The American Family Foundation (AFF) was founded in Massachusetts in 1979 by Mr. Kay Barney, an engineer and business executive whose daughter had become involved with the Unification Church. During the late 1970s several dozen parents’ groups had formed around the U.S. Other countries also had parents’ groups, although there was little international communication at that time. Many of the U.S. organizations became affiliates of the Citizens Freedom Foundation (CFF), which was chartered around the same time as AFF. In the early 1980s CFF became the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), which was ultimately taken over by individuals associated with the Church of Scientology in 1996, when CAN was driven into bankruptcy because of litigation. CAN had been the object of nearly 50 lawsuits, most filed by individuals associated with the Church of Scientology.
These organizations came into existence when parents of usually college-age cult members discovered their mutual concern and decided to take concerted action. Some of these parents lobbied for legislation that would make it easier for parents of cult members to force their adult children to submit to psychiatric observation (“conservatorship” legislation); others focused on public and preventive education by speaking to schools, churches, synagogues, and civic groups and by telling their stories to journalists. Many also became proponents of “deprogramming,” a process in which an adult child would be “snatched” from the street, for example, or lured to a secure place away from the group’s pressures so that he/she could be forced to listen to people tell about the negative side of his/her group. Because so many parents had seen similarities between their children’s behavior and brainwashed prisoners of war in Korea, cult members came to be viewed as brainwashed, or “programmed.” Hence, they coined the term “deprogramming” to describe the process of bringing somebody out of a cult. Although initially “deprogramming” referred to involuntary and voluntary interventions, by the late 1990s most people used the term to describe involuntary interventions only, using “exit counseling” to describe interventions that the group member voluntarily agreed to participate in.
In the late 1970s there were also dozens of Evangelical ministries concerned about cults, mainly the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of these organizations had more than a dozen staff members (e.g., Christian Research Institute), but most were “mom-and-pop,” volunteer organizations. They tended to define “cult” in theological terms, so that any group that was deviant from orthodox Christianity was considered a cult. Many of the mainstream organizations rested on the pioneering work of Evangelical scholar, Dr. Walter Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults.
Initially there was little communication between the Evangelical ministries and the secular parents’ groups. Over the years, however, communication between the two groups increased dramatically. A number of people now serve on boards of both secular and religious cult educational organizations.
During the 1970s interest in cults increased substantially among sociologists of religion. These sociologists, however, tended to oppose deprogramming and conservatorship legislation. They also appeared to focus on the positive aspects of cults and to downplay the negative. As a result, parents’ groups did not see them as resources. Because media reports concerning cults focused on the negative, especially after the Jonestown horror of 1978, sociologists came to prefer the term “new religious movements” over “cult,” which they had used prior to the 1980s.
Finding little solace among sociologists of religion, parents turned instead to a handful of mental health professionals who seemed to be sympathetic to the notion that formerly traditional young people were indeed changing radically as a result of a group’s persuasiveness. Most mental health professionals at the time tended to dismiss cult joining as a transient adolescent rebellion or as an expression of deep-seated emotional or family conflicts. But some mental health professionals, most notably Dr. Margaret Singer in California and Dr. John Clark in Massachusetts, believed that cult environments were characterized by socio-psychological forces powerful enough to radically change the behavior and attitudes of recruits.
How AFF was Different
Mr. Barney believed in the cause that united the diverse people involved in secular and religious cult education organizations, namely, the necessity to warn people about and free people from the destructive controls wielded by certain new groups that were mostly, but not always, religious. He also believed, however, that it was necessary to take a professional perspective, that is, to study the field scientifically and to apply these findings in a balanced, responsible manner. He also wanted to avoid the internal political debates that took so much time from the parents’ groups, which were moving toward a national membership organization.
Therefore, he founded AFF as a nonprofit, tax-exempt research and educational organization that did NOT have a membership base. The founding board of directors appointed its successors, thereby ensuring a relatively smooth succession. The founding directors included Mr. Barney, Rev. Dr. George Swope, a minister, Ed Schnee, a concerned parent, and David Adler, a publishing executive and former group member.
Initially, AFF focused on publishing The Advisor, a bi-monthly newspaper that reported on cult-related news. In 1980-81 he expanded AFF’s activities by formally joining forces with Dr. John Clark and his colleagues, who included Dr. Michael Langone, current executive director of AFF, and Dr. Robert E. Schecter, editor of the Cult Observer. Dr. Clark, an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School and Consulting Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), was one of the first prominent mental health professionals to speak out publicly about cult abuses. He had published a paper, “Cults,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1979. Dr. Clark’s team, which had been meeting informally, brought to AFF the professionalism that Mr. Barney and the founding directors thought was needed.
Early Years of AFF
In 1981 Dr. Clark’s team obtained several grants from foundations. These grants enabled them to write a monograph, Destructive Cult Conversion: Theory, Research, and Treatment, in which they proposed a person-situation model of cult conversion. This model, based more on the psychology of social influence than so-called “brainwashing” models, laid the groundwork for AFF’s future theoretical developments.
The grants also enabled them to set up systems for responding to the mounting number of information requests from families, former group members, helping professionals, and the media. By 1985 AFF was responding to several thousand information requests (mostly from families and former members) and providing background information to dozens and sometimes more than 100 journalists annually. AFF’s capacity to respond effectively to inquiries has improved over the years as we have learned more and produced practical books, articles, and other resources. Today, most of our communications occur thorugh e-mail, although the effectiveness of telephone consultations should not be underestimated.
Dr. Clark also set out early on to establish an advisory board of professionals and scholars. The first advisory board meeting, attended by several dozen people, was held in 1981. (An advisory board meeting has been held every year since 1981.) Advisors included, and continue to include, mental health professionals, attorneys, academicians, clergy, educators, executives, and former members and family members active in cult education. Advisors help establish goals and objectives for the organization, advise staff on research and publications, write articles and books, and speak to professional and lay groups. Since the first advisory board meeting, AFF advisors have written among the most prominent books in this field, many of which are available through AFF’s bookstore. Appendix A includes a partial list of articles and books published by AFF and its advisors.
The first advisory board meeting in 1981 identified AFF’s three-tiered mission of research, education, and victim assistance. Budget limitations have necessitated that the organization develop these areas in a cyclic manner: sometimes the development focus has been on research; other times on education or victim assistance. But attention has been paid to all three areas throughout AFF’s history.
AFF’s first research survey, conducted in 1983, had a practical focus, as has most of the research conducted since then. This survey collected quantifiable data on one of the questions that most troubled parents and mental health professionals at that time, many of whom had serious reservations about the deprogramming that was often depicted as the way to get people out of cults: How often does deprogramming work? To answer this question, AFF’s Dr. Michael Langone surveyed 94 parents who had had their children deprogrammed. Deprogramming failed in 37% of the cases, a significant percentage given the legal and psychological risks of the procedure. The study concluded that “deprogramming is but one of several helping options and should not be viewed as the `cure’ for cult involvement.”
In 1983 Drs. Clark and Langone contributed to a symposium sponsored by Section K (Social, Economic and Political Sciences) of the Pacific Division, American Association for the Advancement of Science, entitled, “Scientific Research and New Religions.” Their paper’s title was: “New Religions and Public Policy: Research Implications for Social and Behavioral Scientists.” This symposium was one of the few gatherings that brought together academicians and professionals from what was already viewed as the two “camps” of “pro” and “anti” cultists. Communication between these two “camps” decreased markedly in the 1980s as members of both “camps” were hired as expert witnesses in the growing number of lawsuits against and by cultic groups. In the late 1990s, however, AFF reopened dialogue between the two “camps,” trying as much as possible to encourage openness to methodological differences among disciplines and to diverse theoretical orientations, while remaining focused on the irrefutable fact under girding AFF’s mission: some groups harm some people sometimes.
In 1984 AFF markedly advanced the quality of its publishing efforts by founding the Cult Observer and Cultic Studies Journal (CSJ). The former succeeded The Advisor and focused on press accounts. It was printed, however, as a newsletter, rather than a tabloid newspaper. The latter filled the need for a multi-disciplined, peer-reviewed journal that was open to critical perspectives on cult issues. CSJ’s editorial board included helping professionals, academicians, attorneys, educators, clergy, and business executives. Over the years CSJ has published more than 160 articles and several hundred book reviews. Many of these articles provide practical help for families, ex-members, and helping professionals, while others report on scientific research, legal issues, theoretical speculations, and other subjects. Several issues were special collections, including Women Under the Influence (edited by Dr. Janja Lalich), published in 1997.
One of its early issues (Volume 2, Number 2 – 1985) illustrated well AFF’s continuing mission of bringing together diverse parties interested in cultic abuses. This special issue was entitled, “Cults, Evangelicals, and the Ethics of Social Influence.” The issue arose from conversations AFF staff had had with the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of the leading Evangelical campus ministries. InterVarsity strongly supports freedom of religion and the Christian obligation to preach the Gospel. But InterVarsity recognized that sometimes its lay evangelists, who were often young and inexperienced, lost their ethical bearings and became manipulative or abusive. The InterVarsity staff appreciated Dr. Clark’s statement that in cults we witness an “impermissible experiment” on the changing of human personality, an experiment that is “impermissible” because cults violate the unwritten ethical codes of human social influence. InterVarsity’s vital contribution to this special issue was to organize a team of evangelical scholars to come up with an ethical code for the Christian evangelist. Rev. Dr. Robert Watts Thornburg, Dean of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel, later revised this ethical code with his staff and used it to determine when criticism of campus religious groups was warranted, as well as to keep their own house in order. Other universities also expressed an interest in the ethical code.
