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Member Update, 2017, Vol. 8, No. 3

Announcements     ◊      ICSA News      ◊      Member News      ◊      Featured Resources 

News on the cult-related activities of ICSA members (in no particular order). Send us news (past 3 to 6 months or future events) you would like to share with the ICSA community. Tell us who, what, where, when. Biographical sketches of many ICSA members are here. Please contact ICSA at mail@icsamail.com if you want to reproduce any of this information. We will include some photos with each issue. Send us a jpg if you think we might not have a photo of you. 


In August of 2017 ICSA released Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working With Former Members and Families. This landmark, 500-page book, with chapters from leading clinicians and researchers, describes the current state of the art in helping people adversely affected by a cultic dynamic, whether in a cult, mainstream religious denomination, psychotherapy, family, or other interpersonal relationship. More info.

International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6893. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. ICSA is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

2018 Annual Conference. Theme: The global challenge of young people born, raised or recruited into extremist groups, abusive religious organizations, or coercive/exploitative relationships. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; July 4–7, 2018. More information.

Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Those Born/Raised in Cults. Chester, Connecticut; April 27–29, 2018. More information  

ICSA Conversations. On December 15 Sara Waters will give a talk entitled “Sexual/Romantic Intimacy: Challenges for People Raised in a Cult.” This event will be live streamed via Facebook. If you wish to participate either in person or via streaming, please register (ICSA Conversations are free). More information.


Understanding Abusive Spiritual Systems and Relationships (Murfreesboro, Tennessee; October 14, 2017). 6 CE hours for mental health professionals were offered at this conference. Speakers included Ashley Allen, Barbara Anderson, Lona Bailey, Dylesia Barner, Maureen Griffo, Abbie Michaels, Matthew Quinn, Debbie Schriver, Rod Schrader, and Pike Williams.

Cult Recovery: Gaining Insight Into the Experience and Inner Life of Group Leaders, Members, and Concerned Families (Fort Lee, New Jersey; October 15, 2017). This conference was run jointly with the Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. 6 CE hours for mental health professionals were offered. Approximately 50 people attended. Speakers included Steve Eichel, Lorna Goldberg, William Goldberg, Shelly Rosen, and Daniel Shaw.

Cultic Groups and Relationships: A One-Day Workshop for Former Members and Families (Los Angeles, California, October 21, 2017). Approximately two dozen people attended. Presenters included Kim Atkins, Rachel Bernstein, Dhyana Levey, and Doni Whitsett.

High-Control Groups: Helping Former Members and Families (Santa Fe, New Mexico; November 3–5, 2017). 10.5 CE hours were offered for mental health professionals. Approximately 100 people attended. More than three dozen speakers contributed to this conference.

ICSA Conversations. In the fall of 2017, ICSA began a new kind of event, ICSA Conversations—a free series of talks/discussions to be hosted in accessible locations throughout the country. The first ICSA Conversation was in New York City and featured Professor Benjamin Zablocki of Rutgers, speaking on “Brainwashing: Scientific Concept or Mere Label?” This ICSA Conversation was streamed via Facebook, as will be many future conversations.

Joan Capellini Scholarship Fund. In 2014, Mr. Robert Capellini founded an ICSA scholarship fund to help financially disadvantaged persons attend ICSA conferences and workshops and/or obtain ICSA membership. The fund honors his late wife, Joan, who was active in cult education for many years. As of the time of writing, 29 former cult members have benefited from the Joan Capellini Fund in 2017. 

Sample Thank-You Message: Dear Mr. Capellini, I’m writing to thank you for the scholarship to the recent ICSA recovery workshop in Colorado Springs that took place this past weekend. … The loss of income from no longer being on staff and some health issues my husband has been dealing with and other issues have impacted us financially, so your sponsoring me to the workshop made it possible for me to attend in perfect timing for the transition and changes we are making. Blessings to you and thank you, again! 

Support Groups: Several people within the ICSA network are currently offering support groups. For a current listing of support groups, please see reFOCUS.

Member News

Elizabeth A. Ianelli, whose story of survival from a teen abuse program appears, along with her art arising from that experience, in ICSA Today 8.3, was interviewed November 6, 2017, on the popular television program The Doctors. She was brought on the show as a clinical expert. Along with two other survivors and in answer to questions from a panel of doctors, she described in detail before a live and very responsive audience the abuse these programs inflict on young people, and warning signs for parents that a program may be abusive. Elizabeth has turned her experience into a career of helping others recover from abusive teen programs through her private practice in Carmel, New York.

