Abstracts / Résumés

Subject to Change / Sujet à changement
Les résumés et les bios sont dans la langue de la présentation / Abstracts and bios are in the language of the presentation.

Please keep in mind that only minimal editing has been performed on these abstracts, many of which were written by persons for whom English or French is not a native language. We provide abstracts to help conference attendees decide which sessions to attend. Abstracts are sorted by title, with all panels’ titles beginning with “panel.” Abstracts and bios are in the language of the presentation.

Veuillez prendre note que ces résumés n'ont reçu qu'une édition minimale. Plusieurs d'entre eux ont été rédigés par des personnes dont la langue maternelle n'est pas le français ou l'anglais. Nous présentons des résumés afin d'aider les participants au Congrès à décider des conférences auxquelles assister. Les résumés sont classés selon leur titre et les titres de panels commencent tous par "panel". Les résumés et les bios sont affichés dans la langue de la conférence.


A Phenomenological Inquiry of Terror in High-Demand Relationships

Jeremy Black

In high demand groups, individuals can exhibit behaviors that reveal underlying emotional stress. Inability to experience and express primary emotions becomes part of a terror of no escape. In this paper, I will inquire if the control of shame may create a false promise of security from it, which conversely becomes the primary motivation for remaining in a destructive dynamic. Although shame may revolve in discernible loops as outlined by Donald Nathanson, environments dominated by fear can force awareness of these patterns out of everyday consciousness. Reflecting on my personal struggle in cultic and high-demand groups, I will describe how awareness of authentic experience remained compromised and separated from my understanding. In examples of group interactions, I will illustrate how when what felt normal for me was deemed abnormal by the group, healthy experiences of emotion became less frequent. As fear of shame became amplified, it also became harder to experience in healthy ways. Group philosophy replaced self-knowledge and awareness. As will be shown by my own observations in high-demand situations, shame in personal and public contexts was never worked through, resulting in a state of helplessness over who felt safe in group interactions. But as Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory demonstrates, helplessness, and the shame that causes it, creates disadvantages only in an unsafe environment. While the environment of the group promised safety, the internal experience of it made that promise a false one. Whether or not one remained in a state of terror depended on being able to evaluate the situation and discern between a false and true sense of security. With this understanding of how shame operates in terror-filled states of high demand groups, I hope that a way of undoing its imprisoning power may emerge.

A Psychological Autopsy of a Malignant Narcissist in Church Leadership

Zeiders, Charles

To illustrate the phenomenon of malignant narcissism in church leadership, this paper develops a composite profile of a malignant narcissist. The profile is rendered in the form of an excerpt from a “fictional” psychological autopsy. “Imagined” clinical material, all retrieved from public sources, woven into genuine psychological scholarship, offers a developmental narrative of the pathogenesis of a malignant narcissist embedded in a church culture. Following the “psychological autopsy,” the presenter—a forensics expert—will discuss pertinent issues. It is hoped that this article will enhance awareness of the manifestations of destructive leadership in religious life. Note: To fully deliver the paper, one hour is needed. I request a special extension of time.

A Social Psychological Study of the Recovery Process of Former Cult Members

Tomoya Watanabe; Nishida Kimiaki

Many studies have suggested that the former cult member have various psychological problems. However, there are few studies on how the former cult member recover from the psychological problem and how the post-exit counselor in Japan support the former cult member. The purpose of this study was to examine the psychological recovery process of cult former member and the picture of post-exit counseling in Japan. We conducted semi-constructed interview to 9 post-exit counselors and 10 former cult members. (The data was analyzed by modified grounded theory approach.) The main results were as follows; (a) the psychological problems of former cult member were classified into emotional problem, interpersonal problem and thinking-cognitive problem. (b) to deal with those problems, the former cult member tried the reorganization of identity, rearrange of doctrine and reinterpretation of experience in cult and so on. (c) post-exit counselor suggested emotional and informational support to former cult member. (d) there coping behavior and support of post-exit counselor caused the catharsis and cognitive change against the doctrine as well as cult he/she have belonged to the former cult member, resulting in accepting of own cult experience. We can consider that these results provide the better understanding and prediction of former cult member’s psychological recovery process and the opportunity to develop the better support methods for post-exit counselor and other supporters.

A Theory of Fervor

Yuval Laor

Through my doctoral research into the evolution of religiosity, I have developed a theory of fervor which is relevant to cultic studies. The presentation will start by analyzing three key concepts: religious conversion, the emotion of awe and the state of fervor; followed by a discussion of their relevance to cult dynamics. I propose that sudden religious (and non-religious) conversions are related to the capacity of humans to “fall in love” (either parentally, as with a new baby, or romantically). Both conversion and falling in love are more likely in young adults, are accompanied by a strong emotional experience, allow the individual to drastically change her or his life, and both create an irrational commitment (not based on cost-benefit considerations). The differences between conversion and falling-in-love are important. One difference is that in the case of conversion, a person becomes committed, not only to another person or agent, but also to the veridicality of a doctrine and to the social norms of the group converted to. Another important difference is the way that such events are triggered: sudden conversion can come about through strong emotional experiences involving awe – an emotion which can be caused by “miracles,” celebrities, vastness, beauty or skill, and is amplified by crowds. Awe experiences can result in conversion because they often “prove” (psychologically) an unrelated set of ideas. Jesus walking on water (a “miracle” causing awe) “proved,” to some, things that are unrelated to the buoyancy of Jesus. I define fervor as the strength of a feedback created when an awe experience “proves” a set of ideas, which in turn lead to behavior that brings about additional similar experiences. I maintain that a nuanced understanding of fervor, awe and conversion, can shed light on the phenomenon of cults, and will be of interest to ICSA members.

Addict, Idol and Cult Member: Reflections on the Loss of Self: A Phenomenological Examination of Destructive Cult groups

Tate Wood, Allen

My paper and talk are a phenomenological morphology of religious and political extremism. In the presentation, I give a detailed exposition of seven key elements that are present in the mind of the successfully indoctrinated group member. These seven elements include: absolute leader, absolute teaching, hierarchical social structure, the psychology of the adversary, the ends justify the means as a modus operandi, crisis psychology and the inner circle. The second part of my presentation includes an examination of the variables at play during the process of recruitment and indoctrination: milieu control, communication web/the manipulation of intimacy, peak experiences and planned spontaneity, the splitting phenomenon: the experience of evil, metaphor and ritual: the binding chains, the repudiation of the conscience, the rejection of the critical faculties and the colonization of the imagination understood as an experience of god. My remarks will be punctuated by anecdotal material from my life in the Unification Church including my direct contact with Sun Myung Moon. In addition, I shall be drawing on my 27 years as an addiction counselor working with alcoholics and addicts in county jails and state prisons.

Believing It All: Control of Information

Lee Marsh

The effective use of undue influence techniques is not dependent on a person’s intelligence. The techniques are very effective on everyone. That is why they use them and keep refining them. In the late 1960-1975 The Watchtower Society published a small blue book called the Truth book. The Truth that Leads to Everlasting Life. At that time we were instructed to use this little book in the preaching work. Our goal was to get people to study the book and slowly move them towards the meetings, changing unapproved habits, initiating them into the preaching work and getting them baptized all within 6 months. We were told that if a person was not baptized within the allotted 6-month period it took to study the book we were to drop them and move on to other more interested people. What was the big rush? The end of the world as we knew it was coming and people needed to flock into the Jehovah’s Witnesses before the end came. If we did not participate in this work, we would be guilty of killing those people we might have been able to save. Since __ Jehovah’s Witnesses have been using their rainbow of books to indoctrinate people into the group. Over time they have made many refinements in the process so that now people are limited to months. How does the process work? What is the impact on the potential recruit? What can we learn about information control that will help us educate people about the process and learn how to protect themselves?

Breaking the Power of Cult Symbols

Charlene Edge

Traditional religions use symbols to enhance the spiritual life of believers. Destructive cults, however, do the reverse—cult leaders deploy symbols to serve their agenda and gain power over followers. Instead of encouraging believers to contemplate spiritual realities represented by symbols, such as the cross in Christianity, cults use their leaders’ photographs, slogans, and official insignias to galvanize commitment to the leader and to following his beliefs, dogmas, and directives. The cult’s symbols become tools of manipulation. While symbols may be introduced to appeal on the cognitive level to members, they quickly influence deeper, emotional commitments, much like pledging allegiance to a flag or singing a national anthem. Thus, symbols can be used as a way to control members, and since their pull remains on the non-conscious level, they can make it very difficult for a member to extricate from the group. My paper shows how Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way International—that became one of the largest cults in the United States—used symbols to market his fundamentalist cult as a biblical research, teaching, and fellowship ministry. I committed myself to The Way from 1970 to 1987. Wierwille crafted official logos, slogans, and photographs to identify The Way as unique and elevate himself in his follower’s eyes as their “father in The Word” and God’s chosen leader. His claim of teaching “the accuracy of God’s Word” was a powerful inducement to join and remain loyal. The Way’s biblical research itself became a symbol used to reinforce Wierwille’s claims. Although now deceased, Wierwille still retains power over many who left his organization but still believe in him, making it impossible for them to shed their cult identity. To break the spell of cults and derail the power of cult leaders, we must understand their symbols to dismantle them.

Ce que des victimes d'abus spirituels m'ont appris

De Dinechin, Blandine

Entendre depuis plusieurs années des victimes d'abus spirituels dans l'Eglise,pour recueillir leurs témoignages, fait passer le professionnel de l'écoute par des étapes successives de deuil. Comment ne pas être soi-même sidéré, attristé, en colère ou dans la perte de confiance ? Comment garder un cadre de travail suffisamment ajusté? En quoi l'écriture devient-elle une ressource pour des victimes et pour celui qui recueille partie de leur histoire ? Les non dits d'un accueil de ses limites et d'un combat dans l'ombre.

Challenges for Women Leaving Fundamentalism Behind

Laura Dyason

This presentation aims to highlight some of the issues facing women who are raised in fundamentalist religions and leave as adults. When a person leaves a closed or controlling religious group they have been socialised into from birth, they experience an upheaval of everything they know to be true and find themselves in an unfamiliar world, often with little idea where to begin to rebuild their lives. While this is almost always stressful, over the course of interviewing many adults about their experiences of leaving their group, some common themes have emerged in the stories of women. Data for this paper is largely drawn from in-depth interviews with women who have left Christian fundamentalist religions, most of whom were third, fourth and fifth generation former members of the Exclusive Brethren. Though the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians may vary somewhat from group to group, they are almost invariably patriarchal in structure and teach that scripture requires women to be subordinate to men. Women raised in these groups typically play lesser roles in decision making and are encouraged to defer to the men in their lives, often having been raised to believe that being compliant and unassertive as a desirable trait. In many cases, they are housewives and homemakers, having less exposure than men to the outside world. These factors, coupled with a lack of education and career experience, increase the difficulty women face in adapting to mainstream society and learning new social roles and affect them when it comes to gaining employment and forming new social connections. It is concluded that in addition to the wide-ranging challenges typically faced by all members of closed religions upon leaving, many women who are raised in patriarchal fundamentalist religions have some additional challenges to overcome on leaving.

Children From Daesh/Isil Territory From the Cultic Studies Perspective

Cristina Caparesi

Children returning to Europe from ISIL-held territories in Syria/Iraq are first of all children that were brought to the conflict by their parents or were born to parents who have joined the so-called Caliphate. It is expected that as parents get disillusioned or are sent back to Europe many of these children are returning or will return in the near future and even that some of these older children/young adults may be able to return on their own. I would face the problem within two different perspectives. On one side it can be argued that education and childrearing in Daesh is a very similar phenomenon to the one of children being born or raised into destructive cults that return to mainstream society either with one or both their parents once they disconnect from the cult, or they leave by themselves during their adolescence, or young age.

Clergy Maleficence, Religious Fanaticism, Abuse of Power

Paula Parish-Foley

Spiritual abuse, what is it? I have found that this form of abuse shares commonalities with other forms of maltreatment and academic or experiential support is limited, both for those experiencing spiritual abuse and for the professionals working with them. I have found that well-meaning professional, intelligent people fall victim to this kind of abuse due to it being sinister and not easily identified. Certainly, one would least expect it within a Christian Church, especially one that has the respect of the community in which is set. Spiritual Abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses his/her position, to coerce, control or exploit a follower. And at what point can a Church with this kind of leadership become a cult? Because of the abuse of power, a hidden cult can develop. Victims such as I, are in dilemma because of the lack of help, seeking help from the Church is problematic because in general, they tend to be looked upon as disobedient to their Pastor/The Lord Jesus, and turning to secular professionals can also be problematic because they do not understand the dynamics involved. Many of the victims with whom I have had personal involvement with, have emerged deeply scarred, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. 

Coercive Control: Many Faces, One Pattern

Chelsea Brass

Coercive control is a concept derived from the beginnings of the domestic violence movement. Based on the Duluth model of the power and control wheel, coercive control is defined by domestic theorist Evan Stark as: "In this model, violence is used (or not) alongside a range of other tactics – isolation, degradation, mind-games, and the micro-regulation of everyday life (monitoring phone calls, dress, food consumption, social activity etc). The perpetrator creates a world in which the victim is constantly monitored and criticized; every move is checked against an unpredictable, ever-changing, unknowable ‘rule-book’." This presentation presents the argument that this model can be found in the fields of domestic violence, human trafficking, and terrorist fields and recruitment models. Knowing how power and control works is essential to understanding the overarching pattern of subjugation and how this kind of control disproportionately impacts women.

Coming Out From Inside

Cobb, Cara

The purpose of the panel would be to discuss the situations encountered by individuals or families exiting or leaving a cult. The questions to be examined include entry into the job market; securing “outside” links to emotional and financial support prior to leaving; preparing children for life outside the cult (media influence, public education, etc.) and dealing with possible condemnation from within the cult. Method of discussion would be to have a clear outline of specific issues which would include case studies of both successful entries into the “world” and failures. The hopeful outcome of this panel would be to give those leaving a cult a clear vision of a happier, possible life outside the cult.

Communicating to Convert and Contain

Mark Giles

Faith-based, high-control organizations rely on traditional and online information and communications technologies (ICT) to recruit, restrain and retain members, while highly discouraging departure from the “true” path to success in this life and the promised after-life. In today’s information age – where facts and educated opinion are readily available – this presentation will focus on how some of these organizations, including the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), are addressing the communications and information-related challenges of conversion and containing attrition.Balancing “offensive” and “defensive” strategies and tactics to expand global membership, while attempting to retain base (internal audience) strength – or, in some cases, minimize (contain) losses – these organizations often employ sophisticated efforts and technologies to tailor themes and messages to segmented target audiences around the world. Faced with considerable push-back in the information age, some of these organizations are using their considerable wealth to stretch the perception-reality gap – fighting to maintain brand strength through various communications initiatives aimed at projecting an image of ongoing growth and stability. Some parts of the world, including Africa, are seen as more vulnerable due to less internet access and cultural differences. Faith-based, high-control organizations often exploit these vulnerabilities – to offset stagnant growth in more traditional areas, such as Europe and North America – while developing and refining their capacity (change assimilation) and capabilities (skills, techniques and ICT) to communicate with, control and contain key audiences at home and abroad.

Comparing and Contrasting Cult Recruitment Tactics

Holmquist, Anna

The purpose of this paper is to explore the various tactics cults use to recruit their members, and the similarities and differences between recruitment tactics in different groups. This research draws on facts, articles and historical sources pertaining to well-known and lesser-known controlling groups of varying sizes, and will also be compared and contrasted with the author's own experience of being recruited into a cult. By exploring this topic, we aim to show that while the specific methods of recruitment may vary, the goal of these methods is similar - to carefully choose new recruits who may be in a vulnerable position in life, to offer recruits a sense of family and purpose, and to dismantle the recruits' view of the world in order to replace it with the group's own view.

Constitutional Radicalism

Avital, Ron

The ordinary parlance definition of the term “radical” is, an attitude profess in fundamental transformation of status quo. The analogous term to “status quo” in the legal world deals with Human Rights’ issues and is referred as “constitutional reality”. Consequently by this orientation, legal radicalism is an approach that advocates to fundamental transformation of a constitutional reality. Viz., legal radicalism is a deviation from constitutional rights. The phenomenon of destructive sects is new for Israel’s courts and discussions about this issue are unripe. In 2013-2014 two important and well-covered case laws were issued by the Israeli Court. In both cases the sects leaders were charged with slavery. Only in the case of the Sadistic Cult (2013) the court convicted the cult leader due to the fact that he had also exercised violent behavior (Unlike Goel Ratzon case (2014)). Both case laws clearly indicated that by judges’ conception the deviation from constitutional values finds expression in the criminal code in general and in violent offenses in particular. This concept is problematic in two aspects: First, the Israeli criminal code does not contain an appropriate offense, except slavery1, to cope with the deprivation of constitutional freedoms that characterize destructive sects in which violence was offensive. Secondly, Israel has no legal solution to sects in which violence is not involved yet fundamental transformation of a constitutional reality is fostered. The article’s hypothesis is that fundamental transformation of constitutional reality may occur through violent means but not necessarily. This article will qualitatively examine characteristics of the aforementioned cases, will assess the reciprocity between violence and constitutional rights deviation and will try to substantiate the hypothesis regarding the term radicalism with respect to constitutional context.

Control, Censorship, and Resourcefulness in China

Whitsett, Doni

I had the privilege of living in China for 6 weeks as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar in June 2016. I was fascinated by the sexual revolution taking place there as young people challenge the traditional, conservative values of Confucianism and the Cultural Revolution. Along the way I experienced firsthand the political control and censorship with which the Chinese people live every day and I was struck by their resourcefulness in coping with these constraints. As part of my project I conducted formal and informal interviews with students, colleagues, and friends. My research questions were broad enough to encourage participants to expand their narratives and tell their stories. In this way I learned how China’s One Child Policy, the most extreme form of reproductive control ever known, resulted in attachment trauma for many and how those experiences continue to affect them today. As with most things, however, there were positive as well as negative effects. The positive ones surprised me, the negative ones broke my heart. This paper will present both sides, highlighting the phenomenon known as “left behind” children whose attachment experiences have yet to be studied systematically and objectively. The paper will also highlight the extraordinary resourcefulness of families who tried to survive under that rule. There are parallels here to cultic groups: (1) Children may be “left behind when parents enter, or exit, a cult (2) parents often feel tremendous guilt, and (3) cults often use reproductive control and coercion. I also experienced firsthand academic censorship. “Academic freedom” in China apparently ends where challenges to the status quo begins. I will describe the obstacles placed in our path when the Party Secretary labeled our workshop on Relationship/Sex Therapy “too sensitive.” At the time of this writing there was a post on We-chat that Chairman Xi Jinping cancelled all Gender and Sexuality courses with the rationale that they upset China’s “social harmony.”

Cult Fiction: Recent Media Portrayals of Cults

Ayella, Marybeth

Three popular shows have focused on cults in recent years: "The Following" (3 seasons), "the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," (2 seasons) and "The Path" (2016, renewed for 2nd season). These shows portray cults very differently. "The Following" is a standard crime drama focused on an English professor turned violent cult leader, with an endless band of followers, committing violent actions seemingly automatically, often while masked as the leader. Interestingly, there are 3 cults in this show. A second is that of a woman whose charisma is rooted in her beauty, wealth and strange “family.”. The third group, located in a communal and isolated setting, is headed by a husband and wife couple, who lead a docile collection of members. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” series tackles Kimmy’s reconstruction of life after being rescued from captivity in an underground bunker with other kidnapped women and an apocalyptic male leader, who is shown to be a con artist. Finally, “The Path’s” first season (spring 2016) shows viewers daily life within an accepted communal group, while focusing on the ongoing struggles of a leader’s husband. His struggles begin after he discovers a key fact which generates questioning of leadership and eventually leads him out of the group. I explored these series, seeking answers to the questions: “how do these shows portray cults?” and “how accurately do they portray cults?” Last, I tackle "why are cults interesting to the general public?" I think the biggest draw of the three shows, speaking to the last question, is the promise of explaining what to many is inexplicable: major identity change in a "cult." To people with no exposure to cults but the media, why people join and stay, especially in terrible conditions, is a fascinating mystery.

