Comte was a 19th Century French philosopher whose influence continues today in such concepts as the philosophy of science, altruism and secular humanism. In seeking to create a modern substitute for religion he ended up creating a cult. William Goldberg will discuss Comte and the group that he created and how it compares with contemporary cults. The panel will draw lessons which cast light on how we may view, deal with and perhaps prevent modern cults.
Stephen Parsons will present “Joan of Arc – charismatic/cult leader?” Joan of Arc died nearly 700 years ago but her life has continued to fascinate all who study her. Although she was executed by burning at the age of just 19, Joan had exercised an extraordinary influence over those who followed her. She appears to have possessed a variety of charismatic gifts, some of which may be described as paranormal. Of special interest is the way that Joan claimed to be guided by voices and visions of the Saints. Her utter conviction in the reality of these experiences was attractive to the soldiers and common people who followed her and it inspired their devotion and trust. In taking a fresh look at Joan, the paper will first examine some of the up-to-date literature which looks at the way psychosis is sometimes related to religious experience. We also note how the students of cults are often unwilling to grapple with phenomena which fall outside a modern materialist paradigm. In our attempt to re-evaluate Joan we seek to explore how the mysterious aspects of religious experience (prophecy, visions, healings and auditory phenomena) can be spoken of in a coherent way. Although Joan lived in an epoch quite different to our own we meet in her many of the mysterious aspects of human/religious experience which also give to modern cults (and healthy religious movements) much of their power. To understand Joan afresh is to understand something of the primal energy which inspires cult leaders and others and allows them to motivate their followers. At the same time cultic leadership may take followers into dark places of dependence and danger.
William Goldberg will present “Auguste Comte and his religion of humanity”. No matter how idealistic a movement may be, it can become corrupted. In fact, whenever a group or an individual believe that they have found the unique and perfect answer to society’s ills, they may believe that it is their obligation to set themselves up as the arbiter of how others should lead their lives. The result of such thinking can be the formation of a cult. A historical example of this occurrence is the case of Auguste Comte. Comte coined the term sociology as well as the word altruism. He was a proponent of Enlightenment philosophy and his motto was, “Know yourself to improve yourself.” He believed that as science inevitably replaced religion as a foundation of peoples’ lives, the loss of faith would lead to a void. His solution was to create a “religion of humanity.” He established himself as the philosophical focus of this secular religion and the love of his life, Clotilde de Vaux, as the religion’s icon of kindness and compassion. His followers were encouraged to weep in front of her portrait when they encountered hard times. Comte, in his zeal to combat what he saw as the mystical and superstitious aspects of religion, had created a cult. Comte’s movement has not died. His Chapelle De L’Humanite in Paris, to this day, is used as a venue for secular weddings, baptisms, funerals and sermons. His movement’s greatest success was in Brazil, and one of his followers designed the country’s flag. His Templo da Humanidada is located in Rio de Janeiro, and a small group of worshippers still gather at that temple every Sunday. This presentation will use Comte’s group as an example of the distortions that occur when fanaticism combines with an absence of checks and balances. Parallels will be drawn with contemporary cults.
Masaki Kito, Takashi Yamaguchi, Yukari Yamamoto
Speakers discuss lessons learned from legal cases against Unification Church and other cultic groups, and challenges we all face in making the court understand dynamics of mind-control. Key Words: cultic groups, mind control, spiritual sales, child abuse, damage suits, criminal cases, legal approach, victims’ narratives.
Panel: Martyring Children for Faith: The Medical, Legal, and Ethical Ramifications of Religious Child Medical Neglect
Janet Heimlich, Marci Hamilton, Paul Offit
The public is aware of high-profile cases of so-called “faith healing” child deaths, in which adults deny medical care to sick children and justify such neglect with religious doctrines. But these cases reveal only a glimpse of the problem. Untold numbers of children growing up in anti-medicine religious groups are denied care which can lead to physical and emotional suffering, long-term illness, disability, as well as death. This panel examines the role that physicians, attorneys, and child advocates can play to raise awareness of this issue so that all children, including those raised in extremist religious groups, are equally protected from medical neglect. Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology and the author of Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine, will discuss the 1991 measles outbreak in Philadelphia. Arguably the worst outbreak of measles in the vaccine era, it centered on two fundamentalist churches that served as the epicenter for 1,400 cases and 9 deaths in a several-month period. Janet Heimlich, an award-winning journalist, the founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project, and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, will explain how to identify the risk factors of religiously enabled abuse and neglect. Marci A. Hamilton, one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA, and the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, will speak about the frameworks for religious liberty that protect and endanger children. She will elaborate on how the legal system incentivizes claims of religious liberty at the expense of the vulnerable.