This special CSJ issue also underlined one of AFF’s enduring themes, namely, the concern about cults rests not on their creeds but on their deeds, on the unethical ways in which they seek to recruit, retain, and exploit members.
This theme was emphasized in a landmark conference that AFF organized in 1985 in conjunction with the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles and the Johnson Foundation, which hosted the conference at its Wingspread campus in Racine, Wisconsin. This conference brought together 40 individuals, including representatives from England and Germany. Among the participants were mental health professionals, clergy, academicians, journalists, the president of the National PTA, attorneys, campus administrators, and the Head of the Private Office of Richard Cottrell, Member of the European Parliament from Bath, England. The goals of the conference and its recommendations continue to guide AFF to this day. The goals were to:
examine our level of knowledge about cultic groups and their effects on individuals, families, and society;
identify areas in which scientific studies of cults have been inadequate; and
consider ways in which social policy regarding cults might, without violating fundamental civil liberties, be changed for the greater protection of the public.
This Wingspread conference made 21 recommendations classified under research, education, and law. The full text of the report was published in Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1986.
Resources for Families
Recognizing that families needed practical, hands-on books to help them deal with loved ones in cultic groups AFF in the mid-1980s began to work on the first of a series of books aimed at families.
Cults: What Parents Should Know, published in 1988 was written by former group member and counselor, Joan Carol Ross, and Dr. Michael Langone. This book addressed issues of assessment, defining the problem, communication, planning, and dealing with post-cult difficulties.
In 1992 AFF published the first edition of Carol Giambalvo’s Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention. This book complemented Cults: What Parents Should Know by providing practical details and advice for families considering an exit counseling. Its publication was a landmark event in the supplanting of deprogramming by noncoercive exit counseling approaches. A revised, second edition of this book was published in 1996.
In 1996 Livia Bardin, M.S.W. led AFF’s first workshop for families (these have been held every year since in conjunction with AFF’s annual meeting). She developed a collection of forms to better equip families (and friends) to help a loved one involved in a cultic group: Summary of Changes, Pre-cult Identity Chart, Group Profile, Member’s Present Situation, Sending Important Messages, Using the Private Language, Listening and Responding, About the Family, Friends and Family Network, and Strategic Planning Worksheet. In 2000 she completed a book based on her workshops and forms, Coping with Cult Involvement: A Handbook for Families and Friends. This book helps families achieve a level of understanding far deeper than that provided by other written resources.
AFF initiated a preventive educational program, the International Cult Education Program (ICEP), in 1987. ICEP’s goals were to develop educational resources for young people, educators, and clergy, to encourage educational programs for youth, and to provide support and guidance to those conducting such programs. Founded and directed by Marcia Rudin until her retirement in 1997, ICEP produced two videotapes, Cults: Saying “No” Under Pressure and After the Cult: Recovering Together, a book, Cultism on Campus: Commentaries and Guidelines for College and University Administrators (revised in 1996 under the title, Cults on Campus: Continuing Challenge), a lesson plan, a collection of pseudoscience fact sheets, four educational flyers, and the semi-annual newsletter, Young People and Cults. Funding cuts prevent AFF from maintaining ICEP as a distinct program today, although its functions continue to the extent resources permit.
That many people held AFF’s educational activities in high esteem became evident in June 1995, when AFF president, Herbert Rosedale (who has served as president since 1987), was asked to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class of the State University of New York’s Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, “Promises and Illusions.” This address is printed in Cultic Studies Journal, 11(2).
In 1987 AFF organized a special conference on Business and the New Age Movement at the American Management Association in New York City. This conference brought together journalists, researchers, and helping professionals to address the legal, ethical, and mental health controversies that surrounded certain training programs in business. As a follow-up to this conference Drs. Arthur Dole, Michael Langone, and Steve Dubrow-Eichel conducted a series of studies designed to clarify what is meant by “new age.” Reports on these studies were published in Cultic Studies Journal. AFF’s contributions to the examination of cultism’s implications for business were recognized when AFF’s president, Herbert Rosedale, was appointed in 1992 Executive in Residence at the School of Business, Indiana University. Mr. Rosedale also gave a talk on new age training programs and business to the annual meeting of the Association of Private Enterprise Education in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1996.
In the late 1980s AFF witnessed a spate of Satanism inquiries arising from what in hindsight was a media craze. In order to provide guidance to young people and educators, AFF’s Dr. Michael Langone and Linda Blood began work on a paper. This manuscript, however, soon grew into a book, Satanism and Occult-Related Violence, which AFF published in 1990. The book’s goal was to give some professional balance to the subject. The authors reviewed the relevant professional literature, provided some historical background, and offered concrete advice for families and mental health professionals. The book also addressed the credibility issue with regard to adult survivors of ritualistic abuse — what was to grow into the false memory controversy.
Throughout its history AFF staff and advisors have given talks at universities and professional associations in order to educate academicians, students, and helping professionals. They have also consulted with journalists on hundreds, if not thousands, of occasions. Appendix B provides a list of some of the more noteworthy educational programs and media outlets to which AFF has contributed.
In 1990 AFF turned its research focus from families to former group members, for it had become clear that the majority of former members approaching AFF for help had left their groups on their own without any parental intervention. Many of these individuals were seriously distressed and needed guidance and support. In response to this need AFF initiated a series of study groups, composed of AFF’s volunteer professionals (i.e., members of its advisory board, which numbered about 120 by 1990) under the rubric “Project Recovery.”
The following are merely the more noteworthy achievements that resulted from the work of these study groups:
Dr. Edward Lottick’s survey of 1396 primary care physicians in Pennsylvania, conducted under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. Among other findings, this study reported that 2.2% of subjects said that either they or an immediate family member had been involved in a cultic group. Pennsylvania Medicine (February, 1993) published the results of Dr. Edward Lottick’s survey. This study, combined with other research data, suggests that approximately one percent, or about two to three million Americans have had cultic involvements. Since other research suggests that people stay in their groups an average of about six years, we estimate that several tens of thousands of individuals enter and leave cultic groups each year.
In 1992 AFF conducted its first weekend workshop for former group members at the Stony Point Retreat Center, Stony Point, New York. At least one weekend workshop has been held every year since, and one-day ex-member workshops are typically held prior to AFF’s annual conference. See Appendix C for a description of AFF workshops.
In 1990 Dr. Langone surveyed 308 former group members from 101 different groups. The Group Psychological Abuse Scale (GPA), the first measure of “cultishness,” was derived from these subjects’ responses to a segment of the questionnaire. CSJ published a report on the development of the GPA in 1994. A series of studies in the U.S., England, and most recently Spain have used or are using the GPA as a measure.
Dr. Langone and Dr. William Chambers conducted another survey of 108 ex-members in order to evaluate how they related to different terms and discovered that ex-members prefer terms such as “psychological abuse” or “spiritual abuse” to “cult,” “brainwashing,” or “mind control.”
Dr. Paul Martin and his colleagues at the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center (a residential treatment center for former group members) analyzed data Wellspring had collected on 124 clients. CSJ published a report on this research in 1992.
In 1992 in Arlington, Virginia AFF conducted a conference, “Cult Victims and Their Families: Therapeutic Issues.” In 1995 AFF conducted a joint conference with Denver Seminary: “Recovery from Cults: A Pastoral/Psychological Dialogue.” And in 1996, AFF, in conjunction with Iona College’s pastoral and family counseling department, conducted a conference, “Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Groups: Psychological and Spiritual Dimensions.”
Under Project Recovery, AFF published AFF News, a free outreach newsletter directed toward ex-members. This periodical’s function is now fulfilled through AFF’s Web sites and its free Internet newsletter, AFF News Briefs.
In 1993 Norton Professional Books published AFF’s Recovery from Cults, edited by Dr. Michael Langone, a book that the Behavioral Science Book Service chose as an alternate selection. This edited book consisted of chapters written by members of the Project Recovery study groups.
In 1993 AFF published Wendy Ford’s book, Recovery from Abusive Groups, which provides practical guidelines for individuals struggling with post-group adjustment issues.
In 1994 Hunter House published Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, written by AFF advisors Madeleine Tobais and Janja Lalich.
Project Recovery’s research component led to an important three-day research planning meeting, which was organized by Dr. Langone and hosted by Dr. Martin and his staff at Wellspring in 1994. A follow-up meeting was held a year later. The action recommendations identified at these meetings continue to guide AFF’s research program. Appendix D contains an abridged version of these research meeting reports.
Among those attending these meetings were two teams of graduate students from Pepperdine University and Ohio University, working under Dr. David Foy and Dr. Steve Lynn, respectively. These students later completed several dissertations and independent research studies (some published in Cultic Studies Journal) relevant to goals of the research plan enunciated at these meetings. Some of this research was reported in a paper presented to the American Psychological Association’s Division 36, Psychology of Religion in 1996. Other research was reported on at other professional meetings.
In 1995 Boston University named AFF’s Dr. Langone the 1995 Albert Danielsen Visiting Scholar. In this capacity, he conducted a research study that compared former members/graduates of a cultic group and two mainstream religious groups on (a) members’ perceptions of group abusiveness, and (b) psychological distress. This study’s design was a direct result of the research planning meetings conducted at Wellspring.
