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ICSA Conversations


ICSA Conversations is a new, free, interactive series of discussions to be hosted in accessible locations throughout the country. We plan to include online conversations in 2018. Launched in New York City in the Fall of 2017, each conversation will last approximately 90 minutes, consisting of a brief talk followed by open discussion. ICSA Conversations are free and open to the public. However, registration is recommended because some venues have limited space. |  Register Online

Unlike closed, cultic groups, ICSA is firmly committed to freedom of thought, expression, and religion. To counter the closed thinking of cults and other “true believers,” ICSA events provide an open arena for people from diverse backgrounds with diverse points of view. Opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of ICSA’s or its partner organizations’ directors, staff, advisors, or supporters.

Upcoming ICSA Conversations

New York

September 29, 2017.  7:00 - 9:00 pm
Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew (United Methodist), 263 W. 86th St., New York City (Subway stop: #1 train at 86th St. and Broadway) (map) - Social Hall (downstairs; handicap access via elevator).

Sexual/Romantic Intimacy: Challenges for People Raised in a Cult

Sara B. Waters, MS, MA
, is a psychotherapist and licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and credentialed substance misuse counselor (CASAC) in New York City, with 18 years of experience in the mental health field. She was raised as a “missionary kid” in France in a high demand, fundamentalist, evangelical group and missionary boarding school. She left the group as a teenager and is intimately familiar with the trauma of religious psychological abuse, parental rejection, and loss of community. Sara specializes in treating posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and recovery from high-demand and abusive relationships. In addition to maintaining a private practice in Manhattan, Sara conducts empirical research in psychology and is completing a PhD in Clinical Psychology at The New School for Social Research. For individual or relationship counseling, email sarawaters@protonmail.com or call/text (347) 554-0191. sarabwaters.com.

This talk is an introduction to the ways that cult dynamics can negatively impact the normal sexual development of children. Issues include the effects of institutionalized sexual coercion, hypersexuality and/or sexual repression. Psychological abuse related to sexuality will be discussed, both in terms of sexual and intimacy issues while in the group, and after a person leaves the group. Strategies are offered for developing beneficial attitudes and behaviors related to sexuality and intimacy as a part of healing from cult involvement.
Register Online

New York
October 27, 2017.  7:00 - 9:00 pm
Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew (United Methodist), 263 W. 86th St., New York City (Subway stop: #1 train at 86th St. and Broadway) (map) - Social Hall (downstairs; handicap access via elevator).

Brainwashing: Scientific Concept or Mere Label

Benjamin Zablocki, PhD, Professor of Sociology emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, has been studying cults, communes, and charisma for more than 50 years. He is the author of The Joyful Community (1971) and Alienation and Charisma (1980), as well as numerous articles on these topics. He is co-editor (with Thomas Robbins) of Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field, published in 2001 by University of Toronto Press. This book attempts to find a middle ground between the theories of cult apologists and the theories of those fighting cults. He is currently writing a book developing a biopsychosocial theory of charismatic resocialization—sometimes called thought reform or brainwashing. He says about the book: “My goal is to use recent advances in neuropsychology to give the concept of brainwashing something it has never had and sorely lacks: a precise scientific definition.”