Cult Mentalities Beyond the Sacred Space

Masami Kubo

At the ICSA Annual Conference I would like to present a short essay paired with slideshow images to discuss the correlation between various systems of belief and spiritual authority. I will be expanding cult group conditions beyond the “religious” realm, by illuminating common themes found in other phenomena within the political and technological sphere. I will begin with a brief analysis of the ideology and economic empire of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unifications Church as an example of an esoteric religious movement. I will then outline parallel belief and authority systems that I’ve observed within various secular domains, such as the Donald Trump campaign, the North Korean communist party, Silicon Valley’s startup culture, and an emerging generation of technologically dependent complacency. I will be focusing on themes consistent within each case that are usually associated with religious movements. In short, I will be examining how each case represents an insurgence of a group of disenfranchised individuals, targeted by a charismatic figure, and vulnerable to authoritative belief structures that usually imitate a sense of autonomy or revolution. The entire presentation will be 15-20 minutes long. Supplementary images in the slideshow will be used to illustrate various points and provide historical images relating to specific events and people discussed in the presentation.

Cultic Belief Formation and Maintenance by Mind Control

Mariko Kimura; Kimiaki Nishida

Nishida. (2008) explained that mind-control as psychological manipulation utilized in cult groups had 6 steps. This study explored following 6 steps in cult groups: Recruiters (1) build a good relationship with targets, (2) make targets’ dependent on a cult group inspiring fear and anxiety of difficult problems, (3) make targets feel an attraction to a group’s doctrine by explaining them as if they solved difficult problems, (4) pretend that doctrine is distinguished in order to shake targets’ belief that has existed since before, (5) convince targets of doctrine by practicing on teaching, (6) finally, prevent targets from restore them to their original place causing to resign work or donate all the property. Semi-structured interviews with 10 former members of 6 cult groups were conducted. Reports on the cult-related experiences were categorized, and each category matched 6 steps. For example, STEP1: concealment of information, good impression of cult members, STEP2: the wages of impiousness, inspiring fear and guilt feelings, STEP3: the reward for piety, solving problems, silencing criticism, STEP4: giving authority to a group and leader, inspiring a feeling of superiority, STEP5: observance of the rules, exhaustion due to a group’s practices, STEP6: breaking off relations with people other than cult groups, financial problems. Results suggested that mind-control had common 6 steps in 6 cult groups in Japan.

Cults and Political Terrorism: Lessons from the Seventies

Maureen May

This presentation will discuss present day political terrorism through the lens of the domestic terrorism of the late 1960s and 1970s in the United States. This period in U.S. history involved years of deep disillusionment and unrest flowing from the civil rights and anti-war movements. (This unrest existed simultaneously throughout other Western nations.) The proliferation of cult groups, both religious and political, was a consequence of a seeking for meaning in life and a skepticism that the “establishment” could ever be reformed (see King 2001). As this period wore on and peaceful protest and political action brought little institutional and political reform, frustration took a violent turn both from the right and left. For example, in the year 1969 there were 465 bombings in the U.S. (see Rafalco 2011). (A look at targets suggests that most, if not all, of these bombings were clearly political. The violent political right tended to bomb churches. The violent political left targeted government buildings, banks and college campuses.) The presentation will draw on written narratives to demonstrate, through the eyes of ex-cult members, the appeal of radical new left organizations: those that turned to violence vs. those that remained peaceful, as well as religious new age cults of the time. It was an appeal that drew in many individuals of an entire generation. Discussion will focus on groups of the era that have been described as a cult, comparing those cults that turned to violence as opposed to cults that remained peaceful. Part of this discussion will focus on the radical new left, looking at those groups that evolved into cults vs. those groups that did not turn towards cultism. We will also discuss the lessons we can possibly learn from the violence of the era - lessons that might help us understand today’s global unrest and violence.

Cults and The Law: A Gray Area

Anna Holmquist

The purpose of this paper is to explore the difficulty of taking legal action against a controlling group, group member, or cult leader in the United States. Since there is no clear legal definition of "cult" in the US, bringing a lawsuit against a group or individual can be tricky. This research will draw on legal documents, articles, written sources and documentaries to compare and contrast historical and current legal battles that concern controlling groups. The author will also compare and contrast her own experience with those that have been researched. With this exploration, we expect to find that taking legal action against a cult in any way is difficult, and we except to see that certain avenues of the law could prove more useful than others in bringing justice against a group or individual that is still part of a cult. 

Deprogrammed - Film with Discussion / Deprogrammed : Ciné-débat

Deprogrammed chronicles Ted ‘Black Lightning’ Patrick’s anti-cult crusade. His practice of ‘deprogramming’, also known as ‘reverse brainwashing’, started in the early 1970s and quickly snowballed into a vast underground movement composed of concerned parents, ex-cultist-turned-deprogrammers and some sympathetic law-enforcers whose mission was to physically and mentally remove individuals from ‘cults’. Through interviews and the never-before-seen archives of the actual deprogrammings of those individuals, the film will begin to unravel what it might mean to be in a high-control group under a form of ‘thought-control’, the line where free will begins to blur. Along with extensive interviews with the now 84-year-old Father of deprogramming himself as he reflects on his career, news archives will also reveal the changing attitude that the public and law enforcement agencies developed towards Ted Patrick’s controversial approach to deprogramming. Looking back at the involuntary deprogramming era (1971 until around 1990) this documentary questions how much the practice was a result of moral panic and how much of it was in fact a matter of cultic mind-control?

Deprogrammed fait la chronique de la croisade anti-secte de Ted « Black Lightning » (« foudre noire ») Patrick. Sa pratique de la « déprogrammation » aussi connue sous le nom de « lavage de cerveau inversé », a commencé au début des années 70 et a rapidement fait boule de neige pour devenir un vaste mouvement souterrain formé de parents inquiets, d’anciens membres de sectes devenus «déprogrammeurs» et d’agents de la loi sympathisants dont la mission était de retirer les individus physiquement et mentalement de sectes. Avec des entrevues et des archives inédites de la déprogrammation en direct de ces personnes, le film commencera à démêler ce que pourrait signifier être dans un groupe à haut niveau de contrôle sous l’emprise d’une forme de « contrôle de la pensée », la ligne où la liberté de pensée commence à s’estomper. Les entrevues extensives du Père de la déprogrammation lui-même qui, à maintenant 84 ans, réfléchit à sa carrière et les archives d’actualité révéleront aussi l'évolution du changement d’attitude des agences publiques et de la loi envers l’approche controversée de Ted Patrick sur la déprogrammation. Faisant un retour sur l’ère de la déprogrammation contrainte (de 1971 à environ 1990) ce documentaire questionne à quel point la pratique était le résultat d’une panique morale et à quel point la pratique était de fait affaire de contrôle mental sectaire.

Détresse émotionnelle chez les adolescents victimes de cyberharcèlement

Sofia Buelga; Jessica Ortega-Baron

Le cyberharcèlement (cyberintimidation ou cyberbullying) est devenu un problème mondial qui suscite une inquiétude croissante au sein de la communauté. En effet, lors de cette dernière décennie, cette forme de violence à travers les nouvelles technologies de l’information et de la communication (NTIC) a fortement augmenté dans tous les pays développés, touchant de plus en plus d’enfants et d’adolescents moins âgés. En outre, il s’avère notamment que la cyberintimidation peut avoir de très graves conséquences sur la santé mentale des victimes. Dans ce cadre, ce travail a pour objectif d'analyser les symptômes dépressifs et idées suicidaires auprès d'un échantillon d'adolescents victimes de cyberharcèlement. L'échantillon total est composé de 1,062 adolescents (51,5% de garçons et 48,5% des filles), âgés de 12 à 18 ans, provenant de la province de Valencia (Espagne). Les résultats suggèrent que le taux de victimes de cyberharcèlement modéré s'élève à 20.5% et celui de cyberharcèlement sévère atteint 5.5%. Certes, la détresse émotionnelle (symptômes dépressifs et idées suicidaires) est significativement plus élevée parmi les victimes sévères, en particulier chez les victimes harcelées pendant une période de trois à six mois. Néanmoins, on observe que la détresse psychologique diminue chez les ciber-victimes de longue durée (plus d’un an). Ces résultats sont discutés dans la perspective des recherches à venir et des interventions auprès d’adolescents victimes de cyberharcèlement.

Dynamics and Radicalization of Cults Based on Qigong and ESP

Jianhui Li

Qigong is a traditional Chinese way to maintain health and cure disease. Through coordinating body, breath, and mind, Qigong is typically practiced for body building, preventive medicine, longevity, and potential development of the body. Since the end of 1970s, a craze of Qigong and human extraordinary functions (or ESP) had been aroused in China. Millions of people all over the country were wild about exercising Qigong and expecting the attainment of various human extraordinary functions. Most people practiced Qigong in some organizations under the leadership of the so-called grand-masters of human extraordinary functions. Gradually some Qigong organizations turned into cults, and the former Qigong masters transformed into their heads. Cults based on Qigong not only brought a great number of Qigong practitioners into such a mental deviation that their health was greatly impaired; some of them even committed suicide or murder. They are also controlled spiritually by the heads of the cults and do harm to their family and the society, even become criminals. This research will reveal the Dynamics and Radicalization of the Cult Based on Qigong and ESP. And from here we can also know something for preventing Qigong organization become into cultic group.

Extremism and Deradicalization

Ron Burks

The cultic studies field has benefited a wide range of hurting people by deconstructing and reframing Asian interrogation technology. Today we understand people get involved in abusive groups and relationships for a variety of reasons, usually they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and met the right antisocial narcissist that had the right message that matched their life priorities or just felt right at the time. Victims of indoctrination are generally more idealistic, thoughtful, or less cynical than average, and intelligent enough to put initial doubts aside until they hear the message through. By then it’s too late. The question of why people change gets more difficult to answer when the inductee moves rapidly far away from their usual mode of function without contact with another person and converted without a sophisticated plan of influence other than having had guilt, anger, hate and revenge spewed at them. Political science theory can provide insights. MacWilliams and others found that a segment of voters fit a psychological profile called “authoritarian” by researchers in this field. Authoritarians may be conservative or liberal, of any ethnicity or religion. What sets them apart is a love of order and fear of outsiders. When threatened, these voters will usually vote for a strong leader who will promise to take whatever action is necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear. Their willing support of those who would take “any action necessary” makes them vulnerable to extremism. Radical actions can feel safer to them than caution. They may come to fear the cruel leaders they follow, but not as much as the perceived social changes and the outsiders that motivated them to be open to change. This presentation offers and explanation why conventional interrogation methods, culturally sensitive dialogue, or ideological or social “deradicalization” have had little effect on large numbers of converts. Extremism itself is defined and explored for clues to how it may be addressed in a context where other dynamics in addition to thought reform apply.

FECRIS United Nations Representative Report

David Clark

Now that we are well into the twenty-first century and the phenomenon of radicalization has spread across the world scene. What is most noteworthy about the cult phenomenon from the 1960's and the wave of new cults that followed them internationally was the social dynamic impact on groups starting in the twentieth century. When we examine the parallels between the destructive cult factors and radical Islamic extremist group elements are strong between the two are crucial to our understanding. In my role as the FECRIS New York main representative to the United Nations in the last several years I have noticed more details emerging about the radicalization of young people who join Islamic extremist organizations. Having been personally exposed to the new cults for more than forty years there is much common ground and also differences that need to be sorted out. This presentation will focus the history, methods and techniques used to indoctrinate and hold members in both categories. When we consider the mainly young recruited members and the extreme suffering and harm that is done. Meaningful help and recovery has been quite effective and first hand exposure through the United Nations has provided me access that makes networking with appropriate resources worth the effort to accomplish a hopeful and a productive life. It is important to hear testimony from those impacted by this extreme life changing radicalization and how they escaped it's carnage. Public awareness is critical to overcoming the propaganda campaign waged against the world and let us move toward quality information to equip society and support victim assistance where it is need it most.

Former Cult Members’ Encounter With Health Care

Cecilia Wemmert

This study was based on semi-structured interviews with 18 former cult members from different groups, having experienced undue influence. They had all sought healthcare after leaving the cult. The interviews where coded and analyzed in accordance with Content Analysis. The aim was to describe their meeting with health care post cult and to investigate obstacles and promotion for good care and treatment. Qualities of special interest were shame, trust, boundaries, treatment, the former cult members own awareness, and the health care’s knowledge, response and ability to meet people from backgrounds of undue influence. The study found obstacles on behalf of the former members like avoidant behavior, not being aware of cult’s impact, “floating back” to cult thinking, trust issues, and shame proneness. Obstacles in health care where lacking knowledge of cults and undue influence in general. There were a tendency to look for symptoms and using traditional diagnoses instead of looking for reason for symptoms. Other obstacles was health care reducing the cult experience, showing judgmental, or prejudiced behavior. Former cult members experienced structural problems that applies to healthcare as in general that made impact on them. These were things like continuity, duration of treatment, inter-disciplinary behavior by health professionals, non-adjustable routines, lack of or too lengthy assessment for diagnosis. The study also found that there were things promoting good experiences in meeting healthcare for the former cult members: When care providers showed ability to understand the aspects of cult involvement and ability to absorb information and learn about cults even without earlier experience; When care provider made extra effort, cared about their whole situation, when worked for an equality and had faith in their patient and treatment provided. This reduced shame, created safety and a good working alliance between the former cult member and the care provider.

From Co-founder to Renegade: A Case Study of Core Ex-Members in Cultic Movements in China

Tianjia Chen

The internal group dynamic of a movement can sometimes result to the transformation of a convert from a high ranking “prestigious co-founder” to a “notorious traitor”, even though in the period of early establishment co-founders play significant role in the expansion of the movement in many aspects. The study of deviant or nonconformist high ranking core members would provide better understanding of the general functioning and evolution of a group, the relationship among its inner circle members and the leader's influence on the core members, and furthermore, the radicalization of the movement. Researchers who study high ranking leaders in cultic movements in China rely on media coverage and government reports as major literature sources while having relevant limited access to first handed materials. This study would carry on field research on several influential former co-founders of Eastern Lightning and Falungong in China. The interviewees were all once founding father or faithful heroes of the movement and then due to various reasons be denounced as traitors or antichrist by the groups. Facing diversified and controversial narration of the members’stories from various media, the oral history reconstruction and analysis plays decisive role in revealing key historical event concerning the identity transformation process of the core members. Questions concerning the internal group dynamics would be answered and discussed as follows, (1) How did they become core members? (2) Why they were denounced by the movement (either by the leader or other members)? (3) What were the responses of other members? (4) What did they do after they are denounced or banished by the movement? (5) How did the denouncements influence the evolution of the movement?

From Deprogramming to De-radicalization: How Cultic Studies can Inform Policy Approaches to Countering Violent and Harmful Extremism in Australia

Stephen Mutch

Based on a UK precedent, anti-terrorism law in Australia in part defines terrorist acts as certain actions or threats against the government or a section of the community ‘with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause’. Australia also has few qualms in proscribing groups underpinned by extremist religious ideology which are deemed to be terrorist organizations, authorizing preventative detention and control orders, the cancellation of passports for dual citizens fighting abroad and now extending prison sentences beyond term for those deemed a continuing risk to the community. In addition, Australia pursues policies aimed at community engagement and supports some embryonic programs aimed at de-converting individuals from extremist religious ideologies promoting violence. However, while it is acknowledged that Islamist extremism poses a particularly prevalent contemporary danger, countering violent extremism policies in Australia are severely undermined by an almost exclusive focus on one faith group only, while there remains a governmental reluctance (common to most liberal democracies) to regulate the broader sector encompassing ‘religion and belief’. Drawing on insights gleaned from the study of cults, sects and new religious movements, the author argues for the establishment of an official repository specifically tasked to receive and competently assess complaints arising from the practice of ‘religion and belief’ and to make ongoing recommendations for policy responses to extremist ideologies promoting violence and other harmful behaviour.

From Fascination to Fanaticism. What Does the Cult Phenomenon Show Us?

Miguel Perlado; Eduardo Bada; Omar Saldana

Clinical work with cult-related patients, allows us to approach to different degrees of mental functioning in the field of convictions and belief. Starting from a social context dominated by seduction and fascination in multiple levels, the author will address diverse situations related with cults in which we can observe a complex gradient from initial seduction to final fanaticism, through different mental states who informs us about how the mind tends to be more radicalized in some group dynamics. Although the jihadist radicalization doesn’t overlap completely with cultism, the author will present some psychological and psychoanalytical inputs from his professional experience dealing with former and current members of cults.

Government Regulation of Religious Extremist Groups: The Swinging Pendulum

Linda Demaine

The present project examines government regulation of destructive groups claiming to be religious and therefore protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The project examines notable precursors of government action, forms of government action, and primary consequences of this action. This part of the project focuses on government regulation of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), given the group’s long duration, high profile, strong power base, and creative flouting of the law. For several decades, from the 1953 Short Creek Raid until the early 21st century, federal and state governments minimally intervened in the FLDS despite mounting evidence of child abuse and other illegal activity by group members. The government’s laissez faire approach to the group ended with the 2008 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, Warren Jeffs’ resulting conviction for child sexual assault, and Texas’ seizure of the Ranch. More recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has pursued several actions targeting the group leadership, pursuing a strategy akin to that previously used against the mafia. In one case, for example, the DOJ alleged First Amendment violations based on the towns of Hildale and Colorado City having acted as arms of the FLDS; Civil Rights Act violations, based on discrimination against non-FLDS living in the Hildale-Colorado City region; and Fair Housing Act violations, stemming from denial of housing and utilities to non-FLDS. The present project documents these federal and state attempts at legal regulation and attempts to uncover bases for both the lengthy gap in government regulation of the FLDS between 1953 and the early 2000s, and the government’s emboldened approach to regulation since then. With this perspective, one might effectively advocate for government regulation of other purportedly religious, destructive groups operating in the U.S.

How Mental Health Professionals can use Their Experience with Former Members of High-Control Groups to Help Clients of Extremist Groups De-radicalize

Frances Peters

The questions I would like to see explored is: How can we use our experience as counsellors and therapists to help people understand the harmful effects of high control groups and extremist groups? Is it possible to de-radicalise former members? What are we doing in our country to contribute to the deradicalization process/discussion? The idea is to use the already available knowledge to educate, prevent and help former members of extremist groups like radicalised groups. How these groups recruit, influence and control their members has countless similarities with cultic groups. The work-experience mental health professionals have had with former members of cultic groups is documented, tested and applied for the past 40 years. This experience is available. How can we use the similarities between cultic dynamics and extremist, radicalized groups and provide in better qualified education and make society more aware of, for example, the attraction these groups have on us. What tools do we have to provide former members with better qualified support? Can we help them to re-adjust to society? How to support victims of high control groups to develop themselves from a survivor to a thriver? Good to exchange and discuss ideas and applications of already existing tools.

How a Court Recognized “Mind Control": Persuading the Court About the Reality of Cultic Dynamics – A Japanese Experience

Takashi Yamaguchi

This presentation is about an actual case represented by the presenter and the members of the firm he works for. In this case, the Tokyo District Court Judgmentissued on March 4, 2007, actually used the word "Mind Control" to denounce the psychological abuse by the cult group (Home of Heart) and found their acts to be illegal. This presentation will focus on the legal strategies, tactics and evidence that was used to persuade the court about the Cult Dynamics within that group and their harmful and devastating nature.

