The following is a selected and annotated list of books written by people who have spoken at ICSA conferences. Views expressed in books are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisers.  ICSA books are listed first. 

Purchase ICSA books/periodicals in ICSA Bookstore.

Wounded Faith: Understanding and Healing from Spiritual Abuse. Edited by Rev. Dr. Neil Damgaard. 

Chapter Contributors: Rev. Dr. Harold Bussell; Ray Connolly; Rev. Dr. Neil Damgaard; Doug Duncan, MS, LPC; Wendy Duncan, MA, LBSW; Rev. Dr. Kenneth Garrett; Mauren Griffo, MA, MEd; Heidi I. Knapp; Patrick J. Knapp, PhD; Michael D. Langone, PhD; Judy Pardon, MEd; Diana Pletts, MA; Eric K. Sweitzer, MTS, PhD

Wounded Faith (Amazon, January 2022) is a new collection of essays edited by the Reverend Dr. Neil Damgaard. It has two audiences in mind: recovering victims and the religious community at large. While it was written as an aid to help victims who are grappling with their faith, the book also seeks to clarify the meaning of spiritual abuse and instruct religious communities on how to effectively welcome victims of spiritual abuse. 

Available in ICSA Bookstore          Available on Amazon

Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working With Former Members and Families.   Editors: Lorna Goldberg, William Goldberg, Rosanne Henry, Michael Langone.  Available in ICSA Bookstore  

This landmark, 500-page book, with chapters from leading clinicians and researchers, describes the current state of the art in helping people adversely affected by a cultic dynamic, whether in a cult, mainstream religious denomination, psychotherapy, family, or other interpersonal relationship.

“Decades of valuable and useful research and treatment experience are contained in these essays. Nothing comparable exists in current mental health literature. It will be the standard reference for treating cult victims for years to come.”

—Stephen Kent, PhD, University of Alberta

“Never before has there been so instructive a collection of information on cult-relevant treatment issues. This book should be in easy reach on the shelf of any clinician who provides such treatment.”

—Robert Cialdini, PhD, Author of Influence and Pre-Suasion

Table of Contents and other Information          Available in ICSA Bookstore

Recovery From Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. Edited by Dr. Michael Langone

This Behavioral Science Book Service selection contains a preface by Margaret Singer and an introduction and historical background chapter by the editor. Section I: Mind Control A Little Carrot and a Lot of Stick: A Case Example Reflections on "Brainwashing" Understanding Mind Control: Exotic and Mundane Mental Manipulations. Section II: Leaving Cults Personal Accounts: Eastern Meditation Group & Bible-based Group Post-cult Problems: An Exit Counselor's Perspective Exit Counseling: A Practical Overview The Importance of Information in Preparing for Exit Counseling. Section III: Facilitating Recovery Post-cult Recovery: Assessment and Rehabilitation Guidelines for: Therapists, Clergy, Support Groups, Families, Ex-members, and Psychiatric Hospitalization of Ex-cultists. Section IV: Special Issues Children and Cults (excerpt) Ritualistic Abuse of Children in Daycare Centers Teen Satanism Legal Considerations. Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse - Hardover (Michael Langone, PhD, Editor). Available in ICSA Bookstore      Book Review.

Coping with Cult Involvement: A Handbook for Families and Friends. By Livia Bardin, M.S.W.

 From the Preface: “Mrs. Bardin conducted her first family workshop in Stony Point, New York in 1997. Subsequently, she conducted workshops in Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Seattle. She has also presented educational programs on cults to a variety of mental health professional groups, as well as the general public. Mrs. Bardin was the right person tackling the right job at the right time. She is a diligent student of the cult phenomenon and brings to the field the practical skills of clinical social work. She also knows how to clarify and organize, to cut through the fog that confuses so many families and to illuminate for them that which is important.” Coping with Cult Involvement: A Handbook for Families and Friends (by Livia Bardin, MSW). Available in ICSA Bookstore   It is also available as a free online PDF.  Book Review.   Meet the Author! Interview With Livia Bardin - YouTube 