This daily session is an opportunity for former members of cultic groups or relationships to talk freely about whatever may be on their minds, including (but not limited to) reactions (positive or negative) to sessions they attended, problems navigating the conference, difficulties interacting with people or just feeling overwhelmed. Facilitators will be former members and mental health professionals. Attendance is restricted to former members of cultic groups and relationship.
Panel: Open Discussion: Second-Generation Former Members (Thursday, Friday, Saturday 2:30 – 4:00 pm)
This daily session is an opportunity for people born or raised in cultic groups to talk freely about whatever may be on their minds, including (but not limited to) reactions (positive or negative) to sessions they attended, problems navigating the conference, difficulties interacting with people or just feeling overwhelmed. Facilitators will be second generation former members and mental health professionals. Attendance is restricted to people born or raised in cultic groups.
Panel: Patty Hearst Revisited
Lorna Goldberg, Moderator; Linda Dubrow-Marshall; Rod Dubrow-Marshall; Cathrine Moestue
Patty Hearst, was kidnapped and transformed into a member of a terrorist group during her captivity. Theories abound to explain her behavior. Was she a willing participant? Was she forced? Had she been brainwashed by her captors? Some argue that Patty Hearst had been transformed, probably having gone through a dissociative process leading to a cult-created identity. But even in a tragic case like this, where a physical kidnapping has occurred, many have difficulty accepting such notions. This panel, moderated by Lorna Goldberg, will include presentations by Cathrine Moestue, who went through a similar process as Patty Hearst in Norway, and Linda and Rod Dubrow-Marshall, who recently examined Professor Steven Kent’s extensive collection of documents concerning the Hearst case. The panel will explain why Patty Hearst’s experience is relevant today.
Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Moderator
The psychological effects of learning to hate: The Lion Cubs of the CaliphateMonique LauretWhat are the psychological effects on an individual’s development as a result of an extreme experience of hate and violating the fundamental prohibition on murder? The testimony of the “Lion Cubs of the Caliphate”, child soldiers trained by Daech, will be analyzed with regard to identity issues, the overwhelming of defense mechanisms and the processes at work; and in so doing, to explore the options of offering psychological services to those leaving this dehumanizing confinement.
Karen Pressley, Moderator; Chris Shelton
Diane Hendel, Joseph Kelly, Patrick Ryan, Aryeh Siegel
Panel: The “Power and Control Wheel”: It’s contributions to understanding cultic relationships
1.5 CE hours for mental health professionals
The “”Power and Control Wheel,” also known as the “Duluth Wheel,” is a model for understanding intimate partner violence, or IPV (aka “”domestic violence””) that has been well-received and accepted by professionals working with victims and perpetrators of IPV. Former group members and those working in the field already understand that, like many other abusive social organizations and relationships, when ideology and individual cult practices are stripped away, cults are about power and control. As such, we have found the power and control wheel to be indispensable in understanding and communicating abuser tactics and the accompanying victim experience. We believe that those underlying dynamics of power and control are central to the study of abusive groups and organizations, as the cultic group structure is characterized by abusive dyadic and familial-style interactions. Furthermore, group influence appears to reinforce and mimic the abuse of the dyadic tie between leader(s) and each respective follower. The power and control dynamic within abusive relationships is intrinsically similar to the dyadic and/or familial dynamics core to the victim experience in abusive organizations such as cults. If our insights regarding shared, underlying dynamics of coercive control ring true, these fields (along with other related fields) should not be siloed; we should be intentional about applying any insights from one field to serve another. Victim advocates Abigail Dalgleish Hazlett and Chelsea Brass will discuss their research on the application of the Power and Control Wheel to cultic relationships, paying close attention to where there is overlap between IPV and cultic dynamics. Dr. Steve Eichel will discuss how the Power and Control Wheel complements and solidifies the undue influence and thought reform paradigms that have traditionally been applied to cultic relationships.
Panel: Understanding Group Involvement Through the Lens of Culture [Presented during family preconference workshop.]