How to Heal After Leaving a Cult: The Importance of Psychoeducation (and Forgiveness) in the Process of Recovery and Healing After Leaving a Cult

Daniel O’Brien

Individuals that leave cults frequently exhibit symptoms of mental illness, in particular: depression, anxiety and schizotypal disorders. While these symptoms can affect all former cult members, they are particularly problematic among young people who have left cults, and especially those born-into one. Although there are a number of interventions which can help these people live full, productive lives with robust mental health, many do not take advantage of them for a variety of reasons, largely related to their cult indoctrination. Often cults stigmatize counseling and psychotherapy, causing many former cult members to fear seeking professional mental health treatment. For those that do seek help, it can be difficult to find appropriate counseling because not all therapists understand the significance of the cult experience. To address these problems, an extensive survey was conducted of the relevant, current research available on the subject. Although there is a vast amount of research available concerning mental illness and mental health, there is a relatively scant amount addressing the unique needs of former cult members. Nevertheless, what is available is quite encouraging in regard to positive outcomes for emotional and psychological healing. A key point among the findings is the recognition that “core dysfunctional beliefs and consequent negative thoughts” are central in the development of mental illness (Kinderman, 2005). When false and damaging beliefs are replaced with accurate, healthy beliefs and coping strategies, individuals begin to recover and thrive. Psychoeducation, particularly in connection with traditional treatments for mental illness, can help empower individuals suffering with mental health issues by providing them with tools for coping and alleviating those symptoms. Significant challenges remain and need to be addressed in order to make this information more widely disseminated and available to those that need it most: former group members, their families, helping professionals, and researchers.

Is there an “I” in Cult: An Auto-Ethnographic UK-Based Research Study into the Negotiation of Self and Identity Related to Second-Generation Cult Membership, Exit and Post-Exit

Kimberley Broom

A limited number of qualitative studies have been carried out to examine how children who are born and raised in cults and non-mainstream religions in the UK negotiate and maintain a sense of self and identity when faced with a dominant ideology that emphasises social identity, and de-emphasises personal identity. The author of this research seeks to develop an auto-ethnographic research study of personal experience of second-generation cult membership, exit and post-exit. The purpose of the study is to describe and analyse personal experience, in order to add to knowledge of an under-researched cultural experience, in this case being raised in, and exiting a high-control group. The findings have potential to increase understanding of the lived experience of up-bringing within a dominant ideology, the experience of leaving, and processes of change, particularly related to identity and meaning making. Such qualitative research holds possibility of increasing understanding for professionals working within the field of psychotherapy of patients and clients who have experienced dominant ideology within closed groups, the processes related to personal identity pre and post exit, and to inform programs of support. Findings also have potential to feed into broader debates surrounding social influence, personal identity, radicalisation and de-radicalisation.

Islamist Dimensions of Cultic Control: Voices from the Field

Chelsea Brass; Leanne Smith

This paper will explore the similarities between the recruitment tactics used by terrorist groups like ISIS and those used by other high control groups commonly referred to as cults. This paper will compare the experience of conversion to (radicalization), and participation in, Islamist organizations, as practiced by ISIS and the cultic experience of members of other high control groups. The purpose of this exploration is to determine if there would be any benefit to collaboration between individuals and organizations that study high control groups/cults and individuals and organizations that are involved in deradicalization efforts with ISIS recruits. If so, decades of high control group research may prove to be useful to those who study terrorism and extremism. Since 2015, the authors of this paper evaluated various tools to measure cultic control and ultimately determined the Modified Group Psychological Abuse Scale (Almendros, et al) would be the optimal tool to use to measure the extent of cultic dynamics found in terrorist organizational practices. In efforts to promote this research question, establish institutional credibility, and with hopes of procuring additional resources to achieve the goals of our research, we will pursue additional investigators from academic institutions. Throughout this process, we will also be informally requesting feedback from people personally or professionally involved with former Islamists for input on the Modified GPA Scale’s questions as it relates to terrorist organizational practices. The authors of this paper created an online version of the Modified GPA Scale, and are continuing outreach efforts to recruit survey respondents of former Islamists. The authors propose to share project update details, including survey results and analysis, for the 2017 ICSA Annual Conference. We request that, if possible, the panel and the abstracts of the same name are scheduled in the same section or close together. Please note that these are complementary and not to be substituted for one another. The panel is meant to present those who have been heavily impacted, and the presentation proposal is to present the more quantitative research of Leanne Smith and Chelsea Brass from 2015-2017.

Jehovah’s Witness’s Ban on Blood Transfusions: History, Present Situation, and Perspectives of Doctors and Former Members

Joni Valkila

We provide a brief history on the ban on blood transfusions by Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as describe the current situation of banned blood components and medical practices involving blood. The ban is enforced among Jehovah’s Witnesses through various mechanisms: 1) Manipulation: The leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that refusing blood transfusions is related to salvation: refusing blood indicates loyalty to God and accepting blood is a grave sin which could result in losing eternal life. 2) Social control: The organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses punishes wrongdoers. A Jehovah’s Witness who unrepentantly takes blood transfusions is considered to become a former member as a result of their actions and must be shunned by their family members and friends. 3) Indoctrination: Jehovah’s Witnesses have published a vast amount of literature to exaggerate possibilities of alternatives to blood, dangers of blood transfusions and benefits of refusing blood related treatments. We surveyed Finnish doctors who work in leadership positions. Their answers indicate that the blood transfusion ban seriously limits possibilities to treat Jehovah’s Witness patients and lead to patients receiving less than ideal treatment resulting in complications, slow recoveries and sometimes death. We also surveyed 35 former Jehovah’s Witnesses on the views they held when they were still Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as their experiences in refusing blood transfusions themselves. The results indicate that although Jehovah’s Witness leadership appears unanimous in their stand regarding blood transfusions, individual Jehovah’s Witnesses hold very diverse opinions on the ban. Doctors treating Jehovah’s Witnesses should understand that although adult patients can legally refuse treatment, some Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood products under intense social pressure and thus the patient’s free will to make an informed decision in this respect can be questioned.

Korean Cults in Europe: Focusing on the Cases of Shincheonji and the World Mission Society Church of God

Ji-il Tark

Korean cults are very active in Europe today among which Shincheonji (New Heaven and Earth) and the World Mission Society Church of God are particularly noted. Firstly, Shincheonji begun in 1984 is the most recognized group in Korea due to their secret ways of recruiting people. Shincheonji believes its leader Lee Man-Hee as the Savior and, if its membership reaches 144,000, they will live forever and rule the world as high priests and kings. Shincheonji is active in 7 European counties (Austria, France, Germany (Berlin and Frankfurt), Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and United Kingdom). Secondly, a group begun in 1964 in Korea known as the World Mission Society Church of God (hereafter, WMS) has been rapidly grown in Europe. According to WMS, it has 44 congregations in 29 European countries (Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey, and United Kingdom). WMS believes a Korean man named Ahn Sang-Hong who died in 1985 as the Second Coming Christ and God, and a Korean woman named Zahng Gil-Ja, the successor of Ahn, as the Mother God and the Heavenly Mother. They claimed the years 1988, 1999, and 2012 as the last days. While serious family-related tensions and conflicts have been continually reported, WMS is gaining a positive recognition by surrounding communities due to its well-organized volunteering activities. The purpose of this research is to share the information of Shincheonji and WMS with researchers, counselors, ex-members, and families of current members.

L’influence de la radicalisation doctrinale dans les positionnements des protestants conservateurs québécois face aux lois de protection à l’enfance

Adriana Pacheco

Cette communication porte sur la manière dont les protestants conservateurs francophones du Québec résolvent les conflits entre leurs croyances religieuses relatives au châtiment corporel des enfants et les lois qui encadrent les pratiques punitives parentales au Québec, à savoir, l’article 43 du Code criminel et la Loi sur la protection de la jeunesse. Sont analysés leurs différents positionnements face à cette incompatibilité, ainsi que les éléments qui influencent leur processus décisionnel en ce qui concerne le choix de transgresser la loi quand elle entre en conflit avec leurs préceptes religieux, notamment la radicalisation doctrinale. Les résultats offrent quelques pistes pour désamorcer des éventuels conflits dérivés de cette incompatibilité. Ces résultats sont issus d’une étude qualitative (2010) incluant des entretiens auprès d’une quarantaine de membres de quatre congrégations protestantes conservatrices, des observations non participantes à des services religieux et des ateliers d’enseignement doctrinal.

La jouissance sectaire du fanatisé (à la manière de Žižek)

Arthur Mary

Dans une première étape nécessaire, l’auteur propose de mener une rapide analyse du discours d’idéologie sectaire (s’y incluent les fanatismes terroristes de notre siècle), c’est-à-dire une analyse de la façon dont le sujet en secte se rapporte au lien social. Ici, la catégorie de discours est empruntée à l’épistémè dite « structuraliste » dans les usages qu’ont pu en faire Althusser, Foucault, Barthes, etc. Précisément, c’est à l’usage psychanalytique du concept de discours que nous ferons appel, mobilisant ainsi la théorie du lien social de Lacan. Nous pourrons proposer entre autres conclusions provisoires, que nombre de dispositifs sectaires suscitent moins une aliénation forte à un discours qu’un relâchement, un affaiblissement de l’inscription du sujet en secte dans un discours « qui (le) tiendrait ». La secte et l’embrigadement sectaire peuvent se concevoir alors comme une entreprise de détissage du lien social, de la politique (participation à la Cité) et de la parole et sa fonction poétique. Notre second temps, nous conduira à suivre une voie ouverte par Lacan et que Žižek a particulièrement exploré (à la lumière des fascismes et du stalinisme en particulier) : en-deçà des jeux et enjeux de discours, peut-on caractériser une jouissance proprement idéologique et/ou proprement sectaire ? Le registre de la jouissance – définissable à partir de Freud comme l’au-delà du principe de plaisir –, hétérogène au niveau discursif de l’idéologie, est le registre où se configure le phantasme, « noyau pré-idéologique de la jouissance » (Žižek, 2016). Dès lors, il est possible de mener un repérage des jeux d’identifications imaginaires (côté moi idéal) et symboliques (côté idéal du moi) dans lesquels se prennent ceux qu’une idéologie fascine. Cette seconde partie, permettra de distinguer différentes idéologies non plus par leurs contenus manifestes et symptomatiques (doctrines, structure du collectif, modalités de violence, etc.) mais par les coordonnées identificatoires qui agencent les subjectivités. En ouverture et pas sans humour, l’auteur de la communication invitera à réfléchir sur la jouissance à l’œuvre dans l’activité du chercheur, en particulier du « chercheur en cultic studies » et sur les grandes coordonnées discursives et identificatoires de cette communauté de chercheurs.

La manipulation psychologique dans les pseudotherapies et ses conséquences pour les personnes appartenant à ces groupes

Margarita Barranco

Actuellement, nous trouvons de plus en plus des gens qui ont perdu confiance dans les sciences établies et éprouvées, comme la médecine ou la psychologie, et qui ne croient plus que ce sont les seules méthodes valables pour les aider à mieux se rétablir de maladies telles que le cancer ou traiter des situations difficiles et émotionnelles telles que des ruptures matrimoniales, des pertes, etc. Des groupes appelés psychothérapeutiques et / ou pseudoscientifiques profitent de tout cela et en découlent. En manipulant ces personnes et leurs émotions, ces groupes amènent les gens à leur faire confiance aveuglément, même s'ils n'ont pas obtenu ce qu'ils voulaient au début, sans remettre en question qu'ils peuvent être trompés. A partir de là, nous analyserons les différentes techniques de manipulation psychologique utilisées par ces groupes, les conséquences qui en découlent pour les personnes qui en font partie et les suivent volontairement, et ce qu'ils leur disent de faire, sans qu'ils soient conscients de leur impact par ces groupes. Nous verrons les répercussions à plusieurs niveaux: personnel, familial, social, économique, etc.

Le rôle de la structure dans l’organisation sectaire ou radicalisée dans la construction de l’emprise individuelle : confusion des pouvoirs et vassalisation du pouvoir temporal

Jean-Pierre Jougla

L’analyse faite habituellement de l’emprise sectaire porte sur ses aspects d’ordre psychologique. L’accompagnement assuré durant quarante années d’un très grand nombre de victimes de secte m’a amené à prendre en considération l’organisation du groupe d’appartenance. En effet la structure du groupe, quelle que soit sa taille, joue un rôle essentiel dans l’apparition, la prégnance et la continuité de l’emprise individuelle, et ceci sans que l’adepte puisse en être conscient. L’organisation du groupe d’assujettissement autour des triples pouvoirs : normatif ou législatif, exécutif ou déclinaison de l’administration interne autour des pouvoirs régaliens et enfin pouvoir judiciaire, doit nous amener à percevoir tout groupe d’assujettissement dans son fonctionnement de type étatique. Le processus de déprise de l’ex adepte passe également par la prise de conscience du rôle de la structure sectaire, en tant que modèle sociétal utopique, dans la construction de l’emprise subie. Ce type d’analyse permet également de comprendre que le projet sectaire n’est pas simplement d’ordre « spirituel », mais au-delà du ciment idéologique pour chaque adepte, constitue un modèle politique régressif, remettant en question les conquêtes politiques de la modernité. Aoum de la vérité au Japon, intégrant le passage à l’acte terroriste dans son projet de prise de pouvoir, est à ce titre l’exemple du projet sectaire abouti dans lequel le pouvoir temporel est soumis au pouvoir « spirituel », par la violence, et non plus simplement par des attentes d’ordre apocalyptique. Cette approche permet utilement d’éclairer les processus de radicalisation contemporains.

Les nouvelles maladies de l’âme

Regine Zimmermann

Si la disposition à courir un risque est indissociable de la quête d’un idéal, il semble néanmoins que tout dépende des sollicitations de l’environnement. Comme le disait Husserl : « nous vivons une crise de l’humanité dans son ensemble et il faut bien se rabattre sur la psychologie pour comprendre le rapport de l’homme au monde ». L’ « homo psychologicus » développe alors une relation pathologique de dépendance qui réintroduit la notion de sujet - à la manière de Pinel. Le médicament incarne un rapport pathologique de consommation quelque soit l’objet. L’addiction devient un concept en adéquation avec celui de la dépression qui ne cesse de se complexifier. Une nouvelle phase d’individualisme enclenche une mutation sociologique globale dont le produit est la déstabilisation accélérée des personnalités C’est une réelle modification de la vie psychique qui suscite de nouveaux patients, de nouvelles symptomatiques et donc de nouvelles nosographies. Entretemps, une orientation subjectiviste massive a favorisé un regain de fascination pour l’ésotérisme, les sciences occultes et tous types de religions. Le but de cette introduction sera donc d’examiner dans le substrat d’une société qui produit de nouvelles formes d’aliénation, le rôle joué par les représentations. Et ce, afin de comprendre quel mal particulier a gangréné le cœur de ces jeunes qui ont été « radicalisés » sur la base du déficit et du conflit. Comment affronter leur pseudo démarche idéaliste ? Comment confronter l’alibi de la vérité à la réalité des actes en vue de remettre en question le caractère inconscient des intentions à l’origine des comportements ? Quand décrypterons nous enfin nommément le mythe sous-jacent qui a été l’amorce du développement de leur imaginaire, greffé sur une relation déjà narcissique au semblable ? Ce sont autant de questions auxquelles nous tenterons de répondre.

Les organisations islamistes extrémistes en Grande-Bretagne et l’instrumentalisation de la dimension pakistanaise

Farid Harouit

Cette communication a comme objectif de discuter les stratégies de radicalisation utilisées par les organisations transnationales en Grande-Bretagne (Hizb ut-Tahrir, Al-Muhajiroun et Supporters of sharia, aujourd’hui toutes dissoutes) pour établir le califat islamique, censé résoudre tous les problèmes du monde musulman. Elle examine les similarités et les divergences tant dans l’idéologie que dans les mécanismes de l’instrumentalisation de la dimension pakistanaise et de l’emprise mentale. Étant donné que le Pakistan était considéré potentiellement le lieu de départ de la révolution islamique, ces organisations- dont deux s’apparentent à des sectes- considéraient la communauté britannique-pakistanaise comme une tête de pont, en mesure d’aider à créer un changement au Pakistan et fonder un État islamique, prélude au califat. En se basant sur la théorie des mouvements sociaux, notamment le modèle de Quintan Wiktorowicz - où la l’ouverture cognitive et la socialisation sont considérées comme des processus primordiaux dans la radicalisation- et en étudiant les différents pamphlets, écrits par les idéologues du Londonistan ou les anciens militants, les différents sites sur la toile, les interviews de l’auteur avec d’anciens militants menées dans le cadre de la recherche doctorale, nous examinerons les stratégies développées et mises en œuvre par les organisations transnationales. Nous tirons l’enseignement que plusieurs leviers pour recruter et radicaliser les musulmans britanniques d’origine pakistanaise ont été utilisés. Le conflit au Cachemire, au cœur des préoccupations de la diaspora pakistanaise, a été largement instrumentalisé pour inciter au djihad aussi bien au Pakistan qu’en Grande-Bretagne. Les institutions représentatives, sous influence pakistanaise, ont largement été décrédibilisées au prétexte de leur incapacité à résoudre les problèmes du monde musulman et en raison leur association avec l’État britannique, signe de leur « compromission ». L’islam traditionnel pakistanais a été largement fustigé pour son caractère déviant et pour sa focalisation sur le ritualisme et le spiritualisme plutôt qu’une conception de la religion comme système holistique. Les griefs et les frustrations liés à la question du racisme, le Paki-Bashing et la discrimination ont été exploités en présentant le califat comme le seul système où les musulmans seraient des citoyens de premier rang.

Les raisons religieuses et séculières du radicalisme islamistes 

Tareq Oubrou

Le radicalisme religieux n’est pas un phénomène nouveau dans l’histoire des religions, notamment en islam. Néanmoins aujourd’hui certaines de ses formes et ses techniques sont inédites. Nous entendons ici par radicalisme les processus intellectuels et psychologiques entre autres facteurs qui conduisent à une violence physique individuelle ou collective, improvisée ou organisée. Il serait d’emblée une erreur de réduire ce phénomène au seul élément religieux. Tout ce qui est attribué à une religion n’est pas forcement religieux. Ce qui suppose déjà une définition de ce qu’on entend par mot religion -l’islam pour notre cas- ainsi que ses multiples imbrications avec des faits historiques, culturels, politiques, économiques, anthropologiques, psychologiques… En dernière analyse le fait religieux, avec ses différentes formes des plus pacifiques jusqu’aux plus violentes, informe tout simplement sur la nature humaine telle qu’elle se déploie dans l’histoire. Il est d’abord un phénomène humain de ce qu’il a d’universel. La radicalisation islamiste dans sa forme actuelle, anarchique et imprévisible, est l’une des variantes de cette violence humaine universelle. Il y admet certes des permanences religieuses et anthropologiques explicatives, d’autres sont plus circonstancielles. Nous allons essayer de la décrypter depuis ses raisons herméneutiques des sources scripturaires musulmanes jusqu’aux facteurs purement géopolitiques. Pour cela, une décortication sémantique a priori s’impose quant à l’usage de certains mots comme : islamisme, djihadiste, califat, salafisme, martyr…Le diagnostique proposé s’opposera à toute simplification essentialiste, qui ne serait qu’une forme d’idéologie qui empêcherait de voir la complexité du réel de cette radicalisation. Aussi les explications qui seront avancées contiennent-elles tacitement des réponses, avec la conviction que cette nouvelle forme de terrorisme qui a frappé récemment nos sociétés ne sera pas éternellement durable et que son feu brûlant est condamné à s’éteindre.