Magazine. ICSA Today (IT) serves members of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) by providing information that enhances understanding of all aspects of the cult phenomenon, including how groups function, how they affect members, techniques of influence, dealing with harmful effects, educational and legal implications, and other subjects. ICSA members receive ICSA Today as part of their membership 

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International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation (IJCAM)

The International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation (IJCAM) is a free web journal that encourages, supports, and reports on the work of researchers, mental health professionals, and social scientists who have studied the common psychological dynamics underlying different forms of coercion, abuse, and manipulation across diverse contexts.

Cults on Campus: Continuing Challenge. Edited by Marcia Rudin. 

This book is a collection of essays by college and university administrators, counselors, clergy, and others. The book provides information about campus cult-recruitment techniques and why college students are vulnerable. Contents include: Cults On Campus: The Phenomenon Cults On Campus: How Can You Help? Cult Recruitment of International Students. Satanism and Young People: What Educators Should Know . Cults On Campus: Policy and Legal Issues. The Involvement of College Students in Totalist Groups. Developing an Ethical Code for Proselytizers. Cults On Campus: Training Staff and Educating Students. Training Residence-Hall Staff. Why Resident Assistant Training on Cultism? Working with Cult-Affected Families. Counseling Cult-Impacted Students. The Role of Campus Chaplains. Understanding the Condition of Recovering Ex-Cult Members. How Campus Law Enforcement Personnel Can Monitor Cults. A Multi-Faceted Approach to Preventive-Education Programs. Making Choices: How to Respond to High Pressure Groups. Educating Students at Colleges and Universities.

Available free in PDF format.

Family Interventions for Cult-Affected Loved Ones. Carol Giambalvo. (Originally published as Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention)

This book provides practical information for families with a cult-involved member. The book also has a list of resources and a bibliography.

Available free in PDF format.

Recovery from Abusive Groups. Wendy Ford.

This book provides practical advice for former cult members and their families.

Available free in PDF format.

Satanism & Occult-Related Violence. Michael D. Langone & Linda Blood.

Overview of historical issues and mental health research on the subject. 

Available free in PDF format.

Starting Out in Mainstream America. Livia Bardin

Starting Out in Mainstream America is a free ICSA online book that offers information about life in the USA today. Adjusting to any new culture can be slow, difficult, and painful. If you are entering or preparing for re-entry into mainstream American life after a long absence, or perhaps for the first time, you may have many questions about where to find and how to do things.

The Boston Movement: Critical Perspectives on the International Churches of Christ, 2nd revised edition. Carol Giambalvo & Herbert Rosedale.

Collection of personal accounts and professional reports on this organization.

Available free in PDF format.

Women Under the Influence. Edited by Janja Lalich. 

This special issue of Cultic Studies Journal explores issues of dominance, control, and exploitation of women in groups. Chapters examine why women are attracted to totalistic groups, how they are manipulated, and how they can be helped. Personal accounts provide dramatic examples of the issues discussed.

Available in ICSA Bookstore  

Featured Book

If You Want to Know How I Got Brainwashed. Betsy Dovydenas.    Available in ICSA Bookstore  

"The colorful cover and illustrations on nearly every page of this 224-page book give a first impression of a light and joyful story.  However, it's a serious and painful story. . . I found this to be a harrowing but fulfilling read. Now, paging through this beautiful book, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to Dovydenas for telling her story. She speaks with compassion for her younger self and explains her love for her relatives who stood by her throughout the ordeal and helped her get out."  Nori Muster, ICSA Today, 13(1), 2022.

Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind. Amy J. L. Baker

From a review by Lorna Goldberg: “Those of us who are immersed in the cult field often find that our work has been marginalized by mental health professionals who see us as treating a population that has little to do with the problems they are addressing in their clinical practices. Over the years, I believe we have been able to bridge this gap with those who work with other trauma survivors. Now Dr. Baker has brought some of our cult-related insights into another field—family environments in which children need to maintain total loyalty to one parent at the cost of a relationship with the other parent. This is a family problem that occurs on a continuum of influence, from such behaviors as mild bad-mouthing of the other parent to using an array of strategies that might result in a case of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which happens in the most extreme cases.”

Betrayal of the Spirit. Nori J. Muster.

Nori Muster was a member of the Hare Krishna sect, formally known as the International Society of Krishna Consciousness. This is her personal account of life in that group. Available in ICSA Bookstore. (Books donated to ICSA, so all proceeds go to help ICSA continue its work.)

Born and Raised in a Sect: You are Not Alone. Lois Kendall.

"What is it like to grow up in a strict religion or sect? Why did my parents become involved in this group? Why do people stare at me? Born and Raised in a Sect answers many, often unspoken, questions and enables the reader to better grasp what the experience of a sect upbringing and recovery from it may be like. Dr. Kendall is a leading researcher and a passionate advocate of those born and raised in sects. Her book enables the reader to grasp the enormity of the challenges facing this diverse group of people. . . This book will be of interest to academics and those who support this population, such as loved ones, teachers, clinicians, clergy, or other professionals. Of course, those who might receive the most from reading Born and Raised in a Sect are those who themselves have had this experience. May the words of this book soothe your soul and sharpen your mind." 

Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults. Janja Lalich.

"An impressive and even revolutionary look at cultic groups. Lalich challenges fundamental assumptions on all sides of the debate about cults. She spent years as a member of the Democratic Workers Party and provides her readers with a revealing insider's view. To this, the author adds a much-needed comparative focus with her treatment of the Heaven's Gate suicides. The result is a theoretical breakthrough in the study of high commitment groups. Lalich's theory of 'bounded choice' is likely to reshape scholarly thinking for years to come about the dynamics of cult involvement and how and why people may act against their own self-interest in pursuit of higher causes."--E. Burke Rochford, Jr., author of Hare Krishna in America. 

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. Janet Heimlich.

"This revealing, disturbing, and thoroughly researched book exposes a dark side of faith that most Americans do not know exists or have ignored for a long time—religious child maltreatment. After speaking with dozens of victims, perpetrators, and experts, and reviewing a myriad of court cases and studies, the author explains how religious child maltreatment happens. She then takes an in-depth look at the many forms of child maltreatment found in religious contexts, including biblically-prescribed corporal punishment and beliefs about the necessity of "breaking the wills" of children; scaring kids into faith and other types of emotional maltreatment such as spurning, isolating, and withholding love; pedophilic abuse by religious authorities and the failure of religious organizations to support the victims and punish the perpetrators; and religiously-motivated medical neglect in cases of serious health problems. In a concluding chapter, Heimlich raises questions about children’s rights and proposes changes in societal attitudes and improved legislation to protect children from harm. While fully acknowledging that religion can be a source of great comfort, strength, and inspiration to many young people, Heimlich makes a compelling case that, regardless of one’s religious or secular orientation, maltreatment of children under the cloak of religion can never be justified and should not be tolerated." From

Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult. Jayanti Tamm.

Cartwheels in a Sari reveals the hidden world of growing up ‘cult’ in mainstream America. Before her birth, Jayanti Tamm was prophesied to be the ‘Chosen One,’ by the guru Sri Chinmoy, a man who declared himself ‘God.’ …With humor and provocative insight, Jayanti reveals the allure and illusion of cult life, and the struggle to control her own destiny while risking everything that she has ever known, including the person that she was ordained to be.”

Churches that Abuse. Ronald M. Enroth.

“Not only of value to the religious community, it will be of great use to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, physicians, and academicians. This is a book for those helping and those needing help. Timely, authoritative, and valuable. Gripping reading!” – Margaret Thaler Singer. PDF available online.

Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults. Steven Hassan.