Robert Chaen; Nitai Joseph; Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Joseph Szimhart; Doni Whitsett
Cult involvement is a form of acculturation that demands adaption and assimilation for new members and maintenance of belief and behavior for those born into a cult. If we define a cult as an eccentric or highly specialized social system that tends to be self-sealing, we can predict tensions with surrounding cultures. Those tensions can be psychological and behavioral among cult members, as well as among non-members among the surround toward the cult. A new cult member’s individual cultural formation may include special tensions different from new members from other cultures. Language, sexual codes, individualism or the lack of it, and social status can affect how one is treated and how one adapts to cult life and management. A panel of presenters will address aspects of acculturation and the special problems cults present to members attracted from various cultures. The panel will also discuss how concerned families of cult members need to adjust certain cultural prejudices and stereotypes to better grasp a cult member’s behavior. Also, we will discuss how interventionists and therapists can better relate to a cult member’s experience when considering the special cultural perspectives that a cult member brings to cult involvement.
Panel: Workshop for Former Cult Members who were Parents in the Cult
This group, open only to former cult members who were parents while in the cult, will deal with the aftereffects of this experience. Parents who leave cults have to handle all the post-cult issues of former cult members; but, additionally, they have to deal with the consequences of having raised their children in a cult. Topics for discussion may include:
1. The Cult Leader’s Establishment of the Child-Rearing Process
2. The Cult Leader’s Interference with Parental Involvement, Nurturing, and Protection of Children
3. Parental Role (as defined by the cult) and Cult Relationship with Children
4. Impact of Cult Marriage
5. Impact of Cult Life for Children
6. Empathy and Special Feelings Experienced for Children
7. Post-Cult Reactions
8. Present Relationships with Children and Suggestions for Future Interactions”
Piotr Nowakowski, Moderator
Foundation Principles of Critical ThinkingThomas BaierHuman thinking, left to itself, is inevitably biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Sloppy or shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated. Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the elements inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them. This talk will explore the fundamental skills and techniques for foraging through the plethora of “”fake news”” and information as a means of skillfully overcoming our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.A cultic case-study illustrating the concept of “UNITY”: A seventh social influence process. Based on, PRE-SUASION: A revolutionary way to influence and persuade (2016, ROBERT CIALDINI), Chapters 11 and 12.Russell BradshawThe six social influence processes described by Robert Cialdini in his book INFLUENCE (5th ed. 2009) are well known. He has now added a seventh: “unity” or “shared identity” to his earlier descriptions of: reciprocation, consistency, liking/similarity, social proof, authority and scarcity (both physical & emotional). The concept of UNITY however, seems to be of another order of importance – since it apparently includes all of the other six. Further, it is not only a social influence process, but also a GOAL of all these processes. Humans have survived by using the evolutionary advantage provided by social groups (see E.O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth, 2012)- – and Cialdini’s seventh social process/goal of “shared identity”/”unity” focuses precisely on the group’s survival. “Shared Identity” is a major goal of cultic groups, and the speaker will illustrate this process with a case study of his own cultic group experience.Everyday Cults – and the Art of Recognizing and Addressing Destructive Dynamics in Mainstream Groups, Businesses, Churches and in the Self-Help MovementGerette BuglionThis presentation engages participants in recognizing how cultic dynamics can and do manifest in mainstream organizations of all kinds in every layer of society. It cultivates an atmosphere of active participation while developing tools to appropriately address these destructive practices. Everyday Cults are groups that are commonly considered socially acceptable – dismissed as harmless, alternative, or ‘weird’ – but are, in fact, slowly stripping members of their autonomy, potentially leading to mind control and emotional, financial and other abuses. Using examples of Everyday Cults in self-help, business, civic, and religious groups, Buglion will guide participants to recognize specific cultic traits and how they have morphed to appear more acceptable in current mainstream culture. A core tenant of the presentation is that destructive practices can exist in any group. Therefore, Buglion will also discuss the essential need for truly healthy leadership and the capacity for group members to be able to identify healthy leadership as well as the techniques used by cult leaders. Drawing from proven strategies of effectively confronting cultic abuse (from ICSA journals and books), Buglion will offer how one can adapt them to a mainstream environment in a non-confrontational and self-empowered manner. Buglion will offer precise and replicable strategies for addressing the prevalence of Everyday Cults. She encourages others to engage in community and education forums in a non-threatening way that promotes understanding, inspires compassion and motivates listeners to look more critically at their own lives and the groups around them. This presentation is part of a research project on Everyday Cults, being launched by Buglion.Psychological Manipulation, How Cults Do It and How You Can Resist ThemArthur BuchmanThe essence of the cultic experience is that we have all been manipulated. Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change a person’s behavior or perception through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics. This talk will explain the manipulative process, including Paul Martin’s brilliant description of the characteristics of the manipulator. My current PhD research will show how one of the primary mechanisms for getting people to behave in ways that are not in their best interests is exploiting cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously. Cults create cognitive dissonance by getting people to commit to behavior which goes against their personal beliefs. Cults manipulate people with methods of undue influence to take advantage of the vulnerability and turmoil resulting from internal inconsistency. The presentation will include resources and solutions for ‘cult-proofing’ yourself and others against psychological manipulation.