Les sectes du bouddhisme occidental:  la souffrance et le principe de Nirvãna 

Elizabeth Kaluaratchige

Dans cette intervention, la problématique des sectes du bouddhisme occidental sera interrogée sur le plan individuel dans leur articulation au corps social, en dégageant les aspects thérapeutiques et cliniques de l’homme en souffrance. Plusieurs années de recherches anthropologiques sur le bouddhisme et de recherches psychanalques, en France et en Asie, nous permettent d’aborder les enjeux socio-culturels et pathologiques du phénomène sectaire du bouddhisme sur son usage auto-thérapeutique et le risque de dérivation. Par les pratiques corporelles et spirituelles telles que méditation, exercices de respiration, postures corporelles et récitation des stances, l’homme aspire à l’état nirvãnique assimilé à la Réalité Ultime, la Vérité Absolue. Le terme thérapie se justifie du point de vue du sujet qui désigne son engagement comme un traitement contre sa souffrance. Le bouddhisme occidental fait partie de l’éventail des thérapies religieuses, spiritualistes plus ou moins cadrées ou institutionnalisées. Le but principal est de “se soigner soi-même seul”. Depuis la Renaissance Orientale, pour reprendre le terme de Schwab, juqu’au New Age, en passant par “la mort de Dieu”, le monde moderne veut-il fier au pouvoir propre de l’homme de se soigner ? Ces pratiques visent à gagner le Bien être, la connaissance ou maîtrise de soi, la transformation corporelle et mentale. Quelles sont les prédispositions psychiques subjectives pour opter cette “auto-thérapie”? Quelle vulnérabilité psychique pousse l’homme à la dérive? Notre défi est le même que celui que Freud et Lacan ont rencontré quand ils abordaient une religion. Nos arguments sur l’emprise mentale par le Maître, l’“autocide” et la mort du sujet, seront abordés par le déploiement de la pulsion de mort, la soumission au principe de Nirvãna et la pulsion d’emprise. On souhaite apporter des outils de pensée favorisant le dialogue entre les différents partenaires concernés par la prévention, la prise en charge et l’accompagnement des victimes et des personnes embrigadées.

Making Sense of Claims to Heal in a Religious Setting

Stephen Parsons

Across the world a belief that spiritual methods can promote physical healing is regarded as a credible idea by many people. The process is variously described as ‘faith healing’ exercised by a gifted individual, or spiritual healing mediated through ritual or prayer. This paper will begin with the assumption that there is a core reality to be accounted for when we use such an expression as spiritual healing. In believing that there is something to investigate, I intend to explore what might be the actual dynamics at work when such healing takes place. For this analysis, the language and conceptual models of psychoanalytic thought will be utilised rather than other terminologies. The paper explores the phenomenon of healing through an examination of the psychoanalytical work of Heinz Kohut (d. 1981). His description of the intense interaction of client and therapist point us to a possible model for understanding the healing dynamic. Kohut, in his theory of self-psychology, wished to encourage the client to treat the therapist as part of the self. This new way of experiencing the self might, over time, recapitulate the hoped-for, but frustrated, relationship/bond between child and parent in the earliest years. By merging with the personality of the therapist, the possibility for a fresh rebirth of the client’s self is made possible. This process of merging with the therapist has clear parallels with the intense experiences at a charismatic event and the process of identification with a cult/religious leader. The Kohutian merging of client and therapist is for temporary therapeutic ends, while the same state of fusion may, in a cultic setting, be malignly prolonged for the benefit of the charismatic leader. In both settings there is the possibility of healing, whether physical, mental or both. Looking objectively, we can see that what the ‘healer’ is doing is to provide an environment in which the patient can move forward in a healing process of his own. Much physical sickness may well have connections with, in Kohut’s language, self-object failures in early childhood. A transforming contact with a ‘healer’ may provide a moment of transformation which can unlock a path to growth, leading to new health. When, however, this process takes place in a cultic setting, the costs involved may be unacceptably high.

Médecine alternative et manipulation: le cas du Reiki en Roumanie

Radu Muresan

En Roumanie, le reiki est une technique de guérison reconnue par la loi 118/2007 sur la médecine alternative. Vu comme tel, il n’a rien à faire avec les groupes sectaires. Notre article vise à montrer que le reiki promu en Roumanie, tel que révélé par les écrits de certains célèbres maîtres roumains de reiki, s’est enrichi continuellement avec les enseignements chrétiens, afin de le rendre plus attractif pour la population majoritaire orthodoxe du pays. L'existence de ce « reiki roumain » nous montre que ce technique de guérison se réinvente continuellement pour répondre aux attentes du marché religieux. De plus, certains maîtres roumains semblent profiter de leur statut pour manipuler leurs élèves. Dans ce contexte, nous allons attirer l'attention sur le cas du jeune X, qui a pratiqué le reiki avec le célèbre maître de reiki roumain Y. Le jeune X a commencé à se comporter bizarre, à s'isoler de sa famille et, finalement, elle a abandonné ses études malgré le fait qu’elle était une étudiante de la dernière année. Suite aux pressions de la famille, la jeune X a abandonné le pratique de reiki et actuellement elle subit un traitement psychiatrique. En Roumanie, on a constaté que beaucoup de jeunes présentent des troubles psychiatriques associés à la pratique du reiki. Le but de cet article est de montrer que le reiki tel qu'il est pratiqué en Roumanie contient en soi une menace potentielle de déviation à cause des relations exclusives qui devraient être établies entre le maître et ses disciples pendant le processus d'initiation, surtout au cas où les aspirants à l’initiation sont des personnes confuse et fragiles, du point de vue psychologique et émotionnel. Il est également intéressant de voir si des cas semblables associés à la pratique du reiki ont été rapporté dans d'autres pays et dans des autres contextes religieux.

Mental Disorders Among Cult Leaders

Stephen Kent

This presentation uses aspects of an emerging biopsychosocial model about the origins of some religions to show that many creators and leaders of various sects, cults, and alternative religions likely suffer from personality disorders, especially narcissism. This emerging model moves from the personality limitations and predispositions associated with narcissism and other disorders into their influences in the development of groups’ theologies, which in turn translates into intra-group and inter-group values and behaviours. In essence, the personality limitations of the founders constrain and direct the doctrines and behaviours of the group, including groups’ reactions to opponents and critics. In essence, this emerging model allows researchers to integrate perspectives from psychiatry, psychology, social psychology, and sociology into a multi-stage model of religious emergence and operation.

Mind Bugs, Cults and Other Things that Good People Prefer not to Think About: An Accessible and Replicable Approach to Meet the Critical Need for Community Awareness and Education of Cultic Dynamics

Gerette Buglion

Purpose is to educate listeners about human blind spots, how they become exaggerated and dangerous in cults and motivate them to use them as an accessible and replicable approach to community discourse. Using psychologist Roger Shepard’s visual ‘mind bug’ Buglion will engage the audience in an exercise that will clearly demonstrate innate human blind spots in perception, most often arising from the developmental leap from two dimensional to three dimensional perception. Then using specific examples from her previous cult life as well as others, she will show how cult leaders manipulate their members ability to see, hear and think objectively/three dimensionally and show how all people are potentially vulnerable to such manipulation, underscoring the need for community awareness and education. Questions to be explored: what are blind spots and “mind bugs” and how do they operate in all people? How do cult leaders use innate human blind spots to their advantage and how do they create ‘mind bugs’? What is the developmental leap from two to three dimensional perceptions and how does life in a cult limit members by maintaining a ‘two dimensional’ reality? By engaging the audience in an experience that clearly shows how vulnerable the mind is to mistakes in perception, (and therefore brainwashing) participants will learn how to engage community and education forums in a non-threatening way that cultivates understanding, inspires compassion and motivates listeners to learn more about cultic dynamics.

Not Just Cults: Main Currents of Contemporary Spirituality and Their Impact on Youth

Robert T. Ptaszek

The purpose of my paper is to present main currents of new religiosity and spirituality as well as threats they might pose for young people involved with them. I begin with an explanation of why religions, religious movements, and spiritualities other than Christianity are becoming increasingly popular among the youth. Next, I present a typology of contemporary alternatives to Christianity. I point out that they can be divided into two separate types: one comprising forms of religion, the other comprising forms of spirituality. I explain what difference lies between spirituality and religion. I also discern spirituality in the traditional sense from “new spirituality” initiated by the New Age Movement. Furthermore, I discuss the latest form of spirituality: the so-called “atheistic spirituality.” I then introduce and compare two religious alternatives to Christianity that are the most popular today: new religious movements and non-Christian religions, e.g., Islam. I conclude by enumerating clear and present threats to young people who search for spiritual and religious alternatives to Christianity. In my view the most eminent of those threats consists of loosing their own religious and cultural identity.

On Miraculous Healing: Power of God or Broken Promises?

Terho Miettinen

The study is based on my non-fiction book. The book is about to be published at spring 2017 with the Finnish title ‘Harhaanjohtajat’ (Misleaders). The contract for the book was signed at summer. I have collected information from more than 70 people, most of them ex-Pentecostals, analyzed the information and produced a manuscript. The book is about abusing authorities and abusing followers of “gurus” in religious movements, how and why it happens and how to avoid this kind of abuse in the future. The manuscript of my book has been evaluated for example by a research professor, chief medical officer Hannu Lauerma, a remarkable author. He has given valuable feedback and mentioned that the manuscript is ""really interesting"" and ""extremely meritorious"". Part of my book deals with miraculous healing. Another great “mentor” for my book is psychiatric professor emeritus Erkki Väisänen from the university of Oulu. 

Open Discussion: Former Members (Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11:00 – 12:30 pm) 

Gillie Jenkinson, Linda DuBrow-Marshal, Hakan Jarva

This daily session is an opportunity for former members of cultic groups or relationships to talk freely about whatever may be on their minds, including (but not limited to) reactions (positive or negative) to sessions they attended, problems navigating the conference, difficulties interacting with people or just feeling overwhelmed. Facilitators will be former members and mental health professionals. Attendance is restricted to former members of cultic groups and relationship.

Open Discussion: Second-Generation Former Members (Thursday, Friday, Saturday 2:30 – 4:00 pm) 

Ashley Allen, Elizabeth Blackwell, Ann Stamler

This daily session is an opportunity for second-generation former members to talk freely about whatever may be on their minds, including (but not limited to) reactions (positive or negative) to sessions they attended, problems navigating the conference, difficulties interacting with people or just feeling overwhelmed. Facilitators will be second generation former members and mental health professionals. Attendance is restricted to second-generation former members of cultic groups.

Panel - ""All Life is Suffering"" ‒ Cultic Tendencies and Student Abuse in Buddhism

Christopher Hamacher (moderator); Stuart Lachs; Tenzin Peljor

This panel will attempt to cast a more realistic light on some of the less positive elements within the religion of Buddhism, which as a whole still tends to enjoy an unblemished, "warm and fuzzy" standing in the public imagination.

1. Ready to Mine: Zen’s Legitimating Mythology and Cultish Behavior. Long-time practitioner and outspoken critic of Zen Buddhism Stuart Lachs will show how Zen's legitimating story and mythic history lays the groundwork for authoritarian-inclined charismatic leaders ‒ called ""Zen masters"" or roshi ‒ to draw their followers into a world based on unquestioning obedience to the master, reliance on his approval, and an ethical framework dependent on his self-serving understanding. Though Zen presents its idealized masters as being fully in the world, spontaneous, and ‒ most importantly ‒ ""unattached"", a state in which they are internally firm and free while remaining perceptually competent, this has hardly been the case in reality. Stuart will accordingly provide a number of examples of Asian and Western Zen masters who, along with their followers, have displayed cult-like behavior.

2. Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin Peljor will explain how doctrinal issues and cross-cultural misunderstandings, for example about the concepts of faith and the guru in Tibetan Buddhism, can contribute to abusive spiritual systems. His review will begin with the highly controversial ""New Kadampa Tradition"" and his own experiences with that movement, and then expand to other groups. Having run an online information portal about controversial Buddhist groups for many years, Tenzin can draw on numerous examples of suspect behaviour from across the broad Buddhist spectrum.

3. How Zen Groups Respond to Allegations of Abuse. Zen teacher Christopher Hamacher will compare various Zen Buddhist groups from the perspective of how they have responded to abuse by their teachers. Based on a number of recent scandals, he will demonstrate how various Buddhist doctrines are invoked by the leaders and students, firstly to deny the abuse and/or refuse to intervene, and afterwards to deal ""compassionately"" ‒ i.e ineffectively ‒ with the abuser. Christopher will then propose that, ultimately, the way a group reacts to allegations of misconduct may be a better indicator of its underlying dysfunction than the content of the allegations themselves.

Panel: A Model for an International Member-Run Family Help Group

Donna Kerbel et al.

Our participant-run panel consists of an international support group of parents participant-run representing the United States, Canada and Europe, who have united through a secret group on Facebook to post articles, share resources and have weekly video calls. Being the parent of a child that is in a cult is quite a challenge; there is loneliness, shame, chaos and guilt. There are cult therapists, exit counselors, and organizations such as ICSA, Info-Secte/Info-Cult and SFRAEM. Nevertheless, there is the in-between time, which is very hard for a parent, or a family member. Living in the real world, knowing that a loved one is in a situation of undue influence, and being used, abused and totally hijacked is difficult. There needs to be a place where cult involved families can learn, empower themselves and connect to people who are otherwise feeling equally alienated and frustrated. The story of Demeter who never gives up and looks for her daughter Persephone by scouring the earth, until she helps to release her from the grips of Hades, resonates with us. We call our group, Dear Demeter because we identify with Demeter. The group provides a bank of resources, a venue for guest speakers including ex-members and professionals. We represent various cults and situations of one-on-ones. Our panel will show how we find new members, the way our calls and other communication tools work and we will demonstrate the way our video calls operate. We will share our successes and failures as well as our stories, ultimately providing a paradigm of how to form a group and sustain one.

Panel: Canadian Extremisms in Comparative Perspective

Catholic Integrists in Canada: Militant Catholicism at the Margins of Secularism
Martin Geoffroy

Freemen-on-the-Land: Anti-State Radicalism
Susan J. Palmer

Canadian Ex-Jihadists: Managing Rebellion and Islamic Commitment
Lorne L. Dawson

This panel proposes an original comparative perspective on several, and at first glance unrelated, Canadian extremist movements. This perspective will allow for an understanding of various extreme reactions to contemporary Canadian society. Indeed, the three presentations will analyse radical religious or civic movements that challenge central tenets of the social and political order in Canada: secularism, state intervention, gender equality, or individualism. We argue that, while these groups are very small and evolve at the extremes of society, they directly question issues that concern the whole of Canadian society. Dr. Martin Geoffroy explores the case of Catholic integrists, in a French-Canadian context where the once powerful Catholic Church has seen a steady decline in practice since the 1960s, as well as a privatization of its religious expression. In that context, a small network of radical Catholics has emerged and thrived on the margins of society, and expressed strong positions for the defense of the most hardline Catholic principles regarding social issues: abortion, religious presence in public spaces, and marriage. For her part, Susan J. Palmer explores a group of activists self-identified as the Freemen-on-the-land, who reject the authority of the state and only recognize their own individual rights to occupy the land. Mainly based in Western Canada, they use very complex and aggressive legal strategies in order to defend their claims. Finally, Lorne L. Dawson takes a look at a burning contemporary issue, namely young Canadians involved in jihadist movements. He explores how these young men and women rapidly decide to engage in radical and sometimes violent actions, with the objective of creating a new social order based on their interpretation of Islamic texts.

Panel - Comprendre la radicalisation pour la prévenir


Le Centre d’Action et de Prévention contre la Radicalisation des Individus, le CAPRI, a ouvert ses portes à Bordeaux en janvier 2016. Initié par des acteurs locaux, soutenus notamment par l’Etat, il a pris en charge de puis cette date une quarantaine de cas, à la demande des services de police ou des familles elles -mêmes. A partir de l’analyse des premières prises en charge, il est possible de dessiner différentes trajectoires et facteurs de vulnérabilité pour la radicalisation, qui permettent de proposer une prise en charge pluridisciplinaire adaptée à chaque individu.

Panel - Cults: Lessons From History

Tony Jenkinson; William Goldberg; Stephen Parsons

Cults are not a new phenomenon, nor even one originating in the twentieth century. Fanatical, high demand groups led by charismatic leaders have emerged, existed and disappeared for millennia. This panel will explore the history of some of these groups: how they began, what they were like and what happened to them; and what we can learn from them today. Tony Jenkinson will present cults in their wider historical context, with examples ranging from the ancient Middle East, 16th Century Europe and 17th Century England to 19th Century USA. The presentation will draw out aspects of how and why these groups have emerged, the nature of their beliefs and practices, the relationships between leaders and followers, and how these groups ended, sometimes in disaster and sometimes gradually dying away. Parallels with current issues will be drawn and may assist our thinking in dealing with cults today. The other speakers will provide more detailed case studies. Stephen Parsons will focus on a group that provided the greatest threat to the dominance of the western Catholic Church in the Middle Ages in Europe, the Albigensians or Cathars. They were found in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries. This group was regarded with such hostility that Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against them in 1208. Catharism was finally exterminated some thirty five years later when the last Cathar stronghold at Montsegur was overrun and its defendants slaughtered. Although the Cathars were heterodox in following a Gnostic set of beliefs which denied many of the central Christian doctrines, their teachings achieved great popularity. Those who did not aspire to a monastic-like ‘pure’ status, enjoyed a measure of social and sexual freedom unavailable to their Catholic neighbours. The cruelty with which the movement was attacked and destroyed suggest that political and religious authorities were terrified that these freedoms would spread. In contrast to the situation of cults today, it would seem that abuse and exploitation were to be found more among the orthodox Catholics than among the heretics. Following the Albigensian Crusade came the Inquisition and later the bitterness and violence of other religious conflicts, including the Reformation. We are left today with the intriguing question as to whether divisiveness in religious life over the centuries would have been less apparent if the Church of the time had found a way to absorb rather than destroy the Cathar heretical teachings. William Goldberg will examine the practices of the Nazi party in Germany from the perspective of cultic studies. As with most modern-day cult leaders, Hitler and his propaganda machine used symbols, rituals and magical thinking to point to the National Socialists’ invincibility, the inevitability of their triumph, and the historical justifications for their atrocities. We will explore the cultic pseudoscience that underscored the propaganda of the Nazi movement, the mystical rites of the Secret Service and the Hitler youth, Hitler’s belief that he was the Messiah who would reclaim a mythical German glory, and the search for a scapegoat to justify why the German people’s preordained exceptionalism was not achieved in the past. An earlier version of this presentation was well received in Dallas in 2016. This year’s presentation will be enhanced with historic pictures and videos.

Panel - De l'Emprise à La Liberté, dérives au sein de l'Eglise, témoignages et réflexions

Pierre Vignon et al.

A partir de la situation de victimes de quatre communautés catholiques, les Focolari, le Chemin Néocatéchuménal, l'Opus Dei et les Légionnaires du Christ, une équipe interdisciplinaire, conduite par le Professeur Vincent Hanssens de l'Université Catholique de Louvain, présente huit chapitres d'approche pour le phénomène d'emprise à l’intérieur de l’Eglise. Le Professeur Hanssens fournit l’approche sociologique ; le Professeur Miguel Perlado et la psychothérapeute Monique Tiberghien, l’approche psychologique ; Maître Pascal Hubert, l’approche juridique ; le RP Jean-Marie Hennaux, sj, l’approche théologique. Des témoignages et des réflexions sont donnés par le Père Dominique Auzenet, responsable de la pastorale des dérives sectaires pour le diocèse du Mans ; Renata Patti, ancien membre des Focolari, à l’origine du livre ; Sœur Vitalina Floris, chargée d’accompagner les victimes de dérives sectaires. Le Père Pierre Vignon donne les conclusions et le Professeur Christiaens de l’Université de Louvain préface l’ouvrage.