From the publisher: “If you're reading CCMC for the first time, please know that you've found a safe, respectful, compassionate place. This book can help you protect-or regain-your sanity, freedom, and health. It can also help you protect others from the use of mind-control techniques. In this 25th anniversary volume you'll find: New stories of people who fell under the sway of cults and other forms of undue influence but who were able to break free. New information on the many sophisticated ways social media are now used for mind control. Updates on the many types of organizations that use mind control Information on the neuroscience behind mind control. A look at what legislators, courts, mental health professionals, and ordinary citizens can do to resist mind control and make our world a safer place. The techniques of undue influence have evolved dramatically, and continue to do so.”

Crazy Therapies. Margaret Singer & Janja Lalich

This book is a startling expose of the alternative philosophies and practices that can be found in today’s ever-growing psychotherapeutic marketplace. The book describes actual case histories of people who participated in a variety of controversial therapies. The authors outline methods and guidelines for distinguishing a legitimate therapeutic approach from one that is irrational, possibly harmful, and sometimes unethical.

Cult Proofing Your Kids. Paul R. Martin.

From the Publisher: “No matter how spiritual you are, no matter how strong your family, you could lose your child to the siren call of the cults. Time and time again Dr. Paul Martin has seen dedicated Christian young people fall into the trap of cults and fringe churches…Dr. Martin shares his expertise in the first book about cults designed especially for concerned Christian parents.” 

Cults Inside Out. Rick Alan Ross.

From the publisher: “In his masterful new book…Rick Ross has delivered an exceptional critically needed resource. He has gathered together in one comprehensive volume detailed documented information about the diverse and growing number of controlling persons and groups preying on individuals, families, and communities in the United States and worldwide.”

Cult Survivor’s Handbook. Nori Muster.

This book by former ISKCON (Hare Krishna) devotee, Nori Muster, offers reflections and advice to people coming out of cultic groups. Subjects discussed include: family therapy, abuse recovery, depth psychology, the Twelve Steps, mind-body healing, art therapy and Gestalt, post-cult spirituality.

Cults in Our Midst. Margaret Thaler Singer

This book explains what cults are and how they work and offers vital information on how to help people leave cults and recover from the experience. The book is filled with practical suggestions for former members, family members, and professionals. Synopsis: The country's leading authority on cults, Margaret Thaler Singer, calls on her nearly fifty years of expertise to write the definitive book on cults. Written with author and former cult member Janja Lalich, Singer's first book is a shocking expose' that reveals what cults are and how they work. Cults in Our Midst offers vital information on how to help people escape cult entrapments and recover from the experience. This compelling book debunks commonly held myths and answers perplexing questions about cults. Cults in our Midst is filled with practical strategies and suggestions for understanding the cult phenomenon and helping the cult members break free.

Damaged Disciples. Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding Movement. . Ron & Vicki Burks.

This book is an account of the years the authors spent in the shepherding movement and their struggle to break free and rebuild their lives. 

Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery. Masoud Banisadr

A compelling yet optimistic account of ideological entrapment, setting out a prescient and persuasive new theoretical framework that advances our understanding of destructive and terrorist cults and how they can be avoided and ultimately transcended.

Easily Fooled: New Insights and Techniques for Resisting Manipulation. Bob Fellows. In this book Bob Fellows reveals through magic and "mind reading" methods that we can all be manipulated no matter how intelligent we are. He also shows how we can resist manipulation and take charge of our lives

From Dean’s List to Dumpsters. Jim Guerra.

This book relates the author’s 10 years in the Brother Evangelist nomadic cult. The author says: “I was seduced into the group from Harvard University and spent over a decade alienated from my family and friends, scared to leave because I was afraid for my immortal soul. How could a bright man fall into this trap and not realize it for years? You will enjoy seeing the cult process from my eyes as I experienced it.”

From Slogans to Mantras. Stephen Kent.