In 1994 AFF, with the Cult Awareneness Network and the Cult Hot Line and Clinic of the New York Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services, funded and received a special report from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law: “Cults in American Society: A Legal Analysis of Undue Influence, Fraud and Misrepresentation.” This report, published in Cultic Studies Journal in 1995, reflected AFF’s desire to support legal research with practical implications for former group members.
In 1996 AFF published The Boston Movement: Critical Perspectives on the International Churches of Christ (second edition published in 1998). Edited by AFF’s Carol Giambalvo and Herbert Rosedale, this book provided historical background, personal accounts and analytical chapters on the group about which AFF had received more inquiries than any other during the 1990s.
As the number of resources — books, articles, pamphlets, videos, lesson plans — available through AFF grew, it became necessary to describe all of these resources in one document. Thus, in 1998 AFF published Cults and Psychological Abuse: A Resource Guide (revised in 1999). This 119-page book provided brief suggestions for general inquirers, families, ex-members, current members, mental health professional, legal professionals, educators, students, clergy, and occult-ritual abuse inquirers. It also included 18 essays and checklists on topics ranging from “On Using the Term `Cult’” to “How Can Young People Protect Themselves Against Cults.” The book also devoted 36 pages to describing AFF’s books, reports, information packets, videos, preventive education resources, CSJ reprint collections, and individual CSJ article reprints. This resource guide demonstrates how far AFF has come since its founding, when there were virtually no resources for people concerned about cult involvements.
AFF has organized conferences since its founding. In recent years AFF’s conferences have become increasingly international in scope and larger with respect to the number of programs available to attendees. Until 1998 all AFF conferences took place in the Northeast between Washington D.C. and Boston, which is where the bulk of AFF’s supporters live. But in 1998 AFF decided to move out of that geographical base by organizing a conference in Chicago. In 1999 the annual conference took place in Minnesota; in 2000 in Seattle. Then in 2001 the conference returned to the Northeast, to Newark, New Jersey. In 2002 the annual conference will head south for the first time and will take place in Orlando, Florida from June 13-15th.
The 2001 conference had approximately 270 attendees and nearly 70 speakers. Attendees came from two dozen countries, including China, South Africa, Russia, and Brazil. Approximately 40 attendees came from foreign countries. A three-track organization was employed so that during most periods attendees could choose from research, victim assistance, and international/legal programs. As with other annual conferences during the 1990s, this year’s conference included two preconference workshops, one for families and one for ex-members. The 2002 conference, which will also have three tracks and family and ex-member workshops, will also include a preconference workshop for mental health professionals.
The Web: AFF’s Future
AFF’s Web site was first posted on the Internet in 1995. Begun initially through the volunteer efforts of Patrick Ryan, AFF’s Web site, www.csj.org, grew considerably over the years. It now has over 1000 pages of material. It won a number of awards, including:
A three-star rating by Mental Health Net, the largest catalog of mental health, psychology, and psychiatry resources online.
A review in The Web Crawler, one of the main Internet indexes, which reviews very few web pages.
Inclusion in the Britannica Internet Guide.
The Internet has markedly changed how AFF functions. Until the late 1990s AFF traditionally depended upon journalists to get our message out. Most people who contacted us found out about us either through word of mouth or from a newspaper article. Today, because so many people, including nearly all journalists, are on the Web, more than 90% of the people who directly contact us — usually by e-mail — for the first time found us on the Web. Inquirers come from all over the world. Indeed, inspection of our Web site’s statistics reveals that during a typical week the site will be visited by more than 10,000 people from about 70 countries.
Through the Internet more people can take advantage of AFF’s resources in a couple of months than during the prior 20 years.
For this reason AFF decided several years ago to transform the organization so as to make it Internet-based. This has been a daunting and unpredictably time-consuming endeavor, for the transformation must occur while we continue to do all the work we have traditionally done – without any increase in manpower.
We have made a great deal of progress. For example, all Cultic Studies Journal articles and book reviews are now available in electronic format. With a few clicks of a mouse and within a few seconds we can send five CSJ reprints to an inquirer in Ceylon. We are gradually converting past issues of Cult Observer to electronic format. When this project is completed, we will be able to e-mail about 4000 articles on more than 1000 different groups as easily as we can now send CSJ articles. We are also looking into methods of making such material available on the Web. In addition, we have collected and filed in our electronic folders more than 15,000 newspaper articles on more than 2000 groups. Our goal is to put together an electronic library that will have these resources as well as selected books, articles from journals other than our own, and even videos. How rapidly we progress toward the completion of this goal will depend upon how generously our supporters continue to donate.
We are also developing new Web sites. In 2000 a special grant enabled us to launch a project that seeks to use the Internet to provide spiritual and religious seekers, youth in particular, with resources reviewed and recommended by an ecumenical advisory board of experts. AFF’s partner in this project is the Center for Youth Studies in Hamilton, Massachusetts, directed by Rev. Dean Borgman, the Charles E. Culpepper Professor of Youth Ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This project resulted from our observation that cultic and other dubious groups often project a more sophisticated Web presence than mainstream religions. Such observations are especially troubling given that research indicates that 4% of the more than 8,000,000 teens who use the Internet do so for religious reasons and 16% of teens say the Internet will substitute for their current church experiences within the next five years (Lutz, A., & Borgman, D. Teenage Spirituality and the Internet – manuscript in preparation).
We believe that it is important to develop and effectively market a Web site that will direct seekers to credible information sources that will not exploit or mislead them. This project revolves around a Web site, faithresource.org, which contains, or will contain, the following sections, in addition to information on the sponsoring organizations and the project’s advisory board:
Religion Showcase – Provides lists of Web sites, books, articles, periodicals, organizations, and other resources on the world’s major faith traditions and the major branches of Christianity.
Spiritual Abuse – Directs visitors to AFF’s Web site and other resources focusing on the ways in which spiritual seekers can be exploited, manipulated, and abused.
Religion News – Directs visitors to credible Web and print resources specializing in religious news.
Newsletter – Provides visitors with a free newsletter that informs them about changes to the site, events of note, and, ultimately, conferences and workshops that faithresource.org might conduct.
Interactive Web forums for youth – If this project continues to be funded, faithresource.org will, to the extent resources permit, answer, through e-mail, young persons’ questions about religion, spirituality, and spiritual seeking. Over time a Question-and-Answer Index will be developed and kept on the Web site for the benefit of all visitors (inquirers’ identities will, of course, remain anonymous). Project staff will answer questions, but, in a form of peer review, the staff’s answers will not be posted until they have been reviewed and approved by at least two expert advisors. Other interactive forums will also be explored.
Currently, this project is more or less on hold, for the seed grant expired in the summer of 2001. We hope, however, to refund it in 2002 and continue its development.
In 2002 AFF merged Cultic Studies Journal and Cult Observer into the journal in which this article is published, Cultic Studies Review: An Internet Journal of Research, News & Opinion (CSR). Although designed as an Internet journal, CSR has a print version for those supporters not yet online, libraries, and those supporters who believe that cyberspace can never substitute for the heft of paper in the hand. We decided to merge the two periodicals in order to make more efficient use of manpower and to take advantage of the Internet’s immunity to printing and postage costs. CSR is supplemented by AFF’s free electronic newsletter, AFF News Briefs, which also includes a print version. The newsletter provides limited group news, announcements of upcoming events, brief essays, and news on the activities of researchers and cult educators around the world.
CSR will soon be supplemented by AFF’s latest Website, www.CulticStudies.org. This site will complement the current site, www.csj.org. CulticStudies.org is rebuilding and greatly expanding the quantity and quality of free information available to visitors in order to more effectively address the needs of educators, clergy, mental health professionals, and individuals and families needing help.
In January 2002 AFF also made public a secure-pay bookstore, www.cultinfobooks.com.
Thoughts on the Future
Although AFF has grown remarkably since its founding, two vital elements of the organization have remained constant:
A focus on professionalism and research aimed at helping those harmed by cultic involvements and forewarning those who might be harmed in the future.
Continuity of leadership, management efficiency, and financial discipline.
AFF’s enduring focus on professionalism, its administrative efficiency and effectiveness, and the hard work and dedication of its volunteer professionals have resulted in the following general achievements:
A remarkable increase in the quantity and quality of information available to families, former group members, helping professionals, and others.
A more nuanced articulation of the cult phenomenon. This journal’s name and the new Website’s name, “CulticStudies.org,” for example, emphasize that we do not see the issue that concerns us in black-and-white terms, “cult” and “not cult.” We see a wide range of groups that change over time and reveal a spectrum of “cultishness.”
Much higher levels of understanding within professional communities, especially mental health and education.
Increased communication internationally and between the so-called “camps” of cultic studies.
AFF’s day-to-day work over the next several years is likely to revolve around the following programs:
Publication of Cultic Studies Review, AFF News Briefs, and books.
Providing information to Website visitors and e-mail, phone, and snail mail inquirers.
Updating existing Websites and developing a comprehensive electronic library.
Conducting and/or supporting scientific research studies, as financial resources permit.
Organizing an annual conference and workshops for families, ex-members, and mental health professionals.
Working with and supporting volunteer professionals who will continue to contribute to professional publications and to lecture on this subject.
Although AFF’s mission has remained constant, the methods it employs to fulfill that mission have changed with the times. Most of our “space,” for example, now consists of dancing electrons; we use considerably fewer “square feet” of physical space to operate than was the case in 1981.
Although raising enough money to do what needs to be done is as difficult as ever, the nature of our support has changed over the years. We are still dependent upon several large contributions. However, we are not nearly so dependent as we were 15 years ago. Small donations, subscriptions, and purchases now constitute more than 60% of our income, compared to about 20% in the early 1980s.