Panel - Different Faces of Anti-Christianism: Pseudo-Christian Cults

Garnik Harutyunyan, Moderator

Pseudo-Christianity in the Cults: the Inter-Perceptions of Traditional Churches and the Cults (on the Pattern of Armenia)

Almast Muradyan

Cultic religious activity always has certain opposition to the traditional churches. During the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church many heresies carried out their activities, and the Armenian Church has tried to keep away her own adherents from different destructive movements. This presentation refers to relations between the Armenian Apostolic Church and pseudo-Christian cults, focusing on the following key points: 1. General description of historical events and contemporary situation, patterns and differences - The social character of the medieval heresies in Armenia, their origins, role and significance are diverse from the post-Soviet cults in Armenia. However, some cults see their origins in medieval heresies (e. g. paulicians, tondrakians), accenting on their pure Christian essence and positive significance. 2. Several patterns of counterposition of pseudo-Christian cults against traditional church. There are two main purposes: A. to weaken the traditional church and state, B. to the destruct personal individuality, which leads to wrong perceptions of moral principles, institute of family, patriotism and some other values based on Christian fundament in Armenia. 3. Cults/sects as challenge for the traditional churches - The Armenian Apostolic Church respects the freedom of choice of every person, but simultaneously accepts the fact that sectarianism is a challenge, especially when cults/sects try to distort human values. The Armenian Apostolic Church is concerned about the problems typical for cults/sects in Armenia, e. g. suppressing the rights of their members, not allowing communication with members of other religious organizations, exploiting members with low-paid work, children not receiving elementary education and so on. The pseudo-Christian approaches compete with traditional Christianity, transforming traditional Christian doctrine and moral values. These issues should be discussed and evaluated properly to avoid negative consequences

Anti-Christian Psychological Technologies and Their Implementation in Cults

Armine Vahanyan

The implementation of psychological manipulation techniques and anti-Christian components in cults requires a multi-functional analysis. Most obviously definite asocial practice is being displayed in cultic groups, human individuality is being suppressed and the person loses his/her sense of identity, corrupting the former social connections and interaction modes.

The question of the anti-Christian essence of cults can be answered through studying psychological techniques of cult mentality in controlling person’s will. In this study the psychological anti-Christian technologies are grouped and presented in the following sequence:

1. Technology of suspending/reducing person's critical thinking

2. Technologies of controlling person’s physical and psychological time

3. Technologies of controlling person's behavior, activities and emotions

4. Controlling person’s former life experience and communication mechanisms

5. Technologies to affect person's self-organizing/self-regulating functions

6. Technologies to distort person's emotional memory and psychological identity.

Hence person’s psychological defense mechanisms weaken by means of 3 stages - unfreezing, changing and refreezing, during which previous life convictions are being completely changed. Manipulation of consciousness brings to forced conversion to a new faith without man’s preliminary agreement, manages his/her fears and needs. Behind the proposed ""love"" are hidden violence, inspired fears and impending dangers. Special attention should be paid to mystic 'confession' technology, which aggravates psychological dependence, intensifies the sense of one’s extreme sinfulness and activates inspiration level. The person appears to be in a closed circle, not being able to act independently. This presentation is composed to show that all these psychological techniques are anti-Christian because of their forced implementation against human free will and man’s right to choose an own action. Thus, not only theological omissions but also destructive psychological technologies give ground to call cultic mentality not Christian (as they call themselves) but pseudo-Christian.

Some Pseudo-Christian Manifestations of Cults

Shushan Khachatryan

It is well-known that the cults are many-faced; they are both religious and pseudo-religious, have anti-social functions and are destructive in psychological and social aspects. In this study it is aimed to find out what are the pseudo-Christian attributes of cults, particularly putting accent on the cults that perceive themselves as ‘pure Christian’ but in their essence have pseudo-Christian manifestations. Methodologically, this paper is a comparative study of normative Christian theology and the theology of some religious movements mistakenly called ‘Christian’, instead of ‘pseudo-Christian’ in a number of most authoritative dictionaries and books. Accordingly, this study is designed to present the following consequent issues and their peculiarities: • Social pseudo-Christianity – phenomenon of copying the life of Christian communities of the first centuries • Pseudo-theology – Trinitarian, Christological errors and ‘pseudo-charisma’ • Pseudo-mysticism – examples of occult practices of pseudo-Christian cults • Eschatological pseudo-Christianity – some features of cultic millenarianism and their negative consequences • Pseudo-asceticism – some cases of refusing social life and seeing demonic presence in almost every pleasure of life • Pseudo-holiness - the adaptation and transformation of Christian understanding of ‘holiness’ • Pseudo-prayers – the phenomenon of glossolalia, hypnotic states and trance One of the main focuses of this research is making it more circulated the term ‘pseudo-Christian’ and rejecting to call some cultic movements a Christian one among the scholars and anyone interested in the issues of Cultic Studies and Religious Studies. Nowadays in different spheres of life it is highly essential to distinguish pseudo-Christianity from historically and traditionally recognized Christianity in order to avoid the chaotic perceptions and misunderstandings of Christianity.

Panel - Inside the Therapeutic Space

Ashley Allen; Doni Whitsett

In the Mental Health Cult field little, if anything, has been written about the therapeutic process from both the perspective of the therapist and the client. In contrast, much has been written by therapists and clients individually about the symptomology of former members, application of theoretical frameworks, case examples, and personal accounts. However, to our knowledge there has not been anything written or presented on the simultaneous experience of both the therapist and the client. This presentation is a unique opportunity to hear perspectives from “both sides of the couch.” It will open the door and give participants a chance to explore the therapeutic space from the point of view of a therapist, Dr. Doni Whitsett, and an SGA, Ashley Allen, MSW. We will share pertinent themes in the recovery process from our respective positions, highlight what worked and what didn’t, and explore the rationale behind those interventions. While each therapeutic experience is different and “one size doesn’t fit all,” this presentation will provide a fuller picture of the therapeutic process and jump start this important conversation.

Panel - Islamist Dimensions of Cultic Control: Voices from the Field

Chelsea Brass; Leanne Smith

This paper will explore the similarities between the recruitment tactics used by terrorist groups like ISIS and those used by other high control groups commonly referred to as cults. This paper will compare the experience of conversion to (radicalization), and participation in, Islamist organizations, as practiced by ISIS and the cultic experience of members of other high control groups. The purpose of this exploration is to determine if there would be any benefit to collaboration between individuals and organizations that study high control groups/cults and individuals and organizations that are involved in deradicalization efforts with ISIS recruits. If so, decades of high control group research may prove to be useful to those who study terrorism and extremism. Since 2015, the authors of this paper evaluated various tools to measure cultic control and ultimately determined the Modified Group Psychological Abuse Scale (Almendros, et al) would be the optimal tool to use to measure the extent of cultic dynamics found in terrorist organizational practices. In efforts to promote this research question, establish institutional credibility, and with hopes of procuring additional resources to achieve the goals of our research, we will pursue additional investigators from academic institutions. Throughout this process, we will also be informally requesting feedback from people personally or professionally involved with former Islamists for input on the Modified GPA Scale’s questions as it relates to terrorist organizational practices. The authors of this paper created an online version of the Modified GPA Scale, and are continuing outreach efforts to recruit survey respondents of former Islamists. The authors propose to share project update details, including survey results and analysis, for the 2017 ICSA Annual Conference. We request that, if possible, the panel and the abstracts of the same name are scheduled in the same section or close together. Please note that these are complementary and not to be substituted for one another. The panel is meant to present those who have been heavily impacted, and the presentation proposal is to present the more quantitative research of Leanne Smith and Chelsea Brass from 2015-2017.

Panel - Legal and Professional Harassment of those Exposing or Confronting Cultic Groups

Jill Mytton; Gina Catena

Work in the fields of Cultic Studies or Radicalization is not without risk. Professional and legal harassment is distinct from psychological effects of second hand cultic influence. Speaking from professional and personal involvement, International panelists will review cases of objective legal and professional harassment from their efforts exposing or confronting cultic groups. While complete protection from legal and professional fall-out may be impossible in this field, panelists will offer suggestions to minimize legal and professional complexities. Jill Mytton will address 1) Harassment and legal challenges she encountered while researching a cultic group. Gina Catena will address 1) Harassment inflicted upon her family from exposing two cultic groups. 2) One group’s legal harassment to those non-involved w/ with a cult for questioning a cultic group’s entree to public schools, 3) Suggestions to (help) protect oneself from legal harassment in this field. Another presenter (yet to be confirmed) with no direct cult involvement will discuss legal harassment from a group, and more suggestions to help protect oneself. Q & A : 15-20 minutes. Total time : 1.5 to 2 hours.

Panel - L’Exit Counseling : Pratiques et expériences croisées I

Panel - Exit Counselling : Sharing practices and experiences I

Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Daniel Picotin;

De manière 
 dynamique chacun présenterait à tour de rôle chaque partie selon le découpage pré établi qui pourrait être : 

Présentation de chaque exit counselor ( 5 minutes )

Parcours professionnel préalable et histoire de la rencontre avec cette technique (10 minutes) Activité avec présentation de statistiques des actions menées, des dossiers suivis, des sources conduisant à rencontrer un exit counselor. .... ( 10 minutes ) Questions de la salle

Panel - L’Exit Counseling : Pratiques et expériences croisées II

Panel - Exit Counselling : Sharing practices and experiences II

Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Daniel Picotin;

Plutôt qu'une présentation linéaire de chaque intervenant, nous préférons un plateau où les expériences se croiseront de manière dynamique. Ainsi, chacun présenterait: son protocole en 5 minutes; Un cas d'exit en 10 minutes; Les difficultés liées à cette pratique de l'exit en 5 minutes; Ce que chacun pense de la pratique des 2 autres équipes en 5 minutes. Les questions de la salle

Panel - Lieux d'accueil thérapeutiques et prise en charge spécialisée pour les victimes de dérives sectaires

Panel - Specialized care for the victims of cultic abuse

Gillie Jenkinson; Daniel Picotin; Angelina Sammons; Gregory Sammons

Panel présenté par Daniel Picotin pour expliquer le projet de la Sfraem autour d'un centre d' accueil spécialisé. Histoire du lieu; Outils et protocoles utilisés, temps d'accueil; Fonction du lieu; Difficultés et résultats

Panel - Libérer et rendre publique la parole des victimes : freins et leviers

Aymeri Suarez-Pazos; Nelly Souron-Laporte; Félicite Sawadogo

La question posée est la difficulté qu’ont les ex-membres de communautés abusives ou les victimes d’abus, à se « déprogrammer », à prendre la parole pour exprimer ce qui leur est arrivé, pour témoigner et ainsi se libérer de la crainte, de la honte de dire ce qui s’est passé. Souvent cette libération de la parole n’intervient qu’après un délai de plusieurs années, voire des décennies, ce qui est dommageable pour les délais de prescription légaux, mais aussi pour la reconstruction personnelle qui n’intervient que tardivement ou partiellement, et pour la mise en garde de nouveaux adeptes. Le fait pour la victime d’écrire pour elle-même son propre témoignage permet une première prise de conscience et est déjà libérateur. C’est la première étape. La deuxième étape consiste à le rendre public pour obtenir réparation et pour permettre qu'un système abusif soit réformé ou dissous. La parole peut-elle aussi se libérer à l’intérieur du cadre ecclésial lui-même qui devra abandonner ses blocages, renoncer au déni de réalité, cesser d’exorciser, accepter d’entendre et écouter ses propres victimes ? Le but de la communication proposée sera, à partir d’exemples précis, d’examiner les facteurs bloquants, mais aussi ceux qui encouragent et favorisent la prise de parole, puis son expression publique pour les parties concernées.

Panel - Moral Injury, Trauma and Recovery: Common Re-entry Issues and Treatment for Veterans and Survivors of High-demand Groups

Helen Land; Vincent Starnino; Doni Whitsett

Veterans re-entering civilian life bear a striking resemblance to survivors of high demand groups re-entering society. For both groups moral and spiritual injury are inextricably related to trauma and often prevent a full re-entry and recovery. Both groups experience challenges in re-entry due to common factors such as leaving closed systems with charismatic leaders, difficulties with emotional intimacy, feelings of isolation, depression, trauma, PTSD, and untenable guilt for having crossed deeply held moral and spiritual values during high-demand experiences. Upon re-entry into society, both groups may be propelled into extreme crisis grappling with a lost sense-of-self, blurred identity, fragile sense of safety, and ineffective coping. Many feel forever changed by the high-demand experience; for too many, suicide is the only solution. What factors predict a better outcome for both high-risk groups? This workshop examines parallel experiences at individual, group, situational and cultural levels for veterans re-entering civilian life and survivors of high-demand groups re-entering society. The role of moral injury in relationship to re-entry and recovery will be highlighted. Due to the sensitive nature of the re-entry process, assessment and treatment methods must be very carefully designed and paced for maximum growth and minimal re-injury. Treatment indications and contra-indications for both groups will be discussed. Coaching for families will also be addressed. Attendees will learn to identify markers of moral and spiritual injury, identify relevant trauma theory and associated neurobiology, identify parallel symptoms of veterans and recent survivors of high demand groups, and learn efficacious assessment and treatment methods for both groups. Process, timing of treatment interventions, and issues within the therapeutic relationship will be addressed for both groups. Method and format for this workshop will include PowerPoint, case presentation with analysis, film-clip interviews with veterans and cult survivors, poetry from those re-entering society, and conclusions with lessons learned.

Panel - Radicalization and Disengagement: From the Search for Utopia to Disillusionment and Disengagement

Tony McAleer; Adrian Oertli; Robert Orell

Violent extremist groups build their world views on an unquestionable sense of truth. They perceive their ideas and values superior to the rest, their cause as holy. By de-humanizing the others violent extremist groups justify violence towards what they perceive as their enemies and the once who do not fit in to their dualistic worldview. What is violent extremism and what does it mean to get radicalized in to violent extremist ideas? How does it affect your relations with others outside the group and promotes your attitudes toward violence? This panel consist of former members of violent extremist groups who successfully left their previous radicalised engagement and now use their experiences to motivate and support others to take the same steps and disengage from violent extremism. The panel will explore personal experiences and look further how to set up Exit work for violent extremists.

Panel - Research on Psychological Abuse and Control I (Omar Saldaña, moderator).

Assessment of Coercive Persuasion: the Scale of Detection of Coercive Persuasion in Group Contexts (EDPC)

José Miguel Cuevas Barranquero, Carmen Almendros Rodríguez, & Jesús M. Canto Ortiz

Coercive persuasion refers to the control and manipulation developed by abusive groups, through different aggressive strategies that influence changes in the environment of its members, distorting cognition, altering emotions and generating significant psychosocial damage. It is a subtle, gradual and powerful force that affects around 500,000 Spanish victims of cultic groups (Cuevas & Perlado, 2011; Cuevas, 2012). Attaining power is one of the main goals of these groups, being the control and exploitation of the individual a part of the process. This derives to individuals giving up their own goals, freedom, material possessions, family and social networks, health or even life itself (Rodríguez-Carballeira, Saldaña, Almendros, Martin-Peña, Escartín, & Porrúa-Garcia, 2015). Such strategies are often implemented in a planned, graduate way and using deceit, difficulting that targeted people are able to detect their evident aggressiveness and the generated harm. If there is an obvious shortage of instruments measuring psychological abuse in different fields (partner violence, harassment, bullying, etc.), the development of tools to assess the presence of such strategies in group contexts is even more scarce (Almendros, Gámez-Guadix, Carrobles & Rodríguez Carballeira, 2011). One of those assessment tools, the Interview for Detection of Coercive Persuasion (Cuevas & Canto, 2006) contains a wide range of coercive and abusive practises taking place within manipulative group. It has been applied in Spain in the forensic field in prosecutions of groups (Dharma Tradición, Casa Yoga, Miguelianos, Revelance, etc.). The main objective of this recently validated tool (Cuevas, 2016) was to identify and provide evidences of the systematic application of coercive persuasion techniques on victims of abusive groups (Cuevas, 2012, 2016). Deriving from this instrument, a new scale composed of 40 items was developed and validated in Spanish population: the Scale of Detection of Coercive Persuasion in Group Contexts, or EDPC (Cuevas, 2016). To validate the EDPC, a Spanish sample of 134 people who identified themselves as having been abused or having been overly controlled by a group was selected. To assess criterion validity of the instrument, other different instruments (BSI, MOS-SSS, RSE, SLEQ, ICP and EDS) were used. The Group Psychological Abuse Scale (GPA; Chambers, Langone, Dole, & Grice, 1994), Spanish modified version (Almendros et al., 2004; Almendros et al., 2009) was used to assess the convergent validity of the instrument. The EDPC showed appropriate psychometric properties. In respect to reliability, the standardized Cronbach alpha coefficient reached a value of 0.97. The exploratory factorial analysis indicated the presence of a factor (coercive persuasion), establishing the suitability of a one-dimensional model. This scale aims to be useful in clinical and forensic fields, in order to assess the control and manipulation exercised in group contexts. Using it could be relevant to provide evidences of coercive groups practises, helping at trying to determinate the relationship between damage on the victims and the specific actions taken by groups or individuals who perform the abusive behaviors.

Exploring the Relationship Between Cultic Experiences and Psychological Distress: The Mediating Role of Post-Involvement Stressors

Omar Saldaña, Emma Antelo, Álvaro Rodríguez-Carballeira, & Carmen Almendros

Group psychological abuse has been defined as a process of systematic and continuous application of pressure, control, manipulation, and coercion strategies for dominating other people in order to achieve their submission to a group. There is mounting evidence that abusive strategies suffered within a cult may lead to psychopathological symptoms or other post-involvement difficulties. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between group psychological abuse, psychological symptoms, and psychosocial stress through standardized measures. In addition, the mediating role of psychosocial stress between group psychological abuse and psychological symptoms was tested. Regarding the method, an online questionnaire was administered to a sample of Hispanic victims of group psychological abuse (n = 365) and to another sample of non-victims for comparison purposes (n = 243). We found moderate associations among group psychological abuse, psychological symptoms, and psychosocial stress. Greater differences in psychological symptoms between samples were related to paranoid ideation, psychoticism, depression, and interpersonal sensitivity. Greater differences in psychosocial stress intensity were related to personal conflicts and social relations. Moreover, mediation testing demonstrated that stress partially mediated the impact of group psychological abuse on psychological symptoms. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the long-term effects of group psychological abuse. Those who suffer greater levels of group psychological abuse also may experience higher levels of stress after leaving the group, which in turns may lead to more intense psychological symptoms. Considering this results, counselors should provide resources to reduce the stress vulnerability to environmental demands, in order to promote the wellbeing of cult survivors during their integration process into out-group society.