Drawing from his own memories, from published accounts of the anti-war movement during the 1960s and early 1970s, and interviews with people who went through the process, Kent (sociology, U. of Alberta) details how political radicals suddenly transformed themselves into political adherents to various exotic and often obscure religious sects. Publishers Weekly: “In this lucid and economical study, sociologist Kent examines a little-noted confluence: the same years that saw American youth delving into radical politics and protesting war also saw them turn to unusual, sometimes cultish, spiritual traditions. Kent challenges traditional scholarship by arguing that such conversions to alternative religious traditions marked ‘a crisis of means,’ not a ‘a crisis of meaning,’ as has often been assumed. Political activism, says Kent, was meant to accomplish something: above all, to end the Vietnam War. When it became increasingly apparent that countercultural politics were not, in fact, achieving the desired ends, activists discovered other methods in new religious groups. That a disaffected generation should turn to spirituality is not surprising; that it should do so for political reasons is indeed interesting.”

God’s Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped. Andrea Moore-Emmett.

A chilling indictment of contemporary Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy, God's Brothel reveals gruesome facts about Bible-based polygamy through the brave voices of 18 women who escaped from 10 of the 11 main religious groups as well as independent families. Their stories include rape, incest, orgies, and violence, making this form of polygamy more akin to sexual slavery than to any quaint religious or lifestyle choice.

Heartbreak and Rage. K. Gordon Neufeld.

In this book the author describes his experiences in the Unification Church, including his rising to the position of a leader-in-training at the Unification Theological Seminary, his arranged marriage, and growing disillusionment that led ultimately to his walking away from the organization to which he had devoted so much of his life.

Heaven’s Harlots: My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult. Miriam Williams.

An explosive first-person account by a young woman who spent fifteen years in a sex cult called the Children of God, which encouraged "sacred prostitution" and taught that "The Lord is our pimp." Miriam Williams was an idealistic child of the sixties who, at seventeen, accepted an invitation from a "Jesus person" to visit a commune in upstate New York. She would soon be prostituting herself for a perverse cult that used sex to lure sinners to the Lord -- and this is her shocking, searingly honest account of a fifteen-year spiritual odyssey gone haywire. The Children of God turned its female devotees into Heaven's Harlots, leading strangers to the love of God by enticing them with the pleasures of the flesh. At its height, the cult boasted 19,000 members around the world: In such places as France and Monte Carlo, young women, Miriam among them, mingled with the rich and famous to save their souls, and in this unsparing, unnerving autobiography, she'll identify some of her high-profile "clients." She left this bizarre world in an attempt to protect her son, born through an arranged marriage and kidnapped by his father. Now, in a clear, compelling, cautionary tale, she shares both her extraordinary existence as a holy whore and the daunting experience of rebuilding a normal life -- an ordeal that led her to found a group dedicated to helping other cult survivors reclaim their souls as well.

Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Maia Szalavitz.

An investigative exposé of the brutal conditions in treatment programs for troubled teens, fueled by rigorous reporting and shocking first-person accounts. The troubled-teen industry, with its scaremongering and claims of miraculous changes in behavior through harsh discipline, has existed in one form or another for decades, despite a dearth of evidence supporting its methods. And the growing number of programs that make up this industry are today finding more customers than ever. Maia Szalavitz's Help at Any Cost is the first in-depth investigation of this industry and its practices, starting with its roots in the cult-like sixties rehabilitation program Synanon and Large Group Awareness Training organizations like est in the seventies; continuing with Straight, Inc., which received Nancy Reagan's seal of approval in the eighties; and culminating with a look at the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs-the leading force in the industry today-which has begun setting up shop in foreign countries to avoid regulation. Szalavitz uncovers disturbing findings about these programs' methods, including allegation of physical and verbal abuse, and presents us with moving, often horrifying, first-person accounts of kids who made it through-as well as stories of those who didn't survive. The book also contains a thoughtfully compiled guide for parents, which details effective treatment alternatives.