The people who contribute to AFF have also changed, although many stalwarts – volunteers and financial supporters — have stayed with us from the beginning. In 1979 most of the energy behind AFF came from parents of the cult-affected. Today, most of that energy comes from former group members, especially those who have gone on to get advanced degrees after recovering from their group experience. These former group members will develop the new and refined conceptual models and will conduct the research studies that will carry the cultic studies field to a higher level of understanding.
AFF began as one man’s vision to apply scientific methods to the problems of people hurt by groups that deceive, manipulate, and exploit in the name “love.” This has been and will continue to be a difficult task, for the problems that motivate us to action are not easy to define with precision and are difficult to study scientifically. But AFF’s history demonstrates that this task is not impossible, however difficult. Much has been learned; many people have been helped. Nevertheless, much work remains, and many more people will need help.
Appendix A: Articles and Books
The following is a partial list of publications produced or commissioned by AFF or published by its staff and advisors. The first section includes a list of articles published in AFF’s scholarly Cultic Studies Journal. These reprints can be purchased in our Web Bookstore, www.cultinfobooks.com. We then provide a supplementary list of selected books and articles published by AFF staff and advisors.
CSJ Vol.1. No. 1
Women, Elderly, and Children in Religious Cults. Marcia Rudin.
Brainwashing and the Moonies. Geri Ann Galanti, Ph.D.
Avoiding the Extremes in Defining the Extremist Cult. Stephen M. Ash, Ph.D.
Deprogramming An Analysis of Parental Questionnaires. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Family Perspectives on Involvements in New Religious Groups. Lawrence B. Sullivan, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.1. No. 2
Training Issues for Cult Treatment Programs. David Halperin, M.D.
Cults and Children: The Abuse of the Young. A. Markowitz, C.S.W. & D. Halperin, M.D.
Mental Health Interventions in Cult-Related Cases: Preliminary Investigation of Outcomes. Steve K. Dubrow-Eichel, Linda Dubrow-Eichel, & Roberta Cobrin Eisenberg.
Preventive Education on Cultism for High School Students: A Comparison of Different Programs’ Effects on Potential Vulnerability to Cults. Andrea Bloomgarden & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Counseling and Involvements in New Religious Groups. Lawrence Bennett Sullivan, Ph.D.
On Resisting Social Influence. Susan Andersen, Ph.D. & Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.2. No. 1
Psychotherapy and the “New Religions”: Are They The Same? Daniel Kriegman, Ph.D. & Leonard Solomon, Ph.D.
Some New Religions Are Dangerous. Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D. & Steve K. Dubrow-Eichel.
Cult-Induced Psychopathology, Part I: Clinical Picture. Stephen M. Ash, Psy.D.
Cults Go To High School: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of the Initial Stage in the Recruitment Process. Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D. & Cynthia F. Hartley.
Cult Involvement: Suggestions for Concerned Parents and Professionals. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.2. No. 2
Introduction to Special Issue: Cults, Evangelicals, and the Ethics of Social Influence. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Shepherding/Discipleship: Theology and Practice of Absolute Obedience. Linda Blood.
Campus Crusade: Youth Ministers Find Public High School Campuses to be a Fertile Field for Missionary Endeavor. Hope Aldrich.
Autobiography of a Former Moonie. Gary Scharff.
Why Evangelicals are Vulnerable to Cults. Rev. Dr. Harold Bussell.
The Perils of Persuasive Preaching. Rev. A. Duane Litfin.
Selections from the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom.
New Organizations Operating Under the Protection Afforded to Religious Bodies. Resolution of the European Parliament.
Statement of Evaluation Regarding Maranatha Campus Ministries, Maranatha Christian Ministries, Maranatha Christian Church. A Committee of Evangelical Theologians.
Guidelines for Opus Dei in Westminister Diocese. Cardinal Basil Hume.
Resolution on Missionaries and Deprogramming. Department of Interreligious Affairs, United American Hebrew Congregations.
Disciple Abuse. Rev. Gordon MacDonald.
How to Talk to People Who are Trying to Save You. Rev. Dr. Ross Miller.
Introduction to Contributions of the Inter-Varsity Team. Dietrich Gruen.
Prologue: The Evangelicals Set Forth Their Case. Dietrich Gruen.
A Code of Ethics for the Christian Evangelist.
Ethical Evangelism, Yes! Unethical Proselytizing, No! Rev. Dr. Gordon Lewis.
What is Evangelism? Mark McCloskey.
Evangelism: Persuasion or Proselytizing? M. McCloskey.
The Ethics of Persuasion in a Pluralistic Culture. M. McCloskey.
An Ethic for Christian Evangelism. R. Johannesen, Ph.D.
A Hypothetical Example. Dietrich Gruen.
Religious Freedom at Secular Schools. John W. Alexander.
Of Cults and Evangelicals: Labeling and Lumping. Ronald Enroth, Ph.D.
Christian Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical View. Rev. Dr. Joseph M. Hopkins.
Religious Pluralism, Dialogue, and the Ethics of Social Influence. Rev. Dr. Eugene C. Kreider.
Evangelization and Freedom in the Catholic Church. Rev. James J. LeBar.
A Catholic Viewpoint on Christian Evangelizers. Rev. Dr. James E. McGuire.
Ethics in Proselytizing: A Jewish View. Rabbi Ralph D. Mecklenburger.
Evangelicals and Cults. Marcia Rudin.
Objectionable Aspects of “Cults”: Rhetoric and Reality. Thomas Robbins, Ph.D.
Cults, Evangelicals, and the Ethics of Social Influence. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.3. No. 1
Attacks on Peripheral versus Central Elements of Self and the Impact of Thought Reforming Techniques. Richard Ofshe, Ph.D. & Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.
“Mind Control” and the Battering of Women. Teresa Ramirez Boulette, Ph.D. & Susan Andersen, Ph.D.
Charismatic Covenant Community: A Failed Promise. Adrian J. Reimers.
Charismatic Leadership: A Case in Point. Natalie Isser, Ph.D. & Lita Linzer Schwartz, Ph.D.
The Spiritual Crucible: A Critical Guide to America’s Religious/Cultic Renaissance. David Christopher Lane.
Sects or New Religious Movements: A Pastoral Challenge The Vatican Report on Cults.
Cultism: A Conference for Scholars and Policy Makers. Report of Wingspread Conference. Louis J. West, M.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
The Use of Transcendental Meditation to Promote Social Progress in Israel. Mordecai Kaffman, M.D.
Reducing Conflict and Enhancing Quality of Life in Israel Using the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program: Explanation of a Social Research Project. Charles N. Alexander, Ph.D. & David W. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.3. No. 2
Cultism and American Culture. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D
The Rabbi and the Sex Cult: Power Expansion in the Formation of a Cult. Richard Ofshe, Ph.D.
Parental Responses to Their Children’s Cult Membership. Lita Linzer Schwartz, Ph.D.
My Experience in YWAM: A Personal Account and Critique. Laurie Jacobson.
Some Hazards of the Therapeutic Relationship. Jane W. Temerlin, M.S.W. & Maurice K. Temerlin, Ph.D.
The Utilization of Hypnotic Techniques in Religious Conversion. Jesse S. Miller, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.4. No. 1
Some Rigors of Our Times: The First Amendment and Real Life and Death. One ACLU Member Looks at Guyana, Nazis, and Pornography. Fay Stender, Esq.
Comments on Stender Article. George Driesen, Peter N. Georgiades.
Psychoanalysis and Cult Affiliation: Clinical Perspectives. David Halperin, M.D.
The Cult Appeal: Susceptibilities of the “Missionary Kid.” Margaret W. Long, Ph.D.
Teaching Students Who Already Know the Truth. David McKenzie, Ph.D.
A Comment on McKenzie. Ronald Enroth, Ph.D.
Reply to Enroth. David McKenzie, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.4. No.2/Vol.5 No.1 Double Issue
Cult Vs. Non-Cult Jewish Families: Factors Influencing Conversion. Mark Sirkin, Ph.D. & Bruce A. Grellong, Ph.D.
Family Environment as a Factor in Vulnerability to Cult Involvement. Neil Maron, Ph.D.
Creating the Illusion of Mind Reading in a Self-Transformation Training. Robert C. Fellows, M.T.S.
“Reject the Wicked Man” – Coercive Persuasion and Deviance Production: A Study of Conflict Management. Jerry Paul McDonald.
Litigating the Cult-Related Child Custody Case. Randy Francis Kandel, Esq.
Confessions of a Cult Watcher. Ronald Enroth, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.5. No. 2
Trouble in Paradise: Some Observations on Psychotherapy with New Agers. Steve & Linda Dubrow-Eichel.
Psychotherapy with Ex-Cultists: Four Case Studies and Commentary. L. Goldberg, M.S.W. & W. Goldberg, M.S.W.
Psychotherapy of a Casualty from a Mass Therapy Encounter Group: A Case Study. Anita O. Solomon, Ph.D.
Ritualistic Abuse of Children: Dynamics and Impact. Susan J. Kelley, R.N., Ph.D.
Authority: Its Use and Abuse – A Christian Perspective. Floyd McClung, Jr.
CSJ Vol.6. No. 1
Coerced Confessions: The Logic of Seemingly Irrational Action. Richard Ofshe, Ph.D.
Social Influence: Ethical Considerations. Michael Langone, Ph.D.