How to Evaluate Emotional Distress in Former Members of Abusive Groups

Emma Antelo, Omar Saldaña, Álvaro Rodríguez-Carballeira, & Carmen Almendros

Last decades, different studies have shown that people who experience group psychological abuse, show various emotional difficulties especially after leaving the group, like feelings of anxiety and fear, grief and loss, shame and guilt, sadness and despair, rage and anger, and low self-esteem. However, the frequency and intensity with which survivors of abusive groups tend to experience these difficulties still need to be explored, due to the lack of specific measurement instruments that allow a quantitative approach to the phenomenon. For this reason, the purpose of this study is develop and validate a new instrument that measure the emotional distress suffered by survivors of group psychological abuse. A sample of 413 former members of abusive groups and a comparison sample of 293 former members of non-abusive groups participated in the study. The Emotional Distress Scale in former members of abusive groups is a self-reported instrument composed of 18 items rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 0 (nothing) to 4 (very intensively). Results showed adequate internal structure, evidence of reliability, convergent validity, and discriminatory power. People who experienced group psychological abuse showed greater emotional distress than former members of non-abusive groups. In addition, women and second-generation members of abusive groups – people who had been born and/or raised in the groups - reported greater emotional distress than men and first-generation members. The development of the Emotional Distress Scale in former members of abusive groups makes a relevant contribution to the study of the psychological and consequences of belonging to a group considered abusive, being useful both in research and for professionals who works with survivors of group psychological abuse.

Panel - Research on Psychological Abuse and Control II (Carmen Almendros, moderator).

Assessment of Socialization and Disciplinary Practices Among People Born and/or Raised in Cultic Groups

Rubén García-Sánchez, Carmen Almendros, & José Antonio Carrobles

The aim of our study was to examine the practices of socialization, the parental discipline and the possible victimization of children born and/or raised in manipulative groups. We will present, justify and discuss the characteristics we want to evaluate about these discipline and socialization practices. Based on incipient past results we would expect a higher frequency of punitive discipline (physical and psychological punishment) applied to the children born or raised in manipulative groups as compared with normative samples. These practices will be associated with a decrease of positive exchanges and demonstrations of affection for the children. Those will be justified by the group authority and the group belief system. These experiences will contribute to a lower closeness and insecure attachment to parental figures and worse indicators of psychological distress in comparison to samples of people that were not born or raised in manipulative groups.

Leaving Cultic Groups

Carmen Almendros, José Antonio Carrobles, Rubén García-Sánchez, Álvaro Rodríguez-Carballeira, Omar Saldaña, & Emma Antelo

Conversion to a cultic group is a dynamic process which must be continually energized to try to ensure the commitment of its members and the persistence of compromise (Wright & Ebaugh, 1993). Kent (1997) and Zablocki (1998) characterized these groups primarily on their practices aimed at retaining members, fomenting fear and hindering the individual from imagining an existence outside the group. This process can be interrupted because of a variety of different reasons. On the other hand, the negative reports of some cult members once they have left these groups, of ongoing psychological abuse while in the groups, as well as reports on adjustment and psychological difficulties during and after the group experiences, have been labeled as “atrocity tales” (Shupe & Bromley, 1980), and it has been argued that those evaluations of former cult experiences are negatively biased, either because of the influence of contact with cult-awareness organizations or the method of cult exiting (e.g. Beckford, 1978; Solomon, 1981; Lewis, 1986). It has also been suggested that those organizations “imbue former members with demands to report higher levels of psychopathology” (cited in Aronoff et al., 2000) as evidence of their victimization by coercive mind control practices (Lewis & Bromley, 1987). Psychological difficulties have often been attributed to pre-cult difficulties in individuals who fail to have a successful involvement (Buxant et al., 2007) or as being the result of the loss of affective ties and group cohesion (e.g. Galanter, 1989), similar to those in other vital or role transitions such as a divorcing (Ebaugh, 1988; Wright, 1984; Wright, 1991). Past work (Almendros et al., 2009) examined the perceptions of 101 self-identified Spanish former members of diverse abusive groups about their reasons for leaving the groups, perceived psychological abuse and reported levels of psychological distress. The majority of our participants walked away from the group following a period of personal reflection, without any external intervention, and they considered their own disillusionment as the main factor that led to their disaffiliation. Our results showed no differences between those participants who received support from cult-awareness associations and those who did not; nor did they show any differences, in terms of their motives for leaving, their perceptions of psychological abuse in their former groups, or their reported level of psychological distress, between those participants who walked away from the group and those who left after an outside intervention. In the present work, we review and expand on these using data from other samples of self-identified former cult members, as well as qualitative reports provided by the above-mentioned Spanish sample.

Family Emotional Climate: Assessment and Intervention

Juan F. Godoy, Carmen Almendros, & Débora Godoy-Izquierdo

Family is the primary environment for the better physical, psychological and psychosocial growth of children. Consequently, good or poor family relationships are important for the future of children’s health and pathology. On many occasions, when the family has a problem, as, for example, when a relative belongs to a cult, the family suffers and can cause suffering to each and every of its members (Godoy, 2011, 2012a,b; Godoy & Vázquez, 2010). One important family issue is the family emotional expression, being the most studied the so called “expressed emotion” (EE) (i.e. frequent expression by any of the relatives of criticism, hostility and emotional over-involvement) in the prevention of relapses in schizophrenia (Godoy, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2006, 2008). We believe that this negative family emotional climate (FEC) is better understood and termed as “chronic family emotional stress” (Muela & Godoy, 2002a) and thus its control is part of our family intervention programs (Godoy, 1994; Godoy, Muela & Godoy-Izquierdo, 2012; Muela & Godoy, 2000, 2001a,b,c, 2002b, 2003). The main measures of the FEC are the Camberwell Family Interview (CFI), which consists on a semi-structured interview with the relative, and the Five Minutes Speech Sample (FMSS), a recorded report of the responses of the relative to an open question about their thoughts and feelings about the relative and how the two of them work together. In order to solve the disadvantages of both measures we developed the “Entrevista Estructurada para la Evaluación de la Emoción Expresada” (Structured Interview for the Assessment of Expressed Emotion) or E5 (Godoy & Muela, 2011; Godoy, Muela & López, 2002), a measure of the FEC, being as general as to be potentially applicable to a variety of diseases/disorders and/or relationships (e.g. families of persons with schizophrenia or drug addiction, affective disorders, spouses or siblings of cancer patients...) and as specific as to evaluate specific behaviors typical of EE in everyday situations that are common to all interactions between people living together. The E5 includes seven thematic sections, with different representative situations each, rated on an eight-point Likert-type scale. The Structured Interview for the Assessment of Expressed Emotion has been adapted (Almendros & Godoy, 2012) for its use with relatives of current and former members of cultic groups. The new version of the instrument (Scale for the Assessment of Expressed Emotion, Cult Version; SAEEcv) will be developed with a focus on the importance of having a tool for an appropriate assessment of the FEC and considering its impact over the family members’ well-being. Implications for intervention through family intervention programs will be discussed.

Parent to Parent: Keeping Your Teen Safe 

Robin Boyle-Laisure

This talk will address various forms of harmful relationships affecting pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults. Attempts to lure minors and young adults into organizations take the form of religious or non-religious cults, with college campuses as vulnerable sites for recruitment. International human trafficking rings, have become increasingly difficult to police. Furthermore, as detailed in Rachel Lloyd's book, Girls Like Us, teenagers are often targets of commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, are incidents of one-on-one abuse between teens within romantic relationships. Previously depicted as ""domestic violence"" among adults, there can be similar harmful dynamics between teenagers. In Part I of my talk, I would focus on how undue influence plays a role in the following: - Recruitment into cults; (many speakers will address this, so this would be short) - Recruitment into human trafficking rings; - Commercial sex industry; and - Abusive one-on-one romantic relationships. And Part II would be - how to talk to your pre-teen and teenager to prevent these relationships from forming; - warning signs for parents about abusive relationships their children may be having; - suggested ways to handle if you've suspected a dangerous relationship; and - where to turn for help.

Poison and Panacea: What Anarcho-Syndicalist Communities Teach us About High-Control Phenomena

Lauren Beck

Traditional psychological and sociological studies of anarchist communities focus on risks of politically motivated violence, deviant behavior of individuals, illegal activities and government interventions. The analytic framework of Cultic Studies applied to Anarcho-syndicalist movements reveal complexity in the life cycle of high-control environments. Anarcho-syndicalist communities share striking similarities with high-control environments (sensory overload in Punk Rock concerts, graphic vegan evangelism, fatalism related to nuclear war & climate change) but also exhibit key, nuanced differences (disdain for authority, valuing higher education, willingness to disaffiliate over differences). Additionally, their existence on the economic and social fringe indicates potential for interactions with other marginalized groups, providing insights for alternative mitigation and intervention techniques across the broad spectrum of high-control involvement within geographical regions.

Post-Cult Spiritual Identity: Opportunities for Healing & Growth

Doug Duncan; Wendy Duncan

Religious cults depend on deception to maintain their hold over group members. The cult leader portrays himself as the truth-bearer and group members are led to believe that God has specifically chosen him to bring light into the world. The cult leader’s claim that God has imparted a unique and special revelation justifies his existence as the leader and his right to exercise control over his members. Followers are taught to accept the leader’s authority as divinely mandated. Any doubts or questions are quickly extinguished by the leader utilizing intimidation, humiliation, and fear. Over time, the devotee adopts the cult’s view of God and has difficulty leaving because of the fear that doing so means they are leaving The Faith and even God himself. If the former member exits the cult, he or she is left with this distorted image of God as well as confusion regarding their spirituality. The cultic/spiritual abuse has damaged the survivor’s sense of his core spiritual identity and has led to distress, anxiety, and even spiritual despair. The former member continues to see God through the lens of the cult leader and desperately seeks to annihilate the God of the cult. A primary task in his or her recovery is for the former cult member to address and work through their fear and anger toward God. Former cult members wrestle with the image of the god of the cult and their previous belief system has dissolved. Redefining who God is and what that means to the ex-member can be a tumultuous journey. This presentation will focus on: (1) the residual damage left by fear and manipulation in religious cults; (2) challenges in transitioning out of a spiritually manipulative group/religion; and (3) reconnecting with your spiritual self and a healthy, life-affirming concept of God.

Prev@cib Program: A Program to Prevent Intimidation Through Technology in Adolescence

Jessica Ortega-Baron; Sofia Buelga

Cyberbullying is a phenomenon of growing social concern that affects an increasing number of children and adolescents from all the developed countries. The negative effects on the well-being and mental health of the victims have highlighted the need of intervention actions for preventing and eradicating this type of harassment. In this context, the objective of this communication is to present a new and innovative multimedia program for preventing the problem of cyberbullying, called ""Prev@cib Program"" which is applied in several schools in Spain. The purpose of this program is to prevent and eradicate the harassment among the adolescents through the technologies. The target are adolescents of both sexes, aged between 11 and 18 years. The Prev@cib Program is composed for 10 sessions with differents activities which are distributed in 3 modules: (1) Information about the characteristics and the types of cyberbullying that exist, (2) Sensitization and awareness towards cyber harassment, bullying and other types of violence, and (3) Involvement of the peers in the prevention and intervention in cyberbullying, and promoting the friendship and fellowship. The key idea of this program is to educate our adolescents in the responsible and positive use of the technologies, and also to improve personal and social resources of teenagers, teachers and parents to avoid, reduce and eradicate the problems related with the traditional bullying and cyberbullying.

Prevent and Channel in the UK – Challenges and Opportunities for the UK Government’s De-Radicalization Program

Rod Dubrow-Marshall

This paper presents an analysis of the UK Government’s ‘Prevent’ programme for detecting radicalisation and extremism which has been progressively implemented across successive administrations. ‘Prevent’ now covers all public bodies including schools, colleges and universities and involves the training of staff in the signs and symptoms of growing radicalisation and extremism. The programme has been subject to criticism including for the way in which it has focussed on particular communities in particular the Muslim community in the UK. At the same time the growing number of young people becoming radicalised, some of whom are joining ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, has led to a widespread discourse regarding the steps involved in radicalisation and brainwashing which has much in common with Lifton’s work on thought reform (1951). The ‘Channel’ programme and use of a ‘Vulnerability Assessment Index’ also has much in common with the techniques used by exit counsellors working with families and ex-members. A thematic analysis will be presented which shows how the ‘Prevent’ programme is being used by practitioners to mitigate against radicalisation and its effects and how it has been received and understood across different communities. Comparisons with European wide work on the exit of people from extremist and terrorist groups will be made (including the work of RAN Exit) and the future possibilities for programmes of de-radicalisation which relate more closely to affected communities and populations will be addressed. Case studies will also show how work in the cultic studies field (cf. Langone 1995, Dubrow-Marshall 2010), is being usefully and actively applied to de-radicalisation work and how this can further add to the tools at the disposal of relevant professionals.

Prevention Before Recruitment: Where do we Begin?

Alexandra Stein

In 1952, Solomon Asch, the great social psychologist and scholar of social influence, wrote: “The greater man’s ignorance of the principles of his social surroundings, the more subject is he to their control; and the greater his knowledge of their operations and of their necessary consequences, the freer he can become with regard to them.” Unfortunately, there has been little progress in the 21st century on developing public education to remedy this ignorance of controlling social influence mechanisms and thereby increase resistance in the general population to recruitment to cults and extremist groups. This paper will examine why this might be so, and propose what steps can be taken to increase knowledge of social influence to strengthen this resistance. I will suggest that prevention of both cult involvement and radicalization to extremism requires teaching people, in an ideologically neutral way, specifically about totalist groups and relationships including the methods, structures and likely outcomes of such involvements. Current prevention efforts on extremism tend to be targeted at those already recruited, or at least exposed to recruitment attempts. I will suggest that we must start much earlier in the process and reinforce this education at all levels of learning. Educators and policy makers can contribute to this effort by drawing on the rich history of research in the social and psychological sciences that has accumulated over the past 70 years, along with contemporary scholarship.

Prevention or Retribution?

Masoud Banisadr

Since beginning of the twenty first century, many Western and Muslim countries have faced an old phenomenon in a new name and clothing called ‘Radicalism’, sometimes ‘Jihadism’ or more commonly ‘Terrorism’. Perhaps hundreds of thousands innocent people have lost their lives as a result of terrorism and many families around the world have lost their loved ones as a result of mind manipulation of terrorist cults. The Big questions is what can be done? Can we bomb and kill all ‘Terrorists’? What about their idea? Can we stop it from spreading? Can we stop destructive/terrorist cult leaders recruiting? Destructive terrorist cults act much like a virus such as HIV or the Ebola virus. To fight against viruses what can we do? Can we destroy them before they infect anyone? or stop their reproduction? stop them from expanding their territory? Can we stop their mutation? Should we kill infected population to stop the spread of the disease? No virus can survive without a host. So, instead of focusing on killing the hosts, along with the virus, we should immunize potential hosts by vaccinating them against the virus. The alternative is to continue to fight the symptoms with a potent medicine that may eventually harm the healthy parts of our society. Three + One. Destructive/Terrorist cults can infiltrate into minds of their victims via three open gates and with one big promise. If we close these three open gates (or find an answer for these three vulnerabilities) of young people especially young Muslims and find an alternative for One big promise of Terrorist cults, we can claim that we have immunised our society against this phenomenon. The three open gates are: 1- Emotion created by injustice and discrimination. 2- Lack or poor knowledge of ideology or religion (in this case Islam). 3- Pull/ push effect of isolation which prepares the ground for the mind manipulation. And the One big promise of a terrorist cult is the promise of ‘Happiness’ and ‘Honour’ to their victims through blind and absolute following.' The talk will offer specific suggestions in all of these areas.

Preventive Strategies: Approaches to CVE in Italy

Cristina Caparesi

Terrorism and violent extremism in Italy has always been dealt only by the State through its Security Agencies, but recently there have been two initiatives which allows to think that a new perspective is been taken into consideration. 1) A bill in discussion in Parliament: “Measures for the prevention of radicalisation and jihadist extremism” (Manciulli-Dambruoso) http://www.andreamanciulli.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/XVII-LEGISLATURA-Proposta-di-legge-Misure-per-la-prevenzione-della-radicalizzazione-e-dellestremismo-jihadista.pdf .2) A Commission on jihadist radicalization appointed by the Italian Prime Minister. The Commission is independent and will last for 120 days, after which it will draw up a final report (September 1st 2016-January 1st 2017) that precludes at possible future implementation of preventive initiatives: http://www.governo.it/articolo/insediata-commissione-di-studio-su-fenomeno-radicalizzazione-ed-estremismo-jihadista/5640 The presentation will engage with the results of these two initiatives highlighting the common practices in use by ICSA community concerning undue influence in groups.

Pulsion de mort dans le champ de la radicalization

Monique Lauret

Cette communication se propose d’étudier les ressorts pulsionnels à l’œuvre et notamment les pulsions de mort et de destruction dans le champ de la radicalisation. Que ce soit du côté des victimes, les jeunes se laissant embrigader par un discours de propagande haineux et qui peut les mener de la rupture et la désinsertion sociale à l’autocide collectif ; ou de l’autre côté, celui des meneurs, des manipulateurs, ceux qui utilisent les armes du discours dans une volonté de pouvoir et de destruction. Seront étudiées les similarités entre le discours sectaire et le discours de radicalisation islamique qui prend la dimension aujourd’hui d’une véritable épidémie et dont il est nécessaire d’analyser les différentes dimensions. Sommaire : Introduction. Conceptualisation freudienne de la pulsion de mort. Une double pulsion de mort à l’œuvre. Comment devient-on un automate de la mort ? Discours de radicalisation et pulsion de mort.

Qu’est-ce qu’un maître et comment la foule se laisse t’elle mener ?

Nedjima Khelifi-Otmane

Dans psychologie collective et analyse du moi (1921) Freud présente les phénomènes de foules et de masse en posant des distinctions précises sur les types de foules et leur influence sur le psychisme. En quoi ces modifications psychiques relèvent de la suggestion ? De l'identification ? Et si l'identification est en jeu sur quoi porte-t-elle ? En s’appuyant sur l’œuvre de Gustave le Bon consacrée à la psychologie des foules (1895) Freud fait une recherche sérieuse des phénomènes pris dans l’assujettissement du discours du maître. En nous saisissant de son analyse qui contrecarre celle de Gustave le Bon nous verrons pourquoi et comment l’individu change dès qu’il entre dans un groupe. Qu’est-ce qu’un maître et comment la foule se laisse t’elle mener ? Psychologie collective et analyse du moi est un texte incontournable et connexe à la naissance des sciences sociales dont les théories restent très actuelles même si les appellations ont changé. Dans notre société où triomphe l'objet en lieu et place de l'idéal, le mécanisme et les effets d’assujettissement de manipulation sociale, restent-ils les mêmes ? Plusieurs coordonnées théoriques sont à déplier : les spécificités de la psychologie des foules, en rapport aux fonctions du moi, à celle des affects, laquelle met l’accent sur le lien amoureux et qui peut être dépeinte comme « une foule à deux », distinguée par la même suggestibilité. Nous porterons un regard critique sur la fonction de l'idéal du moi, qui soutient le moi dans une identification portée par la masse, relevant ainsi du symptôme et par là même non dégagé des effets mortifères de la pulsion de mort. C’est en effet par l’identification au discours du maître unifiant la masse que l’individu forme un idéal du moi fondé structurellement sur une ségrégation et un rejet de la jouissance de l'autre. Nous chercherons à frayer un chemin qui offre un autre destin à l’individu que de s’échouer dans les méandres de la soumission mortifère à l’idéal. La psychanalyse permet de penser le psychisme humain en prenant en compte sa singularité en tant que sujet afin qu’il ne se modèle pas aux volontés du maître.