Stephen Kent’s article “Narconon, Scientology, and the Battle for Legitimacy” has been published in the Marburg Journal of Religion, Vol. 19, No. 1.

Charlene Edge reports on several talks:

  • Gave a talk at the Winter Park Public Library on Sept. 14, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm, Third Floor. 
  • Was interviewed by Professor Maria Moss in a blog titled Escaping Fundamentalism: An Interview with Charlene L. Edge (Part I). The blog editors are members of the Institute of English Studies and of the Zentraleinrichtung Moderne Sprachen (ZeMoS) at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany. 
  • Presented Breaking the Power of Cult Symbols at the 2017 ICSA Annual Conference in Bordeaux, France. 
  • Presented Breaking the Power of Cults for the American Studies Department faculty and students at Leuphana Universität on July 5, 2017. 

Elizabeth Burchard, author of The Cult Next Door: A Manhattan Memoir, reports on two lectures:

  • She will be speaking to the members of the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV) in a lecture titled “Mind Control in Domestic Violence and Cults: The Struggle to Break Free” on Saturday, December 2, 2017, 10 am–4 pm, at the NJCBW Training Center in Trenton, New Jersey. 
  • She also gave this lecture on November 20 to the State of New Jersey Domestic Violence Hearing Officers in News Brunswick, New Jersey. 

Anuttama Dasa wrote the article “Dialogue With the Devil-ISKCON and the Anti-Cultists” for ISKCON News.

Benjamin Risha was interviewed for Investigate Discovery and People Magazine about the Tony Alamo Ministries.

Ron Burks attended a training by Kimberly McGrath called Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth: The Importance of Awareness Identification and Treatment across the Continuum of Care to Meet the Needs of These Vulnerable Youth.

Carrie Buddington’s blog, Community of Jesus, is listed as a source for information on the Community of Jesus group on Wikipedia.

Cathrine Moestue spoke about the Stockholm Syndrome and identification with the aggressor on Norwegian national radio, EKKO Weekend, on Saturday September 2, 2017.

Daniel Shaw continues to speak on traumatic narcissism around the country. He’ll be addressing different mental health professional groups this year in New York City and Poughkeepsie, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Boulder, CO; Tampa, FL; and others, including Lima, Peru, to mark the publication of the Spanish translation of his book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. Details.

Diana Pletts met several times over the course of the year with other former members of her former group, The Path, and provided both conversational information and cult educational literature, including her Master’s Thesis, Cult Education Information Campaign, and links to ICSA. She also met with the sole remaining group leader of The Path and was able to share her story with the leader regarding the impact of The Path on her life and that of her family of origin and her children and husband.

Doni Whitsett gave a talk, Understanding and Treating the Cult-Involved Client, in May 2017 to UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Adult Mental Health Department.

Joseph Szimhart gave a lecture on cults after an art reception at the Freyberger Gallery at Penn State University, Berks County campus, on September 7, 2017. His work is included in a 3-person show with 15 of his recent paintings.

Grace Adams talked about cult awareness and thought reform to a youth group at the Mt Albert Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand on October 25.

Kenneth Garrett completed a Doctor of Ministry program in May 2017 from Western Seminary, with a dissertation titled Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery.

Madeline Tormoen recently received her PsyD from University of the Rockies. Her dissertation is titled Distrust, Betrayal, and Resilience: Counseling Clients Who Were Harmed Through Previous Psychotherapy.

Marcia Rudin’s second novel, Flower Toward the Sun, is now available on Amazon.com in both paperback and kindle form.

In response to requests from social-service and law-enforcement agencies working with Haitian and Latin American communities in New Jersey, NJ Safe & Sound has translated its “Spectrum of Influence” bookmark into French and Spanish. NJ Safe & Sound is grateful to Mike Kropveld and Danielle Vincent of Info-Secte/Info-Cult of Montreal, and to Jose Fernández of Institut Pehuen in Barcelona and Carmen Almendros of the Biological and Health Psychology Department at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, for their expert translation and review. The bookmarks are on the NJ Safe & Sound website. Printed copies can be requested from info@njsafeandsound.org.

Maureen Griffo is starting a support group, Wounded Pilgrims, for those impacted by spiritual abuse and has been approved to begin the first Friday of each month starting in November at St. Andrews R.C. Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Christopher Hamacher and Tenzin Peljor: The Dark Side of Enlightenment for Bayrischer Rundfunk TV on October 18, 2017. Buddhism piece.