Legal Analysis of Intent as a Continuum Emphasizing Social Context of Volition. Herbert L. Rosedale, Esq.
State of Israel Report of the Interministerial Committee Set Up to Examine Cults (“New Groups”) in Israel.
Litigating Child Custody with Religious Cults. Ford Greene, Esq.
Cults and Children: The Role of the Psychotherapist. David Halperin, M.D.
Family Responses to a Young Adult’s Cult Membership and Return. Lorna Goldberg, M.S.W & William Goldberg, M.S.W..
CSJ Vol.6. No. 2
Deprogramming: A Case Study. Steve Dubrow-Eichel, Ph.D.– special issue
CSJ Vol.7. No. 1
Cults and the European Parliament: A Practical Political Response to an International Problem. David Wilshire, MA, MP.
Prosecuting an Ex-Cult Member’s Undue Influence Suit. Lawrence Levy, J.D.
The New Age Movement: Fad or Menace? Arthur Dole, Ph.D., Michael Langone, Ph.D., & Steve Dubrow-Eichel, Ph.D.
The Involvement of College Students in Totalist Groups: Causes, Concerns, Legal Issues, and Policy Considerations. Gregory Blimling, Ph.D.
Reintegration of Exiting Cult Members with their Families: A Brief Intervention Model. Kevin Crawley, Diana Paulina, M.Ed., & Robert White, L.D.
CSJ Vol.7. No. 2
Psychotherapy Cults. Margaret T. Singer, Ph.D., Maurice Temerlin, Ph.D., & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Persuasive Techniques in Contemporary Cults: A Public Health Approach. Louis J. West, M.D.
Cult Violence and the Identity Movement. Thomas J. Young, Ph.D.
The False Transformational Promise of Bible-Based Cults: Archetypal Dynamics. Nadine Craig, M.A. & Robert Weathers, Ph.D.
Deprogramming: A Case Study – Part II: Conversation Analysis. Steve K. Dubrow-Eichel, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.8. No. 1
Cult Formation. Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.
The Effect of Religious Cults on Western Mainstream Religion. Marcia Rudin, M.A. & Rabbi A. James Rudin, M.A.
The Historical Dimension of Cultic Techniques of Persuasion and Control. Lita Linzer Schwartz, Ph.D.
Residential Treatment: The Potential for Cultic Evolution. David A. Halperin, M.D. & Arnold Markowitz, M.S.W.
Cults in Court. Sarah Van Hoey.
CSJ Vol.8. No. 2
Conversion, Religious Change, and the Challenge of New Religious Movements. Johannes Aagaard, Ph.D..
Why Cultic Groups Develop and Flourish: A Historian’s Perspective. Natalie Isser, Ph.D.
Ritual Child Abuse: Understanding the Controversies. David Lloyd, Esq.
Outreach to Ex-Cult Members: The Question of Terminology. Michael Langone, Ph.D. & William Chambers, Ph.D.
Interesting Times. Kevin Garvey & Linda Blood.
Task Force Study of Ritual Crime. Michael Maddox, Esq. & the Virginia State Crime Commission.
CSJ Vol.9. No. 1
The Cadre Ideal: Origins and Development of a Political Cult. Janja Lalich.
Psychiatric Problems in Ex-Members of Word of Life. Gudrun Swartling, O.T. & Per G. Swartling, M.D.
The Council of Europe’s Report on Sects and New Religious Movements.
CSJ Vol.9. No. 2
Psychotherapy Cults: An Ethical Analysis. Kim Boland & Gordon Lindbloom, Ph.D.
Cults, Coercion, and Contumely. M. Singer, Ph.D. & M. Addis.
The Appeal of the Impossible and the Efflorescence of the Unbelievable: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Cults and Occultism. David A. Halperin, Ph.D.
Psychological Abuse. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Post-Cult Symptoms as Measured by the MCMI Before and After Residential Treatment. Paul R. Martin, Ph.D., Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D., & Jeffrey Wiltrout.
CSJ Vol.10. No. 1
Undue Influence in Contract and Probate Law. Abraham Nievod, Ph.D., J.D.
Undue Influence and Written Documents: Psychological Aspects. Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.
The Dark Underside: Cultic Misappropriation of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis. David Halperin, M.D.
Cult Conversion, Deprogramming, and the Triune Brain. Geri-Ann Galanti.
Is the New Age Movement Harmless? Critics vs. Experts. A. Dole, Ph.D., M. Langone, Ph.D., & S. Dubrow-Eichel, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.10. No. 2
Introduction to special issue, “A Dialogue with Dr. Johannes Aagaard.” Paul K. Eckstein.
Symposium with Johannes Aagaard.
Pluralism, Deeds, Creeds, and Cults. Michael Langone, Ph.D.
An Exit Counselor’s Perspective. David Clark.
Religious Recoding. Rev. Walter Debold.
Returning to Cosmology: The Logic of the Discussion and the Language of the Soul. Paul K. Eckstein.
CSJ Vol.11. No. 1
Strongly Held Views About the New Age: Critics Versus Experts. Arthur Dole, Ph.D. & Michael Langone, Ph.D.
God’s Company: New Age Ethics and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. Paul Heelas, Ph.D.
Never Say Die. Jeanne Marie Laskas.
The Experience of the SPES Foundation: Some Remarks on the Different Attitudes Toward New Religious Movements in Argentina and in Europe. Jose Maria Baamond, Ph.D.
Cults in Latin America. Alfredo Silletta.
More Than the Devil’s Due. Adrian J. Reimers, Ph.D.
The Group Psychological Abuse Scale: A Measure of the Varieties of Cultic Abuse. William Chambers, Ph.D., Michael Langone, Ph.D., Arthur Dole, Ph.D., & James W. Grice.
CSJ Vol.11. No. 2
Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God’s Leader, David Berg. Stephen A. Kent, Ph.D.
Psychological Issues of Former Fundamentalists. James C. Moyers.
Promises and Illusions: A Commencement Address. Herbert L. Rosedale, Esq.
Sleep Deprivation. Jean-Louis Valatx.
CSJ Vol.12. No. 1
Cults in American Society. American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law.
Judgment by the Fukuoka (Japan) District Court on the Unification Church.
Expanding the Groupthink Explanation to the Study of Contemporary Cults. Mark N. Wexler, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.12. No. 2
Clinical Case Studies of Cult Members. Arthur Dole, Ph.D.
Personality, Belief in the Paranormal, and Involvement with Satanic Practices Among Young Adult Males. Stuart M. Leeds.
Secular and Religious Critiques of Cults: Complementary Visions, Not Irresolvable Conflicts. Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Women and Cults: A Lawyer’s Perspective. Herbert Rosedale, Esq.
CSJ Vol.13. No. 1
Legal Decision: Borawick v. Shay.
Commentary on Borawick v. Shay: The Fate of Hypnotically Retrieved Memories. Alan W. Scheflin, Esq.
Commentary on …Borawick v. Shay: Hypnosis, Social Influence, Incestuous Child Abuse, and Satanic Ritual Abuse: The Iatrogenic Creation of Horrific Memories for the Remote Past. Robert A. Karlin, Ph.D., & Martin T. Orne, M.D., Ph.D.
Ethical Standards for Thought Reform Consultants. Carol Giambalvo, Joseph Kelly, Patrick Ryan & Madeleine Landau Tobias.
CSJ Vol.13. No. 2
Pseudo-identity and the Treatment of Personality Change in Victims of Captivity and Cults. Louis J. West, M.D. & Paul Martin, Ph.D.
Psychosocial Evaluation of Suspected Psychological Maltreatment in Children and Adolescents. American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.
Group Influence and the Psychology of Cultism Within Re-evaluation Counseling: A Critique. Dennis Tourish, M.Sc., Ph.D. & Pauline Irving, M.Sc., Dip. C.G., C.Psych., Ph.D.
The Threat to Entrepreneurial Freedom and Initiative Posed by “New Age” Management Training Programs. Herbert L. Rosedale, Esq.
CSJ Vol.14. No. 1
Introduction: “We Own Her Now.” Janja Lalich.
Dominance and Submission: The Psychosexual Exploitation of Women in Cults. Janja Lalich.
Gender Attributes That Affect Women’s Attraction to and Involvement in Cults. Shelly Rosen.
Mothers In Cults: The Influence of Cults on the Relationship of Mothers to Their Children. Alexandra Stein.
Sex, Lies, and Grand Schemes of Thought in Closed Groups. A Collective of Women.
No Place to Go: Life in a Prison Without Bars. Katherine Betz.
Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah’s Witness Women. Kaynor J. Weishaupt & Michael D. Stensland.
Working with Women Survivors of Cults: An Empowerment Model for Counselors. Penny Dahlen.
CSJ Vol.14. No. 2
Hypnosis and the Iatrogenic Creation of Memory: On the Need for a Per Se Exclusion of Testimony Based on Hypnotically Influenced Recall. Robert A. Karlin & Martin T. Orne.
False Memory and Buridan’s Ass: A Response to Karlin and Orne. Alan W. Scheflin.
The Individual Cult Experience Index: The Assessment of Cult Involvement and Its Relationship to Postcult Distress. Nadine Winocur, Jonibeth Whitney, Carol Sorenson, Peggy Vaughn, & David Foy.
CSJ Vol.15. No. 1
Women, the Law, and Cults: Three Avenues of Legal Recourse—New Rape Laws, Violence Against Women Act, and Antistalking Laws. Robin A. Boyle, J.D.
Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism, and Cultism: A Case Study from the Political Left. Dennis Tourish, Ph.D.
Residence Halls and Cults: Fact or Fiction? Russell K. Elleven, Ed.D., Carolyn W. Kern, Ph.D., & Katherine Claunch Moore
A Comment on the Debate Between Scheflin and Karlin and Orne on the Admissibility of Hypnotically Refreshed Testimony. Gilbert C. Hoover, IV, Esq.
In Favor of a Per Se Exclusion of Hypnotically Influenced Testimony: A Reply to Hoover. Robert A. Karlin, Ph.D. and Martin T. Orne, M.D., Ph.D.
Brief Report: Perceived Psychological Abuse and the Cincinnati Church of Christ. Donna L. Adams
CSJ Vol.15. No. 2
Special Collection. Recovery From Cults: A Pastoral/Psychological Dialogue – Personal Accounts
Moments of Grace. Nancy Miquelon
Nothing Need Go to Waste. Patrick Knapp
From Counterfeit to Truth: A Personal Quest. Carson Miles
Bible-Cult Mind Control. David Clark
Overcoming the Bondage of Revictimization: A Rational/Empirical Defense of Thought Reform. Paul R. Martin, Ph.D., Lawrence Pile, Ron Burks, & Stephen Martin
Cult Experience: Psychological Abuse, Distress, Personality Characteristics, and Changes in Personal Relationships Reported by Former Members of Church Universal and Triumphant. Irene Gasde, Richard Block, Ph.D.
CSJ Vol.16. No. 1
How Childlren in Cults May Use Emancipation Laws to Free Themselves. Robin A. Boyle
Psychological Distress in Former Members of the International Churches of Christ and Noncultic Groups. Peter T. Malinoski, Michael D. Langone, & Steven Jay Lynn
In Good Faith: Society and the New Religious Movements, Summary Report. Swedish Government Commission
CSJ Vol. 16. No. 2
Shipwrecked in the Spirit: Implications of Some Controversial Catholic Movements. Judith Church Tydings
Comment on “Shipwrecked in the Spirit”: An Urgent Pastoral Concern. Michael Duggan
Proposing a “Bill of Inalienable Rights” for Intentional Communities. Benjamin Zablocki
How Should the Communities Movement Handle Questions of Abuse? Responding to Benjamin Zablocki’s Proposed “Bill of Rights.” Laird Sandhill
Comment on Leeds (1995). Paul Cardwell, Jr.
CSJ Vol. 17
Child Fatalities from Religion-Motivated Neglect. Seth M. Asser, M.D. & Rita Swan, Ph.D.
Prophets of the Apocalypse: White Supremacy and the Theology of Christian Identity. Dennis Tourish, PH.D. & Tim Wohlforth
Domestic Violence as a Cultic System. David Ward
Brainwashing and Re-Indoctrination Programs in the Children of God/The Family. Stephen A. Kent, Ph.D. & Deana Hall
The Two “Camps” of Cultic Studies: Time for a Dialogue. Michael Langone, Ph.D.
“Mind Control” in New Religious Movements and the American Psychological Association. Dr. Alberto Amitrani & Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio
Blind or Just Don’t Want to See? Brainwashing, Mystification, and Suspicion. Dr. Alberto Amitrani & Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio
The Relation of Group Philosophy to Different Types of Dangerous Conduct in Cultic Groups. Dianne Casoni, Ph.D.
The Falun Gong: Beyond the Headlines. Patsy Rahn
CSJ Vol. 18
Cults, Psychological Manipulation and Society: International Perspectives – An Overview. Michael Langone, Ph.D.
What Should We Do About Cults: An Italian Perspective. Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio
Cults, Freedom of Belief, and Freedom of Religion. Judge Denis Barthelemy
The Crimes and Teachings of Aum Shinrikyo. Hiroshi Hirata, Attorney at Law
Cults in Japan: Legal Issues. Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Attorney at Law
What Should be Done About Cults? Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
The Millennium is Here – And so are the Cults. Lita Linzer Schwartz, Ph.D.
Cults on Campus: Perceptions of Chief Counseling Officers. Russel K. Elleven, Ed.D.; Jennifer Van Veldhuizen, & Elizabeth Taylor, Ph.D.
Healing from Experiences with Unhealthy Spiritual Groups and Cults: Treatment Using Myths and Folk Tales. Leland E. Shields & F. Jeri Carter, Ph.D.
Enemies Within: Conflict and Control in the Baha’I Community. Karen Bacquet
Arousal, Capacity, and Intense Indoctrination. Robert S. Baron, Ph.D.
Other Articles and Books (Selected)
American Family Foundation. (1999). Cults and psychological abuse: A resource guide. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation.
Andersen, S., (1985). Identifying coercion and deception in social systems. In B. Kilbourne (Ed.), Scientific Research and New Religions: Divergent Perspectives. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division, 12-24.
Appel, W. (1983). Cults in America: Programmed for paradise. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Aronoff, J.B., Lynn, S.J., & Malinoski, P.T. (2000). Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 91-111.
Bardin, D. (April 19, 1994). Psychological coercion & human rights: Mind control (“brainwashing”) exists. Cult Abuse Policy & Research
Bardin, L. (2000). Coping with cult involvement: A handbook for family and friends. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Founadtion.
Burks, R., & Burks, V. (1996). Damaged disciples: Casualties of authoritarian churches and the shepherding movement.
Bussell, H. (1994). By hook or by crook. New York: McCracken Press.
Chambers, W., Langone, M. & Malinoski, P., (1996, August 12). The Group Psychological Abuse Scale. (Paper presented to Division 36 of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.)
Cialdini, B. Robert. (1984). Influence: How and why people agree to things. William Morrow.
Clark, J. G. (1979). Cults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 242, 179-181.
Clark, G. (1978). Problems in referral of cult members. NAPPH Journal, 9(4). 27-29.
Clark, J. G., & Langone, M. D. (1984). The treatment of cult victims. In N. R. Bernstein & J. Sussex (Eds.), Handbook of child psychiatry consultation. New York: SP Medical and Scientific Books.
Clark, J. G., Langone, M. D., Schecter, R. E., & Daly, R. C. B. (1981). Destructive cult conversion: Theory, research, and treatment. Weston, MA: American Family Foundation.
Dole, A.A., Is the New Age dangerous to youth: Critics vs. experts? (1994). Poster Presented at the International Association for Applied Psychology.
Dole, A.A., New Age terms rated for harmfulness: Experts vs. critics. (1995). Poster Prepared for Presentation at the Annual Meeting of American Psychological Association.
Dole, A.A., Some conceptions of the New Age. (1993). Journal of Religion and Health. 32(4) 261-275.
Dole, Arthur, & Dubrow-Eichel, Steve. (1981). Moon over academe. Journal of Religion and Health, 20, 35-40.
Eisenberg, G. (1988). Smashing the idols: A Jewish inquiry into the cult phenomenon. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Enroth, R. (1993). Churches that abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Enroth, R. (1995). Recovery from churches that abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Ford, W. (1993). Recovery from abusive groups. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation.
Giambalvo, C. (1992). Exit counseling: A family intervention. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation.
Giambalvo, C., & Rosedale, H. L. (1996). The Boston Movement: Critical perspectives on the International Churches of Christ. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation.
Goldberg, L., & Goldberg, W. (1982). Group work with former cultists. Social Work, 27, 165-170.
Halperin, D. (1982). Group processes in cult affiliation and recruitment. Group, 6(2), 13-24.
Halperin, D. (1983). Psychodynamic perspectives on religion, sect, and cult. Boston: John Wright.
Halperin, D. (1990). Psychiatric perspectives on cult affiliation. Psychiatric Annals, 20(4), 204-218.
Hochman, J. (1989). Iatrogenic symptoms associated with a therapy cult: Examination of an extinct “new psychoterhapy” with respect to psychiatric deterioration and “brainwashing.” Psychiatry, 47, 366-377.
Hochman, J. (l990). Miracle, mystery, and authority: The triangle of cult indoctrination. Psychiatric Annals, 20,179-187.
Isser, N., & Scheartz, L. L. (1988). The history of conversion and contemporary cults. New York: Peter Lang.
Keiser, T., & Keiser, J. (1987). The anatomy of illusion. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Lalich, J. (Ed.). (1998). Women under the influence. Special issue of Cultic Studies Journal, 14(1).
Landa, S. (1991). Children and cults: A practical guide. Journal of Family Law, 29(3), 591-634.
Langone, M. D. (1989). Beware of “New Age” solutions to age old problems. Business and Society Review, 69, 39-42.
Langone, M. D. (1990. Working with cult-affected families. Psychiatric Annals, 20(4), 194-198.
Langone, Michael D. (1991). Assessment and treatment of cult victims and their families. In P. Keller (Ed.), Innovations in clinical practice: A source book (Volume 10). Sarasota (FL): Professional Resource Exchange.
Langone, M. D. (Ed.). (1993). Recovery from Cults: Help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse. New York: W. W. Norton.
Langone, M. D. (1996). Clinical Update on Cults. Psychiatric Times.
Langone, M. D. (1996). An investigation of a reputedly psychologically abusive group that targets college students: A report for Boston University’s Danielsen Institute.
Langone, Michael D., & Blood, Linda. (1990). Satanism and occult-related violence: What you should know. Weston, MA: American Family Foundation.
Langone, M. D., & Clark, J. (1985). New religions and public policy: Research implications for social and behavioral scientists. In B. Kilbourne (Ed.), Scientific research and new religions: Divergent perspectives. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division, 90-114.