Radicalization Awareness: An Opportunity to Criminalize Cultic Abuse

Ann Khodabandeh

The UK Prevent Strategy has placed a statutory duty on the public sector to recognise and prevent radicalisation for violent extremism and terrorism. According to the government, radicalisation is a “process that takes place in a relationship”. But most people do not understand how this process of radicalisation actually takes place and what this relationship involves. Many well-meaning organisations focus on the various extremist ideologies, create counter-narratives and advocate teaching critical thinking skills in order to challenge these ideologies. Not only does this lead to false debate about the validity of arbitrary belief systems. More importantly it diverts attention away from how people are actually being recruited and brainwashed by deceptive manipulators. My own background is in terrorism, but my experience is no different from that of any other cult victim. The methodology common to all cults has been exposed by experts for decades. What we lack is a way to bring this behaviour to public attention in a way that allows us to protect and prosecute. High profile cases in the UK demonstrate that rather than define what a cult is, we need instead to criminalise what cults do to their victims. Like coercive control in domestic violence, like slavery and like child sexual exploitation. In all these cases, it is the police who prosecute the perpetrator for criminal activity. But how do we define this activity? I believe the UK Prevent Duty presents exactly that opportunity. In public bodies, it falls on Safeguarding teams to implement the Prevent Duty. Safeguarding experts understand the language of abuse. Therefore, we can confidently describe what happens to victims of radicalisation as cultic abuse. Together with a leading UK Safeguarding expert, I have developed an easily understood narrative, based on the work of well-known cult experts, to explain radicalisation as cultic abuse.

Radicalization of Cultic Groups and Their Positive Future Perspectives; Observations through Legal Proceedings

Masaki Kito

The speaker discusses his observations as a lawyer who has been representing victims of Aum Shinrikyo, Unification Church, and other cultic groups in court proceedings for almost three decades. One often-overlooked element commonly found behind radical, offensive, illegal, and sometimes violent acts by members of cultic groups is future-oriented optimism. Optimism presented by the group to the members of Aum Shinrikyo, for example, was a part of the driving force that lead to the group’s radicalization and terrorist attacks.

Reasoned Action, Rational Choice: Personal Behavioral Beliefs and Positive Social Qualities in the Early Stages of Identifying With a Closed Membership Movement

Maya Horton

“Psychopath, narcissist.” “Manipulated, coerced.” When we talk about cultic experiences, we typically focus on the “otherness” of the cultic leader – their narcissism, selfishness, cruelty and abuse. We also focus, however unconsciously, on the apparent naivety and trusting nature of the recruits. Much of the language we are used to using implies, whether consciously or not, that the cultic leader holds all agency and recruits are merely acted upon like pawns in a chess game. In many cults, this may be true – but in others, there is a more complex hierarchy and system of power. Moreover, whilst many cult survivors have indeed been terribly victimized by the cruel and callous behaviours of both cult leaders and other members of their organisation, many recruits consciously choose an alternative lifestyle and choose to join a specific movement because some element of the philosophy resonates with something they are looking for. In addition, the psychological forces acting upon the cult leader or hierarchy may be so complex that abuse and disempowerment may genuinely be unintended. This paper is primarily focused on the psychology of what will be termed a seeker (rather than “victim” or “recruit”), and looks at a synthesis of theories and models from multidisciplinary fields such as sociology, game theory and neuroscience to re-examine the ways in which seekers make entirely rational and emotionally healthy decisions in their early days of joining a high-demand organisation, even if the sociocultural processes operating upon a closed, unstable system ultimately turn the seeker’s many positive personal qualities into destructive emotional experiences.

Recovery of a Community Following the Collapse of a Cult

Nigel Denning; Linda Tilgner

Shiva Yoga is a small Hindu influenced cult currently based in Mount Eliza, Victoria, Australia. The cult’s leader is Swami Shankarananda. He is a former member of Siddha Yoga, a US based Hindu cult formerly run by Swami Muhktananda, an infamous Indian teacher. In December 2013, members of the Shiva Yoga community came forward with claims of sexual molestation at the hands of the cult’s 75 year old, American leader. Eventually 75 complaints were said to have been lodged with an independent mediator. No charges have been laid to date but at the time a number of women made public statements about their sexual abuse at the hands of Russell Kruckman (Shankarananda): this resulted in about 90% of the 500 strong community leaving. This paper presents the response made to this cult collapse by a small team of psychologists in Melbourne. We describe the group program that was established to support the cult exiting process for about 70 exiting members and the advocacy provided for those and other members leaving the cult. We describe the methodology of the cult as a mix of homogenous and heterogenous thought reform techniques. We present some statistics on outcome following two years of individual and group psychotherapy. Our group program followed an initial path of psychoeducation based on exit counselling principles: we outlined the core features of a cult leader: and the nature of thought reform utilised in a cult, both heterogenous and homogenous. We then utilised a reflective group process based on Progof’s Journal workshop as an aid to re-establishing a sense of personal identity. Finally we worked with a combination of individual counselling and Interpersonal group psychotherapy, utilising Yalom’s Existential Interpersonal group model. Our presentation will outline what we learned through this process and mark the outcomes of treatment: both the successes and the failures. We will also touch on the way this work has informed our approach to Institutional abuse in general, an area in which we have come to specialise.

Robes of Silk Feet of Clay: An Autobiographical Account of a Love Affair with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles’ Guru

Judith Bourque

When I went to India, I was young and idealistic. I wanted nothing more than to become a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. Much to my surprise, Maharishi started flirting with me from the very beginning, and soon we became lovers. I was twenty two and my Guru was fifty two. He asked that I keep the affair secret since his public role was one of celibacy and I agreed. After his dealth I "came out" about our relationship in the film "David Wants to Fly", a full length documentary about Maharishi and the TM organisation, including the involvement of film director David Lynch. At this point I decided to write my book in order to share my experiences in my own way. My book is my story, but I also share my view of Maharishi as a spiritual leader, since I had more than ample opportunity to observe his leadership style. He was a complex figure surrounded by loving devotees. His meditation technique is practiced and enjoyed by millions, including many high profile celebrities. At the same time he maintained a highly unethical relationship to women and finances behind the scenes during his long life. He also repeatedly maintained that celibacy was the best path for spiritual development, starting programs called Parusha for the men and Mother Divine for the women. He died a multi-billionaire. Many ex TM teachers have written and expressed appreciation and gratitude for my book, while "old timers" have felt threatened by it to the point of spreading rumors that I am schizophrenic. Beyond the relief that coming out created in my personal life, I believe that books such as mine create an atmosphere of transparency which I hope will in turn create a need for another type of spiritual leadership, one based on honesty rather than denial, and willningness to walk one's talk. I also hope my experience will serve as a warning to other young women who wish to follow a guru. Learning from a great teacher can be a rewarding experience, as long as one does not slide into an abusive relationship. I made a presentation in Stockholm, Sweden 2014 on a panel on the subject of sexual recovery after the cult experience. My presentation is based on my book, "Robes of Silk Feet of Clay", written after I had left the TM movement. I have now released a second edition with 3 new chapters. This year's presentation would be similar to that presentation, with the addition of longer term insights and effects of having written the book.

School Social Workers’ Approach Toward the Problem of Cults and Related Phenomena

Piotr Nowakowski

In the paper, the role of a social worker in the school context is defined, and then social problems generated by cults and related phenomena within this context are presented. Finally, conclusions are suggested about potential outcomes to the above-mentioned issues as a result of the school guidance counselor’s professional activity. In relation to the school context, among potential challenges posed by cults and related phenomena, several aspects are noted. First, the discussion focuses on the problem of infiltration of schools by cults, including the issue of the introduction of New Age ideas within the school environment. This discussion is followed by consideration of questions about cultic movements establishing schools, and cultic groups ignoring compulsory-education requirements.

Securitizing Terrorism: A Critical Appraisal of Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Approach

Bilal Zubair

In a constantly challenging internal security environment, Pakistan is making ways to improvise and respond to the new variations in the pervasive phenomenon of terrorism. The state’s endeavors towards securitizing terrorism as an existential threat are both extensive and intensive which have systematically incorporated both military and non-military means. Since 2007, the military has been conducting intermittent operations and by 2014 has successfully neutralized the terrorist ability to target vital security installations and security personal. The terrorists have responded by targeting communities which are soft targets and extremely vulnerable against organized assaults. Within this context, the study aims to explain the emerging trends of terrorism in Pakistan, which multi-layered and complex developments having far reaching implications for state and society. With a view to explore the underlining reasons, present trends and ensuing ramifications of the emerging trends in terrorism, this study would examine the following: First, the historical processes and development of Terrorism in Pakistan; secondly the processes of securitization which include political consensus, legal frameworks and military operations against the terrorist groups; thirdly , the socio-cultural dimensions and geopolitical influences on the transforming nature of sectarian terrorism. The study will also highlight the grey areas and weak links in the ongoing securitization process. Finally, the study will thoroughly explore the societal insecurity which is manifested in internal displacements, identity crisis and weakening socio-political fabric of the state.

Similarities and Differences Between Sectarianism and Radicalism From a Clinical Point of View

Vega Gonzalez; Laura Merino, Juanjo Santamaria; Elena Montero

The radicalization process has been studied from several levels: sociological-structural, psychopathological and psychosocial. From the psychosocial approach the starting point is the individual-group interaction and how violent radicalization is generated from certain group dynamics of psychological manipulation (Taylor, 2004). Some authors defend that violent radicalization is the result of a psychological manipulation process conducted systematically and consciously, very similar to what may occur in a sectarian or psychological manipulation group (Alonso, 2007; De la Corte, 2007). Still, there seem to be some differences between violent sectarian groups and terrorist groups or radical groups. During this presentation the similarities and differences from a clinical point of view of that kind of groups will be exposed.

SO…What Does Help Former Cult Members Recover? A Report on Empirical Research

Gillie Jenkinson

The speaker will report on her PhD research dissertation. This cross disciplinary, qualitative, research study explored former cult members’ perspectives on what helped them to recover from an abusive-cult experience. Here the term ‘abusive-cult’ pre-supposes a psychologically restrictive, traumatic, or abusive experience, which may be challenging to ‘recover’ from. As a psychotherapist and former cult member, the subject is of both professional and personal interest. A constructivist grounded theory approach was adopted to analyse the data, and this paper will briefly introduce the grounded theory that emerged: ‘The ‘Phases of Recovery and Growth from an abusive cult’.

Strangers in our Midst: Should we Resist Them or Teach Them our Ways?

Rienie Venter

Purpose: It is argued how the one truth approach in religious and cultural thought by definition excludes other ways of thinking and other ways of being. Research design: The research design is a literature study. It examines the implication for “the other” when the ways of knowledge, the values, the language and the behaviours of the dominant culture are legitimised. Background: Although we learnt the lesson about socially and politically marginalised groups who were in the past subjected to accept the reality of those in authority, it is still often expected of individuals to fit in with the “orderly, rational realm of modern society” or risk being rejected “as strangers, as a problem, someone whose mode of being needs to be either corrected or resisted” (Bauman 1997:200). In a binary way the West is still often presented as the thinking, reasoned, logical side, while “the other”, or “not us” thinking are held up as the opposite, namely non-reasoned, naïve, and intuitive. Where there are obstacles to achieving the predetermined goals, these obstacles are seen as a deviation from the norm. It is argued that Western and North Atlantic paradigms for thinking still rest on a cognitive and moral map of the world. Those who do not fit into this way of thinking are assimilated, where they are made the same as all the others, or they are rejected as strangers, as “the other”, or as “culturally disadvantaged” (Bauman, 1997: 202). Either way, the stranger is seen as a problem, someone whose mode of being needs to be either corrected or resisted. Either way, the stranger loses their voice. Recommendations: Suggestions are made by applying Perry’s (1970) Scheme of Intellectual and Ethical Development, through which an epistemological development in our attitude towards the authority in knowledge can move from a dualistic “right versus wrong” perspective to a higher-order disposition where we realise that truth is relative to people’s lived experience. This enables us to distil an own value system and take responsibility for it. Bauman, Z. 1997. The making and unmaking of strangers. In: P Werbner & T Modood (Eds.). Debating cultural hybridity: Multicultural identities and the politics of anti-racism. London: Zed. Perry, W.G., Jr. 1970. Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Study on Cult Members’ Characteristics of Cognitive Biases and Their Relationship with Depression

Haikun Guo; Ruiying Ma; Qingping Chen

Objective: This study aims to explore the characteristics of the cult members’ cognitive bias and its relationship with depression. Methods: Using the Cognitive Bias Questionnaire(CBQ) measured 48 cult members and 50 non-cult members for comparative study, supplemented by interviews to analyze and evaluate their cognitive biases and emotional state. Results: The scores of cult members in the dimension of depressed-distorted was significantly higher than non-cult members’ (t=4.873, p <0.001); the scores of cult members in the dimensions of depressed- non-distorted and non-depressed-distorted were also significantly higher than non-cult members’ (t=3.413, p<0.05; t=2.980, p<0.05). The reason is related to their gender, age, education, group-influence and mind control. Conclusion: Cognitive biases exist in cult members. The relationship between cognitive bias and depression is an interactional circulation: cognitive bias—depression—increasing cognitive bias. Therefore, it should be adopted cognitive therapy intervention.

Study on Cult Members’ Suicide Type and its Attribution Mechanism: A Psychological Perspective

Qingping Chen; Ruiying Ma

Objective: This study aims to explore cult members’ suicide type, its psychological causes and attribution mechanism. Methods: Making a thorough investigation and interview on 30 cult members with four psychological testing tools such as Social Support Rating Scale (SSRS), General Self-Efficacy Scale(GSES), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and Internality, Powerful Others, and Chance Scale (IPC). Results: ①The average score of cult members’ social support was 32.07, which was significantly lower than that of Chinese norms’ 34.56 (t=-2.189, p<0.05). Less social support experience easily induced evasive suicide, infectious suicide and instrumental suicide;②The average score of cult members’ self-efficacy was 3.13, which was significantly higher than that of Chinese norms’ 2.62 (t =5.43, p < 0.01). Because of the pursuit of God, cult members had high self-efficacy which was likely to cause exaggerated suicide, martyrdom suicide and passive suicide; ③The score of cult members’ trait anxiety was 49.85, which significantly higher than that of Chinese norms’ 41 (t =6.37, p <0.01). Emotional anxiety easily induced scared suicide, dysphoric suicide and nervous suicide; ④Cult members’ I score was 32.86, lower than the norms’ 35 (t =-4.70, p < 0.01), P score was 23.09, higher than the norms’ 20 (t =3.04, p< 0.05), and C score was 20.85, higher than the norms’ 18 (t =2.79, p < 0.05). The bad attribution style was prone to cause fateful suicide, abusive suicide and extended suicide. Conclusion: Cult members’ suicide is a kind of social pathological phenomenon, and a kind of individual psychological pathology. The reasons are their under-utilization of social support, confused sense of self-efficacy, anxiety and bad attribution. Therefore, it is the result of the interaction between internal and external factors. 

Support Group for Former Cult Members Who Were Parents in the Cult 

Lorna Goldberg 

This group, open only to former cult members who were parents while in the cult, will deal with the aftereffects of this experience. Parents who leave cults are dealing with all the post-cult issues of former cult members; but, additionally, they need to deal with the consequences of having raised their children in a cult. Topics for discussion may include: (1) The Cult Leader’s Establishment of the Child-Rearing Process. (2) The Cult Leader’s Interference with Parental Involvement, Nurturing, and Protection of Children. (3) Parental Role (as defined by the cult) and Cult Relationship with Children. (4) Consequences of Cult Marriage. (5) Consequences of Cult Life for Children. (6) Empathy and Special Feelings Experienced for Children. (7) Present Relationships with Children and Suggestions for Improvement. 

Supporting Parents and Relatives of People Joining Cults

Hakan Jarva; Jennie Halberg 

The first action parents and relatives to people who join cults undertake is often seeking out information about the group their kids or relatives have joined. That information alone is usually very upsetting and the first impulse is almost always to try to convince the person joining a cult that the organization they are joining is destructive. This is usually very contra productive and have a tendency to result in a breakdown of the communication between the person in the cult and the relatives. Once this process of communication breakdown has started it´s very hard to reverse without expert knowledge. Either the person in the cult cuts communication and terminates all contact or the relatives learn to avoid the subject when talking to the person in the cult. Even though the relatives in the latter case continue to have contact with the person still in the cult, they cannot talk about the cult and their worries with him or her and they can only hope for change. This is not a very satisfactory situation. The purpose of this project is to teach parents and relatives a communication method that will allow for increased and better communication with the person in the cult with the goal of facilitating change. The communication method used is an adapted version of Motivational Interviewing. We have trained 11 parents and relatives in Motivational Interviewing and are monitoring them in their progress by weekly supervisor sessions. Two psychologists are evaluating this project and will have a report ready in spring 2017 with the findings. We would like to present the project and the findings in Bourdeaux 2017.

The Concept of Hell as a Mechanism of Control and Manipulation

Beverly Shellrude Thompson 

This presentation will explore how fundamentalist, high-control organizations use the concept of hell to keep their members from leaving, make it difficult to separate emotionally and spiritually for those who leave, and block former members from exploring other spiritual paths. I’ll include the theology of hell as: (a) a mechanism of control; (b) a way fundamentalist, authoritarian leaders manage their fear of dying and awareness of their own evil; and (c) a tool to silence victims and create hyper-vigilance. We’ll conclude by looking at recovery from this form of spiritual and psychological trauma. After a 15 to 20-minute presentation, there will be opportunity for discussion. Summary: The concept of hell is a particularly pernicious theology and is often a major block to recovering from fundamentalism. Understanding the ways it is used can assist V/S and therapists find appropriate healing modalities.

The Degrees of Spiritual Abuse and Effective Treatment Modalities for Victims Experiencing Each Degree

Dylesia Barner

It was not until recently that social understanding of the term ""abuse"" began to include invisibly scarring experiences such as emotional, verbal, and psychological maltreatment. The task of raising awareness about spiritual abuse is like the plight faced by pioneers in the endeavor toward global recognition of these forms of torment. Despite what difficulties her advocacy efforts may face; however, Dylesia Barner is committed to using her survivor and mental health provider perspectives to introduce spiritual abuse in a way that challenges others to reflect upon their own experiences with the unique - and mostly undetected - form of victimization. This presentation will explore the varying degrees of spiritual abuse, beginning with the often banteringly presented criticism of the social choices of those professing faith and concluding with a look at how victims become perpetrators. Dylesia will pull upon popular, personal, and clinical examples to encourage the recognition of spiritual abuse at its introductory stages in order to prevent its advancement. She will also identify exit challenges faced by victims as well as public and practitioner interventions that can be used to aid victims experiencing each of the varying degrees. Questions that will be addressed include: How does spiritual abuse escalate to the point of cult membership/leadership, why is it so difficult for victims to exit the progression, and what can the public do to help? The proposed presentation will introduce spiritual abuse in a relatable way and provide attendees with clear methods of intervening.

The Intervention Effect of Motivational Interviewing on Cult Members’ Psychological Problems

Haikun Guo; Qingping Chen; Ruiying MA

Objective: This study aims to explore the intervention effect of motivational interviewing on cult members’ changing behavioral motivation, self-efficacy, and mental health. Methods: Making a comparison between the experimental group, which was formed by 8 cult members involved in the motivational interview, and the control group of 8 non-cult members, with the University of Rhode Island Change Assessment Scale (URlCA), General Self-Efficacy Scale (GSES) and Self-rated Health Measurement Scale (SRHMS) to collect data. Results: After 7 times of motivational interviewing, ①the members’ changing behavioral motivation level of experimental group was significantly higher than those of control group (t=3.907, p<0.01); ②the members’ self-efficiency level of experimental group was significantly higher than those of control group (t=2.490, p<0.05); ③the members’ self-rated health level of experimental group was significantly higher than those of control group (t=3.656, p<0.01). Conclusion: Motivational interviewing can significantly improve cult members’ changing behavioral motivation, self-efficiency and mental health.

The Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA): Persecution or Fact?

