Point of View
William Goldberg, MSW
I left my cult four months ago, and I’m realizing that my recovery isn’t going as well as I would have liked. I want to see a therapist to get help with some of these issues, but there is no therapist in my area who is a cult expert. I don’t want to see someone who will think that I joined because I wanted to be in a cult. What do you advise me to do?
The issue when you are working with a therapist is not how much knowledge the therapist has on a topic, but how helpful and respectful that therapist is in supporting your efforts to gain insight and to strengthen your coping skills. Good therapists should be willing to read an article or a book that you’ve found to be useful and to discuss that article or book with you. They should encourage you to take advantage of other resources that you’ve found, and they should be willing to acknowledge the gaps in their knowledge and seek consultation or supervision themselves.
I understand your desire to work with a therapist who has worked with former cult members before, who understands the dynamics of mind control, and who will not “blame” you or consider your entry into the cult to be a result of your weakness or pathology. I also understand your desire not to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the dynamics of cultism to a therapist. If you work with someone who has an expertise and experience in this area, you may not have to do that. Therapists who have expertise in this area are also more likely to be able to refer you to other resources, such as groups, conferences, workshops, and books that can help you to gain understanding and find comfort. For those reasons, it’s usually preferable, if possible, to see a therapist with an expertise in this area.
At the same time, there are many good, competent therapists who have not worked with former cultists, but who won’t judge you or have preconceived notions of what your experience was and why you joined the cult. They’ll listen, ask questions, suggest possibilities, and explore your situation with you. If they don’t have knowledge of other resources in this area, you can find them yourself. The ICSA Web site is a good place to start, as is the magazine you’re now reading.
Another alternative is to see a local therapist on a regular basis, but consult with a cult-aware therapist around specific issues that are cult related. Many cult-aware therapists are willing to provide these consultations via the telephone or Skype.
Therefore, I recommend that you ask friends for a referral to a good therapist in your area. If you have the time and the resources, you can have an initial consultation with two or three therapists to see whom you feel comfortable with before you commit to becoming a client.