Langone, M. D., & Martin, P. R. (1993, Winter). Deprogramming, exit counseling, and ethics: Clarifying the confusion. Christian Research Journal, 46-47.
LeBar, J., Burtner, K., Debold, W., & McGuire, J. (1989). Cults, sects, and the New Age. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Press.
Lottick, Edward A. (1993). Survey reveals physicians’ experience with cults. Pennsylvania Medicine, 96(2), 26-28.
Markowitz, Arnold. (19983, August). Jews in cults. Moment, 22-28.
Markowitz, Arnold. (1989). A cult hotline and clinic. Journal of Jewish Communal Services, 4, 56-61.
Martin, P. R. (1989, Winter/Spring). Dispelling the myths: The psychological consequences of cultic involvement. Christian Research Journal, 9-14.
Martin, P. R. (1993). Cult-proofing your kid. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Nieburg, H., & Langone, M. D. (1994). Psychosocial aspects of cults and Satanism. Academy Forum, 38, 1-2.
Ofshe, R. (1992). Coercive persuasion and attitude change. In E. Borgatta & M. Borgatta (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Sociology, 212-224.
Rosedale, H. L., Kisser, C., & Singer, M. T. (1993, March 30). Statements to the Subcommittee on Health, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives.
Rosedale, H. L., & Langone, M. D. (1998). On using the term “cult.” In American Family Foundation, Cults and psychological abuse: A resource guide. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation., 22-28.
Ross, J. C., & Langone, M. D. (1988). Cults: What parents should know. New York: Lyle Stuart.
Rudin, M. (Ed.). (1991). Cults on campus: Continuing challenge. Weston, MA: American Family Foundation.
Rudin, M., & Rudin, A. J. (1980). Prison or paradise: The new religious cults. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Singer, M. T. (1979, January). Coming out of the cults. Psychology Today, 72-82.
Singer, M. T. (1986). Consultation with families of cultists. In L. C. Wynne, S.H. McDaniel, & T. T. Weber (Eds.), The family therapist as consultant. New York: Guilford Press.
Singer, M.T. (1987). Group psychodynamics. In R. Berkow (Ed.), The Merck Manual of diagnosis and therapy (15th edition, psychiatry section). Rahway, NJ: Merck, Sharp and Dohme.
Singer, M. T. (1992). Cults. In S. B. Friedman, M. Fisher, & S. K. Schonberg (Eds.). Comprehensive adolescent health care. St. Louis, MO: Quality Medical Publishing, Inc.
Singer, M. T., & Lalich, J. (1995). Cults in our midst. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.
Singer, M. T., & Lalich, J. (1997). Crazy therapies. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.
Singer, M. T., & Ofshe, R. (1990). Thought reform programs and the production of psychiatric casualties. Psychiatric Annals, 20(4), 188-193.
Sirkin, M. (1990). Cult involvement: A systems approach to assessment and treatment. Psychotherapy, 27, 116-123.
Sirkin, M., & Wynne, L. Cult involvement as relational disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 20, 204-218.
Temerlin, M., & Temerlin, J. (1982). Psychotherapy cults: An Iatrogenic perversion. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 19, 131-141.
Tobias, M. L., & Lalich, J. (1994). Captive Hearts, Captive Minds. Alameda, CA: Hunter House.
West, L. J. (1989). “Brainwashing,” behavioral control and the risk of harm. Prepared for the American Bar Association’s National Institute on Tort and Religion, program titles: Tort Liability for Brainwashing: A Debate.
West, L. J. (1990, July; 1991, May; 1991, October). Psychiatry and Scientology. The Southern California Psychiatrist.
West, L. J., & Singer, M. T. (1980). Cults, quacks, and nonprofessional psychotherapies. In H.I. Kaplan, A.M. Freedman, & B. J. Sadock (Eds.), Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry, III. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkens.
Whitsett, D. P. (1992). A self-psychological approach to the cult phenomenon. Clinical Social Work Journal, 20(4), 363-375.
Appendix B: Educational Programs and Media Contacts
AFF conferences have been held in Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Denver. The following list is but a sample of the organizations for which AFF staff and advisors have conducted professional education programs.
American Psychiatric Association
American Group Psychotherapy Association
American Psychological Association (at least 6 programs)
American Sociological Association
Eastern Psychological Association
New England Psychological Association
American Counseling Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division
U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress
National Institute of Health
Michigan Mental Health Association
University of Pennsylvania
University of San Francisco
City University of New York
New York City’s New School
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
University of Hartford
University of Vermont
University of Southern California
University of Denver
University of Saskatoon
Savannah State College
Mt. Sinai Medical School
First and Second International Congresses on Cults (Barcelona, Spain)
School of Business, Indiana University.
Baylor College of Medicine
University of Massachusetts
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Massachusetts General Hospital
State University of New York’s Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome (commencement address)
Association of Private Enterprise Education
University of Florida
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Texas A & M University
State University of New York, Purchase College.
University of Pittsburgh
University of South Florida, Fort Myers
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
Listed below are media organizations that have consulted AFF on cult-related stories. This is only a partial list, for our staff was not always able to enter a written record of conversations with journalists. Moreover, AFF advisors also speak extensively to journalists, and do not always keep a record. It should be noted that many media organizations contact us many times over the years.
New York Times
Congressional Quarterly Researcher
The London Times
The Today Show
The McLaughlin Group
CBS World News
TV 2 Denmark
Pittsburgh Sunday Tribune-Review
Wisconsin State Journal
Discovery Channel’s Justice Files
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Current Health:The Continuing Guide to Health Education
New York Post
NBC Nightly News
Boulder Daily Camera
German Life Magazine
Christian Research Journal
ABC News-–Primetime Live
German Media Group
VBS News, Before Your Eyes
Ft. Worth Star Telegram
NY News Section
The Rolanda Show (TV)
Staten Island Advance
Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida Magazine
Home News and Tribune (NJ)
Black Entertainment TV
Cybertimes (NY Times online publication)
Pioneer Press/Knight Ridder Chain
NYU Student Newspaper
Facts on File News Services
The Journal Media One (Chicago)
True Vision Productions
BBC Inside Story
The Wall Street Journal
South China Morning Post
King-TV (Seattle, WA)
Tampa Security Report
The Leeza Show
Jewish TV Network (Los Angeles)
The Muskogee (OK) Daily Phoenix
German Radio Network
Chicago Daily Herald
The Teagle (TX)
Rockland (NY) Journal News
Westchester-Ganette Newspaper Chain
Sunday Greenwich (CT) Times.
ABC TV News
Campus Security Report
KTRS Radio, Detroit
Residence Life Magazine
WMUZ Radio, Detroit
Pittsburgh Sunday Tribune-Review
NHK Japanese TV
BBC Inside Story
South China Morning Post.
Dallas Morning News
Fox News, Inside Edition
Los Angeles Times
New York Post
Religion News Service
Rocky Mountain News
South China Morning Post
St. Petersburg Times
Washington Jewish Week
U.S. News & World Report
Appendix C: AFF Workshops
AFF offers regularly scheduled and specially arranged small-group workshops for former members of abusive groups, and the families, spouses, and friends of people involved in abusive groups. The workshops offer extensive interaction between workshop leaders and participants. Typically, 10-25 people will participate. The workshops provide practical information and a healing atmosphere for individuals struggling with the sometimes long-term aftereffects of an abusive group experience or the confusion, frustration, and fear that people often experience when a loved one becomes involved in an abusive group.
All sessions are led by individuals knowledgeable about group psychological abuse and the special needs of former members of abusive groups and family and friends concerned about group members or former members. Some workshops are a part of AFF conferences. For information on upcoming workshops, contact AFF.
Ex- Member Workshops
These workshops are for former group members only, not family or friends (AFF has other workshops for these persons). Topics discussed typically include:
The nature of psychological manipulation and abuse
Conditions of thought reform programs
General recovery needs of former members
Coping with depression and guilt
Effects of hypnosis and trance techniques
Coping with feelings of anger
Coping with anxiety
Reestablishing trust in yourself and others
The grieving process
Spiritual and philosophical concerns
The workshops are organized and coordinated by Carol Giambalvo, a thought reform consultant, former member of a controversial group, and author/editor of Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention and The Boston Movement: Critical Perspectives on the International Churches of Christ (Herbert L. Rosedale, co-editor). Ms. Giambalvo serves AFF as Director of Recovery Programs, which include workshops, special publications, professional liaison, and outreach.
Topics discussed typically include:
The nature of psychological manipulation and abuse
Why people join and leave high-control, abusive groups
How to assess your situation
How to communicate more effectively with your loved one
Formulating a helping strategy
When exit counseling might be appropriate and how to prepare
Special concerns of spouses
How to help your loved one after he or she leaves the group
How to cope with apparent helplessness without losing hope
AFF Family Workshops are organized and coordinated by Livia Bardin, M.S.W., a therapist in private practice. Ms. Bardin serves on AFF’s Social Work Committee and Family Education Service Advisory Board and is editor of the newsletter of the Greater Washington Society of Clinical Social Workers. She is author of Coping with Cult Involvement: A Handbook for Families and Friends.