Luis Santamaria del Río

The Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA) or “esoteric yoga” has been founded in Romania as a non-profit association for promoting yoga knowledge and practices. Its founder, Gregorian Bivolaru, has been tried and convicted by the courts of his country for sexual abuse of a minor. The group he leads has been accused by some former members of mental manipulation, making pornographic films with their adepts and other problematic behaviors. MISA defends itself and asserts that the group is persecuted by the Freemasonry and that the persecution began during communism. In this paper I will analyze the main elements of the group, its doctrines and practices, and the testimonies of former members, as well as several controversies that have taken place in Europe and Latin America.

The Radicalization of Pretend Cult-Busters

Angel Garden

My proposal for ICSA 2017 follows and builds on the presentation “Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire” (Trieste 2013), describing the phenomenon of online groups claiming to be “anti-cult”, but who operate authoritarian and controlling methods and practises that mirror those of cults they claim to decry. My proposal for 2017 examines this dangerous tendency in more detail, and explores how followers of those supposedly rationalist groups are easily drawn in by the claim of fighting cults, how easily they are indoctrinated online, and how they effectively themselves become radicalised as they are persuaded to fight to protect the supposed “anti-cult” group, oblivious to the fact that in so doing they have in fact become part of an authoritarian and controlling group themselves and are trying to destroy those who are attempting to expose this, through misinformation, deceit, threats and lies. These are the very methods that they themselves would very loudly not tolerate if members of a different cult were using them on another group of people.The Research. My family has lived through the situation of being subject to constant overt and covert attack by such members of groups claiming to promote free-speech and democracy, and I present my own experience, subject to the lens of comparison and evaluation against constant standards of open communication and democratic exchange. Our methods of documentation have themselves become methods of active research as dangerous tendencies are exposed, such mechanisms augmented and made more likely by technology and which have dangers both seen and unseen. This evolution of method through practise as research leads to a unique manner of presentation of very difficult concepts and experiences with the ability to present highly emotive material in a cogent, organised and insightful manner, and in several different formats, including through a conventional presentation. Results There can be no clearer illustration of the mechanism of radicalisation than that of avowed secular rationalists falling over themselves and one another to adopt the blind faith and punishing methods more usually attributed to extreme and fanatical religiosity. The evidence gained through living through this for over half a decade is nearly impossible to get and definitely highlights the dangers of radicalisation in any group. This highly relevant presentation will encourage participants to look at anti-cult groups with deep skepticism. Are their working methods truly ethical or are they in fact attempting to replace one cult with another, more insidious one?

The Relevance of Olivier Roy’s Notion of “Pure Religion” to the Study of Cults

Walter Van Herck

Discussion of the theories of the islam expert Olivier Roy in his book entitled Holy Ignorance. When religion and culture part ways (London, Hurst and Co., 2010). Roy’s thesis is that culture has a soothing effect on the radical tendencies in religion, however, contemporary religion is de-culturalizing rapidly. I investigate together with Roy how this has come about. In discussion with participants I try to see how important / relevant this trend is for the study of cults.

The Resurgence of the Far Left in the UK and Democratic Centralism: Implications and Responses

Rod Dubrow-Marshall

The election in 2015 (and subsequent re-election in 2016) of the left wing MP Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party in the UK has reignited debates about the role of the ‘far left’ and revolutionary Marxist groups in mainstream politics and their influence. There have been a range of accusations made (usually by those of a different political persuasion) against the organisation Momentum which is allied to Corbyn and which has been recruiting thousands of new members both to its own ranks and to those of the Labour Party itself. The re-emergence of far left groups within and around Momentum has raised questions about the tactic of ‘entryism’ whereby revolutionary groups enter mainstream left wing political parties as a way of recruiting new members. The role and place of the party building process known as ‘democratic centralism’ has also re-emerged a salient issue, as analysed as being similar in form and content to the undue influence processes used in cultic groups by Tourish and Wolforth (2000). This paper will present an analysis of the claims and counter-claims regarding the role of far left revolutionary groups in contemporary UK politics and the evidence that democratic centralist practices by such organisations are operating both to their benefit (in terms of recruitment and their private party building agenda) and with the use of cult like tactics of undue and unethical influence. Implications regarding the wider growth of extremist groups at both poles of politics will be considered and within the European context a similar analysis will be presented regarding political movements such as Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. Questions will be raised about how a progressive political movement can be built which avoids the potential pitfalls of cultic group involvement or techniques and which goes to the heart of what a democratic organisation can mean in practice and for politics more generally. The need for measured and evidence based responses both from mainstream political parties and from professionals in the field of extremist groups is also assessed in the light of these developments.

The Role of the Media in the Recovery or Retraumatization of Cult Survivors: How Personal and Public Narratives Impact Survivors of Traumatic Psychological Manipulation

Christine Katas

In today’s digital society, the most private matters of individuals can become sensational media content on screens around the world in a matter of hours. Far too often, stories in traditional media such as magazines, newspapers, books and television networks take a survivor’s personal narrative, modify it and exploit it for financial gain while amplifying a survivor’s trauma. Since the rise of the Internet, social media and mobile technology, individuals can now humiliate or blame the victims at all times and in all places, with anonymity and often without consequence. Furthermore, the humiliation and revictimization of cult survivors can become virtually permanent via cyberspace, presenting tremendous risk for those in the various stages of post-cult trauma recovery. On the other hand, trauma-sensitive media stories can also present empowering survivor narratives and redemption sequences that bolster cult survivors’ post-traumatic growth and recovery, helping victims solidify a positive, thriving self-concept. This presentation will integrate case studies, videos, research, photography, personal examples and audience participation to analyze the role of the media in helping or harming survivors of cult mind control. Topics covered will include media ethics and manipulations, media trauma, healing media, framing, victim-blaming, public humiliation, social media psychology and cyber-mobbing, the power of photography, persona branding, survival blogging, and guidelines for both survivors and journalists. Finally, attendees will learn tips to help survivors can take control of their media, maintain power over their personal narratives, and use digital media to foster their life victories.

The Roman and Christian Roots of Cultic Studies: Religio, Cultus, Sexus

Arthur Mary

The author proposes to present and develop in English a previous research already published in French in the IJCS (vol. 6, 2015). The paper consists in a philological study of the notions of religion, cult and sect. In particular, it appears that the idea of religion exists only within the Latin and Christian cultural field (the way we speak of non-Christian religions somehow falls under a misleading intercultural bias). The two main arguments of the demonstrations are: 1- the idea of religion is yet a Latin and Christian idea; 2- the notion of sect is a fortiori a Latin and Christian notion. Regarding the notion of cult, a philological investigation restores its thickness and may renew its use (interestingly, a use that may remind of Freud’s notion of Kulturarbeit). Thus, the presentation shows how the notions – the use and the institution of these notions – of religion, cult, belief, truth, mind manipulation, etc. are deeply rooted in a generally unseen cultural determinism. In order to go further, the paper investigates on one hand, if the very idea of studying cults might be yet over-determined by its unrecognized Latin and Christian roots; on the other hand, if the institutionality of (albeit scientific) research itself might rest on the way most European and North-American institutions are unknowingly rooted in the Canon Law and the Codex justinianus. Ultimately, the author’s investigations might have problematized the very idea of objectivity of our researches and the way cultic groups question the “institution of life” (vitam instituere).

Treating Trauma: Research and Personal Experience

Arthur Buchman

There is both consensus as well as disagreement about what methods are best for treating PTSD and trauma related psychological problems. This presentation will summarize research findings to date with an emphasis on short term modalities. Some illustrations will come from my private practice. A proposal to ‘jailbreak’ the best tools from their training monopolies will be included. Also to be discussed: special treatment considerations for trauma resulting from cultic involvement and from radicalization.

We Said “I Do” in the Cult – So What do “We Do” Now? Marriage After the Cult: A Case Study Comparison

Cyndi Matthews

Individuals born and raised in cults, who also marry in their cults, and ultimately leave their cult with their partners are faced not only with the challenges of healing and integrating into society, but also with the challenges of how to, and whether or not to, maintain their marriage relationships. Marriages made within the cult are often based on having the same values and ideals as the cult. Coming out of the cult, individuals start to question everything they were ever taught, including whether or not they should stay in their marriage relationship. Questions may include “Why did we come together in the first place? What is our marriage based on? Do we have enough in common to make this marriage last? “What do I even believe about marriage now?” As they start to grow and learn outside of the cult, they experience being at different levels of learning and critical thinking along with having different interests than their partner. SGA couples grapple with many issues of personal and marital development once they come out of a cult. Case studies will be presented of different SGA couples who married in their cults, and ultimately made the decision to leave their cults. Common themes experienced in SGA marriage relationships will be discussed including struggles of moving from patriarchy towards equality in the relationship, perils of working through personal identity and spiritual identity at the same or different times, and the dilemmas of building and strengthening the relationship will be discussed in this presentation. Participant discussion, practical counseling strategies, and personal application will be utilized during this session.

What Do They Do About It? Reactions by Minority Religions to Internal Abuses

Eileen Barker

There have been scores of books and articles written about the emotional, physical and sexual abuse to which members of new religions, especially children and, to a slightly lesser degree, women, have been subjected. Relatively little has been written, however, about how movements have undergone changes in order to eliminate such abuse. Concentrating particularly, though not exclusively, on three religions – ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Children of God (later known as The Family International), and the Jesus Fellowship (at one time known as the Jesus Army) – this talk will explore ways in which, these religions have, within a relatively short period, acknowledged the presence of abuse, and undergone radical revisions to their internal culture and practices. The discussion will take place against the background of a changing social scene and widespread public exposures of abuse and ‘cover-ups’ by other religions, including nineteenth century sects, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and mainstream religions, such as the Roman Catholic Church. E.Barker@LSE.ac.uk

Why Extremist Groups Are Appealing: A Developmental Psychological Description

Russell Bradshaw

The more desperate the individual - - and the more fragile the stage of development - - the more appealing the absolute, unambiguous ‘answers’ offered by extreme cults, gangs, violence-prone-political or religious groups, and terrorists. In these groups the leader/s exert extremely high control and place extremely high demands on their followers. In return they offer extremely high ‘rewards’ (however defined). Their answers are definitive and unequivocal, giving a sense of absolute security. For individuals who are insecure and socially isolated, and feel left outside the mainstream society, extremist groups are often appealing. In fact, such individuals may experience this kind of extreme group as their last chance to achieve a sense of self-worth and belonging (A. Maslow) and to achieve a sense of identity and “fidelity” (E. Erikson). Many of these individuals have experienced deep anxiety, depression and alienation. Many have even experienced suicidal crisis. The absolute belief system, charismatic and authoritarian leadership, and tight sense of community in these groups seem to give them the support they desperately need. Seeking individuals, looking to find themselves and to better society, (especially those going through an identity dilemma) are opportune targets for recruitment by narcissistic leader/s and their extreme cultic groups. It is important to understand, however, that these extreme groups are no different than any other social group in the use of social influence processes (R. Cialdini, D. Goleman). ALL social groups, in order to maintain a viable identity, utilize these processes to varying degrees. On this continuum of social control, however, extremist groups lie at the highest end of the scale. The cost (and the perceived benefits!) are extremely high for individuals inside these groups. The developmental approach offered by Abraham Maslow and Erik Erikson, among others, gives a theoretical overview that can provide a framework for future cultic studies research.

Why is the Patty Hearst Story From 1974 Still Relevant for Today’s World?

Lorna Goldberg; Cathrine Moestue

Patty Hearst, then a 19-year-old university student, was abducted from her apartment in Berkeley, CA by a group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) on February 4, 1974. Eight days later, her devastated family heard from Hearst on a tape that was sent to them: “I am OK.” Only two months later, there was another recording on which Hearst denounced her family and pledged allegiance to the SLA, taking the name, “Tania.” Along with four SLA members, on April 15th, Hearst robbed the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco, which was caught on tape. This resulted in the infamous photo of Patty Hearst, holding a machine gun and wearing a beret. She now was a transformed terrorist after only ten weeks in captivity. How could this happen? Theories abound: Was she a willing participant? Was she forced or had she been brainwashed by her captors? Lorna Goldberg was deeply affected by the story of the kidnapping and transformation of Patty Hearst. A transformation previously had occurred to a loved family member. Recently, these events have been revisited, after a respected American author wrote a book on the Hearst kidnapping and trial. Cathrine Moestue went through a similar process in Norway, changed her name to Roxie Lenina, and renounced her family in the process. Her case was likened to Patty Hearst in Norwegian media at the time. She will tell her moving story and contrast it to the story of Patty Hearst. Moestue and Goldberg will examine the similarities and differences, but especially consider why it becomes more problematic for victims of cult abuse to recover when some influential voices, along with many in the public at large, continue to blame the victims of cultic groups. Even in a tragic case like this, and one where a physical kidnapping has occurred, there seems to be difficulty in accepting the notion of undue influence that often results in dissociative processes in cultic groups and relationships. Finally, they will consider how to help the public at large make an empathic connection with those who are involved with cultic groups or relationships.

Workshop - Building Bridges; Leaving and Recovering from Cultic Groups and Relationships: A Workshop for Families

Rachel Bernstein; Jose Fernandez; Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan; Doni Whitsett

Topics discussed include: assessing a family’s unique situation; understanding why people join and leave groups; considering the nature of psychological manipulation and abuse; being accurate, objective, and up-to-date; looking at ethical issues; formulating a helping strategy; learning how to communicate more effectively with your loved one. Agenda for Workshop.

The Need for Greater Networking- To Pierce Isolation and Get Practical Information 

Rachel Bernstein

In the 25 years I have been doing counseling for those affected by cults, I have run many former member support groups and support groups for the loved ones of those in cults. There are just a few, far too few, support groups of this kind, and most people who need them are unable to find them. The families and friends of those in cultic groups are so relieved to finally find a support group in order to have the opportunity to no longer feel isolated, while also receiving some education and advice from other loved ones who understand what they are going through. Some of the information they shared in the support groups I facilitated was about what not to do, based upon others' failed communication or intervention attempts, or what to try based upon others' educated guesses or homespun intuition. I offered as much clinical and research-based information as I could, but there was something quite powerful about seeing these families and new friends safely interact with each other, cry, worry, and vent with each other, learn from each other, and keep each other from feeling alone. Siblings naturally gravitated toward siblings, parents naturally gravitated towards other parents, and spouses and partners related to each other's experiences. The children of those in cults set up networks with each other, as well. I will share both what I taught them and what I learned from them. I will share the unique challenges, frustrations, and pitfalls for parents, children, siblings, and partners from both their perspectives and from mine. I will share, in the hope of empowering and instructing people to go out and organized support groups, both in-person and online all over the world, what I feel is best to provide for each of these groupings of people who are affected by those they love who are ensnared by a cult.

Coercion, Psychological Abuse and Manipulation in Families: How a Dysfunctional Family Functions Like a Cult

Jose Fernandez

Cloe Madanes, a psychologist and systemic therapist, states that family is the fundamental organization for everybody. It is also been said that the most widespread cult is a dysfunctional family. Day after day I find in my clinical practice how dysfunctional families cause a lot of pain to their members, and I think the cult-like perspective could be applied to what these families go through. Basic coercive strategies present in cults based on fear and guilt are used extensively in these families. The abuse may be from one partner to the other, resulting in manipulative and dependence relationships. Or the abuse may be from one parent, or both, to their children. In the case of one parent using undue influence towards his son, a usual instance is when one child refuses to see one parent induced by the other parent, refusal that can last for a lifetime. Therefore, harm to these family members may last for years after they have departed their family home. Actually, one can focus in many situations when addressing the issue of Coercion, Psychological abuse and manipulation in families. I will try to approach the issue of what is a dysfunctional family and highlight the ways in which they function like a cult. 

Ambiguous Loss

Doni Whitsett

Families who have children in cults struggle with what’s been called “ambiguous loss,” a concept developed by Pauline Boss in her work with MIA military families. The child may be physically absent but psychologically present, in the minds and hearts of the family. On the other hand, the child may be physically present at times if s/he comes to visit, but psychologically absent – at least the child they knew. Understanding this phenomenon and negotiating the paradox is the subject of this presentation.


Doni Whitsett

Stress in life cannot be avoided. However, there is reasonable stress and stress that kills. When people are under chronic stress, such as dealing with cult-involved family members, or dealing with the effects of trauma themselves, it can have dangerous consequences on one’s health and mental health. This presentation will discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of stress from a physiological standpoint and acquire some skills to offset the toxic effects.

Workshop for Former Members of Cultic Groups and Relationships

Preconference Orientation for Former Members (Wednesday, 3 – 5 pm)

Ann Stamler, Coordinator; Ron Burks; Vicki Burks

This session is an opportunity for former members of cultic groups or relationships to prepare for the emotional and practical demands of the coming conference. For those who have experienced the psychological manipulation of abusive leaders or partners, making choices may be a new experience. The abundance of sessions and of participants at the conference may feel overwhelming. Former members have also been indoctrinated to feel we must “be up to” any task, and feel guilty about taking a break, seeking help, attending to our emotional, psychological or physical needs. We may also have difficulty interacting with people we regard as authorities. At this session, facilitators who are themselves former members and/or mental health professionals will discuss practical and emotional challenges former members face, including making choices, triggers, setting boundaries, interacting with people we regard as authorities, and taking care of ourselves.
Open to all former members

Preconference Orientation for Second Generation Former Members (Wednesday, 7 – 9 pm)

Ann Stamler, Coordinator; Ashley Allen; Elizabeth Blackwell

This session will deal with some of the same general subjects as the afternoon orientation, but with a focus on the issues faced by people born or raised in cultic groups or relationships. Often we have not learned how to socialize comfortably or interact with people outside our group. We may feel guilty exploring subjects not condoned by a leader, and listening to beliefs different from those in which we were raised. Simple tasks such as asking directions, setting our own schedule, or seeking advice may be daunting. We may also have difficulty interacting with people we regard as authorities. At this session, facilitators who are themselves second generation former members and/or mental health professionals will discuss practical and emotional challenges SGAs members face, including making choices, triggers, setting boundaries, interacting with people we regard as authorities, and taking care of ourselves. The session will also be an opportunity to meet other people born or raised in cultic groups or relationships, and form connections that may be helpful throughout the conference.
Open to second generation former members

Workshop for Mental Health Professionals and Pastoral Counselors

Gillie Jenkinson, Moderator

Reports from chapter authors of ICSA book, Cult Recovery: A Clinician's Guide to Working With Former Members and Their Families (14:00 – 17:00)

Clinical Roundtable (Gillie Jenkinson and Doug Duncan, Moderators) (19:00 – 21:00)

Following interesting and lively discussions at a number of ICSA conferences including the 2016 Dallas conference, a Clinical Roundtable for Mental Health Practitioners is being held again. This 90-minute session will be an interesting opportunity for clinicians to discuss clinical vignettes (highly disguised for confidentiality) to illustrate a specific clinical problem and to highlight their questions regarding certain circumstances that occur within therapy with cult leavers—both first and second generation—as well as issues that arise with family members. It is also an opportunity to support one another in this specialist work. The subjects that might be covered could be, for example: how to apply the psycho-educational approach, floating and grounding, cult pseudo-personality, confidentiality, trust, identity, problems with relationships, effective therapeutic approaches for these client groups, assessment, communication skills, dissociation, self-harm, post-cult adjustment and so on. The Clinical Roundtable will be facilitated but structured so that mental health professionals have an opportunity to participate in the discussion (it is not a presentation as such but a discussion forum). This session is open only to those who are mental health professionals with an advanced degree in one of the mental health fields. This will be strictly adhered to for reasons of confidentiality. The only cases that will be discussed will be those presented by a clinician in the session (that is, vignettes cannot be discussed if the clinician does not attend and present them). Discussion preference will be given to clinicians who submit their clinical vignettes and discussion issues in advance to Dr. Jenkinson at info@hopevalleycounselling.com

Workshop for Researchers

Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Facilitator

Workshop on Educating the Public and Youth

Piotr Nowakowski, Facilitator