Rob Hogendoorn and Tenzin Peljor were interviewed for the article “Auch du, Buddha?,” written by Anna Sawerthal in Austrian Magazine, November 2017 issue. English translation.

This past October 2, the French Fédération nationale couples & familles (National Federation of Couples and Families) held its last Lundis de la Fédé (Federation Mondays) for 2017 in Paris. The program was animated by Blandine de Dinechin and Bénédicte Lespiauc-Thiberge on the theme De l’emprise aux dérives sectaires (From Mind Control/Influence to Cultic Abuse). Oriented toward family and couples’ counsellors and health, education, and psychosocial professionals, the day’s theme addressed the phenomena of mind control, support, prevention, and the risks of cultic abuse. The conference for this last program of the year was given by Laurence Poujade, President of the association Sentinelle.

Dana Wehle is announcing the start of a new cycle of her group for former members and SGAs who have been in, or are currently in individual psychotherapy. Meetings will focus on personal/educational/professional identity and life transition after involvement in a cult. A subtheme of particular interest is how to focus on creativity and creative living following the cult experience. She draws on her training and experience with the arts, trauma, and psychotherapy, and on having led a long-term dynamic group that addressed these issues that was in the journal Group in the winter of 2016. A member list for this low-fee group is now being formed for those in the NYC area who are interested in meeting every other week at her office in the Chelsea area of Manhattan.

Robin Barbosa, author of I Am Revealed, Behind the Ashram Door, published by Full Court Press, addressed an audience on September 18 through the Bergen County Library System on the reality of the cult influence. The reality of embracing the cult’s premise is the hook that ensnares. The audience was impressed that the cult member is required to practice unwavering adherence to the rigid cult lifestyle to benefit the member’s family, past, present, and future to reap eternal rewards. The audience was walked through the dynamics of personalities of leadership and the developing toxic environment that permeates life behind the ashram door. When you read this book, you may recognize which cult it reveals while revealing the overall cult phenomenon.

Rick Ross has been involved in many media projects over the past few months: 

  • Appeared on the Chinese ICN TV Network to discuss how the leaders and members of destructive cults have at times exploited immigration policy in the United States. Video 1Video2
  • The Cult Education Institute was cited as a source and Rick Ross quoted in an investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times about the alleged financial abuses within Deeper Life Christian Church, led by Melvin and Brenda Jefferson. 
  • Interviewed by the national television program Inside Edition concerning abuse allegations about a self-help group called NXIVM, led by Keith Raniere. 
  • Failed federal lawsuit filed against Rick Ross and the Cult Education Institute by self-help group NXIVM, led by Keith Raniere; cited by Albany Times-Union
  • Interviewed by Lifehacker podcast regarding how to identify a destructive cult. 
  • Quoted in an NBC News report about child abuse within the radical New Mexico religious sect Aggressive Christianity Missionary Training Corp. after leaders were charged and jailed. 
  • Interviewed by KOB News in Albuquerque, New Mexico regarding criminal charges of child sexual abuse filed against members of the group Aggressive Christianity Missionary Training Corp, a paramilitary religious sect. Additional info
  • Rock Star Van Morrison has become involved with the “Agape International Spiritual Center. Founded in 1986 by Michael Bernard Beckwith.” UK Daily Mail cited information archived about the group by the Cult Education Institute, “which questioned Beckwith’s credentials, motives and claims.” 
  • Appeared on the Dr. Oz Show with former members of NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”), a controversial seminar-selling company led by self-help guru Keith Raniere, accused of sexually abusing and branding women. 
  • International online magazine Ozy interviewed and quoted Rick Ross concerning a controversial web-based guru who leads self-help seminars named Teal Swan. 
  • Interviewed today on the John Hines Show by Esme Murphy for WCCO Radio CBS News in Minneapolis, Minnesota about the controversial group NXIVM, led by self-help guru Keith Raniere. 
  • Interviewed through various media outlets about the coming release of Far Cry 5 by Ubisoft, which is a video game about a fictional battle within a cult compound. Ross was a consultant on the video. 
  • Interviewed by People Magazine about group called NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”) a large-group awareness-training (LGAT) company led by self-help guru Keith Raniere, accused of abuse by former members.

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1 239 514 3081 mail@icsamail.com