Appendix D: Research Plan
One of AFF’s most important goals is to inspire, encourage, coordinate, support and contribute to research initiated by AFF staff, volunteer professionals, and others who are interested in the cult problem. In September 1994 AFF’s Dr. Michael Langone organized a two-day research-planning meeting in which 16 professionals convened to discuss ongoing and planned research. A second meeting took place in April 1995. Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center hosted both meetings. The research outline below summarizes the results of these meetings and subsequent discussions with AFF research advisors. This outline continues to guide our research work. (In order to enhance scientific clarity the term, “psychologically abusive group,” is used instead of “cult,” with which considerable ambiguity and controversy is associated.) Although much useful research has been conducted, fully implementing this ambitious research plan will take many years. Those interested in contributing to the research program outlined below should contact Dr. Langone (AFF, P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 34133; firstname.lastname@example.org).
The questions that guide our research follow:
How can we productively conceptualize the term “psychologically abusive group” and the relevance of certain types of “harm,” “group variables,” and “person variables” to psychologically abusive groups?
Answering this question will require a series of conceptual essays [one of which, Dr. Langone’s essay “Psychological Abuse,” has already been published in Cultic Studies Journal, 9(2), 1992] that will lay the groundwork for a psychological theory of group-perpetrated psychological abuse. This theory should clearly imply empirical studies that can test the theory’s validity.
How can we productively measure group psychological abuse and relevant group, person, and harm variables?
Drs. William Chambers, Michael Langone, and Arthur Dole developed the 28-item Group Psychological Abuse Scale (GPA Scale) from a factor analysis of the responses of 308 subjects rating their groups on 112 questions [Cultic Studies Journal, 11(1), 1994]. The GPA Scale needs to undergo a full course of psychometric development, including reliability and validity studies and the collection of data from a wide range of cultic and noncultic groups. If the GPA Scale lives up to its promise, it should prove useful in distinguishing cultic from noncultic groups and in differentiating various types of cultic groups. It will provide, for the first time, an objective measure of the “cultishness” of a group.
Drs. Langone and Chambers presented a paper with Ohio University graduate student, Peter Malinoski to the American Psychological Association. This paper, which is available from AFF, summarizes research with the Group Psychological Abuse Scale (GPA) through 1996.
Dr. Rod Marshall and Lois Kendall of Buckinghamshire College in London gave an updated report on their research, which used the GPA along with other instruments, at AFF’s annual conference in Seattle, April 28-29, 2000 (they gave a report at the 1999 conference as well). Other researchers are also collecting or analyzing data involving the GPA.
Despite the GPA Scale’s promise, it is also desirable to supplement the self-report GPA with other self-report scales and observational measures of psychologically abusive group environments. In regard to the first goal, Dr. Nadine Winocur developed a related scale as part of her doctoral dissertation at Pepperdine University. She and her colleagues report on the Individual Cult Experience Index in Cultic Studies Journal, 14(2), 1997. Because of the complexity of the second goal, the first step will be to write a carefully thought out methodological essay on issues to consider in developing observational measures of abusive groups.
In testing the GPA, AFF has found that families of individuals involved in cultic groups also find the scale useful. In order to meet their needs more effectively AFF would like to develop a companion scale for families. This scale will explore how families are affected by and perceive cultic groups.
Research conducted at Ohio University, Boston University, Buckinghamshire College, and Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center have utilized a battery of standardized psychological instruments to assess harm in populations of former group members. See Question 4 below.
How can we usefully classify psychologically abusive groups?
It would be helpful to write a critical review of existing classification systems, including those proposed by sociologists (An “unassigned” task at present).
The psychometric development of the GPA Scale may lead to an empirically based classification scheme.
With regard to psychologically abusive groups, what is the relationship between person variables, group variables, and psychopathology?
AFF’s Executive Director, Dr. Michael Langone, whom Boston University named the 1995 Albert V. Danielsen Visiting Scholar, conducted a study at Boston University of the International Churches of Christ movement. He used the GPA Scale and a new scale (the DDD Scale—Deception, Dependency, and Dread Scale) to assess the abusiveness of the Boston Movement, as rated by former members. He also used a psychological test battery to assess the nature and degree of psychological distress experienced by former members of the Boston Movement and two comparison groups: graduates of a mainstream campus ministry and former members of a mainstream religion. This test battery is identical to that used in an Ohio University study described below. Dr. Langone’s report to the Danielsen Institute is available from AFF.
A team of three psychology graduate students under the direction of Ohio University’s Dr. Steve Lynn gave a standardized test battery to clients of the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center and a matched comparison group of college students in order to assess the nature and degree of psychopathology among former cult members. A report on this research was published in Cultic Studies Journal, 16(1), 1999. Members of this team also wrote a comprehensive review of the empirical literature in this field [Aronoff, J.B., Lynn, S.J., & Malinoski, P.T. (in press). Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review].
The Marshall and Kendall studies, mentioned above, are also using a standardized battery to assess harm.
A team of four psychology graduate students under the direction of Pepperdine University’s Dr. David Foy have used the Los Angeles Symptom Checklist (a standardized instrument designed to measure symptoms common to victimization populations) to measure distress and the Group Experience Index (GEI) to assess the severity of exposure to cult-related pressures and abuses in order to study the relationships between post-cult distress and variables related to pre-cult history and adjustment, cult-related experiences, and post-cult history. A multiple regression research design was used to evaluate the relative contributions of the variables under investigation to post-cult distress. The Winocur article mentioned above also reports on this aspect of these studies.
Data from the AFF questionnaire from which the GPA Scale was derived await analyses and reporting by Dr. Langone and colleagues. This questionnaire explored subjects’ psychological and social history, background variables related to cult joining, characteristics of the group environment, subjects’ responses to the cult experience, subjects’ post-group experiences (including recovery), and subjects’ evaluations of helping resources.
Dr. Arthur Dole has written a methodological paper, published in Cultic Studies Journal, 12(2), 1995, explaining how to apply case study methodology to the cult area. Over the next few years, AFF would like to enlist the support of clinicians in this field to conduct a series of case studies using Dr. Dole’s methodology.
Although considerable research has been conducted, much more research is needed to adequately answer this question.
What is the prevalence of membership in psychologically abusive groups and how many such groups are there in the United States?
The first research-planning meeting decided that existing prevalence data are sufficient for current research purposes and that a full-scale epidemiological study on cultic groups would be an inappropriate use of limited resources at this time. It was decided, however, that surveys of professional populations (e.g., clergy, psychologists), such as Dr. Edward Lottick’s survey of primary care physicians [Lottick, E.A. (Feb. 1993). Survey reveals physicians’s experiences with cults. Pennsylvania Medicine, 96, 26-28 — available from AFF], would provide useful data at relatively low cost (and would also contribute to professional education). Such surveys will be conducted as funds allow.
Scientifically determining the number of psychologically abusive groups, or cults, in the U.S. is a daunting task. Perhaps the most feasible approach would be to compile a comprehensive list of groups about which AFF receives inquiries, select a random sample from this list, and conduct in-depth studies of this sample, using when possible the GPA Scale and/or other scales to be developed in the future. This study would enable us to make reasonable and empirically based generalizations about the broad population of groups we receive inquiries on (e.g., what percentage appears to be abusive). This study obviously will require considerable funding.
AFF believes that if we could develop an effective and efficient survey instrument, colleges and universities could use this instrument to help them assess cult-related problems on their campuses. Dr. Russell Eleven’s research, which was published in Cultic Studies Journal, 15(1), 1998, has laid the groundwork for the development of such a measure. This research would be enhanced if a survey instrument with practical educational uses were developed.
What is the relationship between person, group, and treatment variables and amelioration in post-group distress?
Currently, the most thorough outcome evaluation of psychological treatment for former group members is that of Dr. Paul Martin and his colleagues at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, published in Cultic Studies Journal, 9(2), 1992. Although controlled outcome studies are obviously preferred, such studies require considerable funding. In the meantime, the state of knowledge would be advanced if other clinicians in this field attempted to evaluate treatment effectiveness using standardized pre- and post-measures, as Wellspring does.
What are the legal implications of the cult phenomenon?
The American Bar Association report published in Cultic Studies Journal, 12(1), 1995 provides a literature review and analysis of case law relating to mind control issues, undue influence, and fraud. Cultic Studies Journal has also published articles on other aspects of the legal dimension of this subject, including custody, violence against women laws, emancipation of minors, hypnotic testimony, and certain reports of governments. The international dimension of the cult issue greatly complicates the legal arena. It would be helpful to develop a manual of pertinent laws, precedents, and unresolved issues in various countries in order to make the scholarly analysis above accessible to greater numbers of people. Obviously, this is a major task that would require funding and the skills of a legal scholar.
What are the cultural implications of the cult issue?
AFF believes that the cultural implications of cultism can be explored fruitfully by answering the following key question:
How does a free, constitutionally based society protect itself against the totalist impulses and practices of cultic groups without becoming closed and repressive?
The answer to this question includes, but is not limited to, legal considerations. A key component of the answer, for example, has to do with the ethics of how we influence each other, a subject on which AFF has published a number of articles. Answering this question also demands an analysis of fundamental societal values and how conflicting values can most effectively be reconciled.
Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist, is AFF’s Executive Director. He was the founder editor of Cultic Studies Journal (CSJ), the editor of CSJ’s successor, Cultic Studies Review, and editor of Recovery From Cults. He is co-author of Cults: What Parents Should Know and Satanism and Occult-Related Violence: What You Should Know. Dr. Langone has spoken and written widely about cults. In 1995, he received the Leo J. Ryan Award from the “original” Cult Awareness network and was honored as the Albert V. Danielsen visiting Scholar at Boston University. (email@example.com)
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