Patrick Ryan, Moderator; Rachel Bernstein; Robert Chaen; Nitai Joseph; Joseph Kelly; Joseph Szimhart; Hana Whitfield; Jerry Whitfield; Doni Whitsett
Building Bridges: Leaving and Recovering from Cultic Groups and Relationships: A Workshop for FamiliesRachel Bernstein; Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Doni WhitsettTopics discussed include assessing a family’s unique situation; understanding why people join and leave groups; considering the nature of psychological manipulation and abuse; being accurate, objective, and up-to-date; looking at ethical issues; learning how to assess your situation; developing problem-solving skills; formulating a helping strategy; learning how to communicate more effectively with your loved one; learning new ways of coping.Understanding Group Involvement Through the Lens of CultureRobert Chaen; Nitai Joseph; Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Joseph Szimhart; Doni WhitsettCult involvement is a form of acculturation that demands adaption and assimilation for new members and maintenance of belief and behavior for those born into a cult. If we define a cult as an eccentric or highly specialized social system that tends to be self-sealing, we can predict tensions with surrounding cultures. Those tensions can be psychological and behavioral among cult members, as well as among non-members among the surround toward the cult. A new cult member’s individual cultural formation may include special tensions different from new members from other cultures. Language, sexual codes, individualism or the lack of it, and social status can affect how one is treated and how one adapts to cult life and management. A panel of presenters will address aspects of acculturation and the special problems cults present to members attracted from various cultures. The panel will also discuss how concerned families of cult members need to adjust certain cultural prejudices and stereotypes to better grasp a cult member’s behavior. Also, we will discuss how interventionists and therapists can better relate to a cult member’s experience when considering the special cultural perspectives that a cult member brings to cult involvement.An Approach to Exit Counseling/Intervention: A Case PresentationHana Whitfield; Jerry Whitfield; Patrick RyanPresentation will begin with introduction of exit counselors, and a brief history of length of time in their group, and exit counseling/intervention history. An illustrative case will be discussed in depth.
Former Member Preconference Workshop IThis session is an opportunity for former members of cultic groups or relationships to prepare for the emotional and practical demands of the coming conference. For those who have experienced the psychological manipulation of abusive leaders or partners, making choices may be a new experience. The abundance of sessions and of participants at the conference may feel overwhelming. Former members have also been indoctrinated to feel we must “be up to” any task, and feel guilty about taking a break, seeking help, attending to our emotional, psychological or physical needs. We may also have difficulty interacting with people we regard as authorities. At this session, facilitators who are themselves former members and/or mental health professionals will discuss practical and emotional challenges former members face, including making choices, triggers, interacting with people we regard as authorities, and taking care of ourselves.
The session will include a panel discussion about the similarities and differences among generational subgroups (first, second, and multi-generational former members)
Open to all former membersFormer Member Preconference Workshop II
Former members of cultic groups or relationships often have internalized the demeaning attitude of the leader or partner, and as a result struggle with feelings of not being good enough. If we left family members or partners behind in a group or relationship, how do we connect, or not connect, with them? Especially for people born or raised in cultic environments, how do we navigate the practical aspects of a life for which we have not been prepared?
This session will include continued discussion about the similarities and differences among generational subgroups, and presentations followed by discussion on each of these subjects: Shame; Connections/Disconnections; and Coping With Practical Aspects of Life. These subjects will be explored with an emphasis on our inherent strength and resiliency.
Open to all former members
Rosanne Henry, Moderator. Facilitators, speakers, and discussants not yet finalized.
In this preconference workshop, Lorna Goldberg will present an overview of treatment issues. Then there will be case-focused discussions on treating first generation former cult members, treating people born or raised in cultic groups, and treating families. There will also be a clinical discussion on sexuality and cults and a clinical roundtable.
Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Moderator
This research workshop will focus on graduate research in cultic studies and related fields from the perspectives of graduate students and faculty advisors.