Heresy of Mind Control. Stephen Martin.

This book, according to James Bjornstad, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, retired, “discusses and illustrates the dynamics of mind control found in totalitarian groups, including cults, religion, terrorists, etc.” 

Human Trafficking: Emerging Legal Issues and Applications. Nora M. Cronin; Kimberly A. Ellis (Eds.)

This book offers practical, tested, and cutting-edge approaches to addressing human trafficking and remediating its victims. It explores new digital technologies used to investigate the crime; tools for attorneys representing victims in criminal, labor, and immigration cases; and ways to help child victims of sex trafficking. This book proposes unique solutions to human trafficking in the United States, Australia, and Europe that can be applied elsewhere in the world. It explores the intersection of human trafficking with other phenomena such as cults, drug trafficking, human rights, and gender issues. Importantly, this book unveils the cutting-edge Social Influence Model for admitting evidence of undue influence and coercion into court when trafficking victims find themselves on the wrong side of a prosecution. Written for practitioners working in the courts and on the ground, Human Trafficking: Emerging Legal Issues and Applications is an essential tool for righting the wrongs of human trafficking. Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company, Inc.

I am Revealed: Behind the Ashram Door. Robin Barbosa.

This book is a personal saga of a gripping milieu of control within a high demand group, dubbed, World Organization of Righteous King Service (WORKS).   This cautionary tale brings the reader behind the scenes, (Behind the Ashram Door), tracing the steps to loss of autonomy, and gripping terror of the unthinkable act of ever leaving, for fear of the outside world.  It reveals the nuances of cult indoctrination.   More info.

I Can’t Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult. Wendy J. Duncan.

This book “is an extremely well-written, sensitive and insightful accounting of the author’s experience in an abusive religious group…Her courageous journey through understanding thought reform techniques and the recovery process serves as an encouragement to ex-members who are struggling to get their identity and life back.” Carol Giambalvo, Director of Recovery Programs, ICSA. Now available as an audiobook.

In the House of Friends: Understanding and Healing From Spiritual Abuse in Christian Churches. Kenneth J. Garrett.

This book is written for survivors of abusive churches, their families and friends, and all who want to understand spiritual abuse and help the abused. Dr. Garrett is a long-term pastor of a diverse, urban congregation and combines personal experience, sound academic research, and pastoral theology to address a poorly understood, rarely admitted problem today—spiritual abuse in Christian churches.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Robert Cialdini.

This book is the result of years of study into the reasons that people comply with requests in business settings. It has sold over a quarter million copies in nine languages. Not directly about cults, this book is nonetheless very useful because the author explains many of the everyday social psychological mechanisms that are used extensively in cultic environments.

Inside Out: A Memoir of Entering and Breaking Out of a Minneapolis Political Cult. Alexandra Stein.

"The most gripping inside account of a cult that I have ever read. It is also a literary masterpiece, and a classic of autobiographical writing. By the end, readers will care passionately about the author, her family, and the many characters that illuminate these pages." Dr. Dennis Tourish, Department of Communication and Management, Aberdeen University, Scotland.

Losing the Way: A Memoir of Spiritual Longing, Manipulation, Abuse, and Escape. Kristen Skedgell.

The author, a former member of The Way International, shows how easily an idealistic young person can be swept away by a spiritual quest and manipulated through the quiet malevolence lurking beneath the religious exterior of a false leader.

Memory, Trauma Treatment, and the Law. Daniel Brown, Alan W. Scheflin and D. Corydon Hammond.

From a book review by Helen McGonigle: “A comprehensive review of the literature and research on trauma, memory, post-traumatic stress, dissociative amnesia, hypnosis and related legal cases, Memory, Trauma Treatment and the Law received the American Psychiatric Association's 1998 Manfred S. Guttmacher Award as the most outstanding publication in forensic psychiatry. The award is well deserved. This book represents the combined knowledge of three prominent experts in the fields of memory, trauma, post-traumatic stress, suggestibility, hypnosis, mind control and behavior control. An extensive bibliography allows the serious researcher to consult original source materials and provides the opportunity for further study. This book is an excellent reference for mental health providers, legal experts, child abuse investigators, researchers, policy makers, attorneys, and judges involved in legal cases where issues concerning memory, suggestibility, or hypnosis arise.”

Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field. Edited by Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins.

From a book review by Arthur Dole: “Twenty years ago, most sociologists and other academics who specialized in the study of religion ignored or dismissed the handful of scholars and helping professionals who called attention to the harmfulness of some cults. These cult sympathizers disregarded or disparaged without proper examination evidence that certain new religions applied “brainwashing,” or mind control, to recruit and retain converts. For years sympathizers and had little to do with cult critics. At last, however, sociologists Zablocki and Robbins, together with eight other contributors divided among cult sympathizers and critics, have presented diverse views in a search for ‘objectivity in a controversial field.’”

My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru. Tim Guest.

From the publisher: “Followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh behaved like children. They were completely dependent on their patriarch but they played very grown-up games, including mass poisoning. Among them was Guest's mother, whose overwhelming quest for self was her ticket straight into the underworld of the Bhagwan from the time Guest was six years old. As the movement grew and became even more destructive, and his oblivious mother became more and more involved, Guest was moved with and without her from commune to commune according to the whims and absolute authority of those who claimed they were creating heaven. Instead they created abandoned buildings, purloined cash, shattered dreams, and adults like Guest who are marked by the neglect suffered in a childhood among the completely self-absorbed.”

Not Without My Sister. Celeste Jones, Kristina Jones, and Juliana Buhring.

The story of three sisters raised in the Children of God. From the publisher: “Here, all three sisters, who suffered the worst forms of abuse, and were torn apart from each other, have finally been reunited. In Not Without My Sister, they relive their experiences of how they survived – and then escaped – a cult that has claimed the lives and innocence of thousands of its members.” 

Opening Minds: The Secret World of Manipulation, Undue Influence, and Brainwashing. Jon Atack.

From the Introduction: "Honest persuasion is the foundation of an ethical society...However, we also live in an age where dishonest persuasion is applied every day, all, day, to subvert reasoning through direct appeals to our emotions...By writing this book, I hope to encourage a long-overdue conversation that will raise public awareness and lead to better research and education into this almost neglected subject."

Our Father Who Art in Bed. J. Paul Lennon.

A former priest in the Legion of Christ, Paul Lennon discusses his experiences as “a naïve and sentimental Dubliner” who spent more than 20 years in this high-control organization. 

Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control. Luna Lindsey.

Those who leave Mormonism, and those doubters who stay, face struggles that few others can understand. Much of this suffering is caused by manipulative and controlling techniques pervasive throughout LDS doctrines and culture. Understanding these techniques will help recovering Mormons (and former members of other groups) overcome the effects of belonging to a high-demand group. Recovering Agency presents years of research into social psychology and the science of cult dynamics, describing 31 mind control techniques, alongside examples of their use in Mormon scripture, lessons, and from the pulpit. Even if you have never been Mormon, these coercive influence techniques are nearly identical in other abusive groups. Turn the pages and learn the answers to longstanding questions about this unique American religion and about the human mind. Available on Amazon.

Recovering from Churches that Abuse. Ronald Enroth.

From a book review by Frank MacHovec. “This is a short book, but the material is concise, readable, useful, and well referenced. There is an appendix of checklists of factors and forces in ‘abusive groups’ and in recovery from them. Six pages of footnotes further document and clarify the book's content. Enroth is a sociologist who has written other books on cults and new religions and this book's format and content attest to his expertise. His writing style is clear and the development of the subject logical and well documented. The material reflects a knowledge of the subject and insight into the cognitive, affective, and spiritual factors involved in spiritual abuse.” (Available online)

Releasing the Bonds. Steve Hassan.

From the publisher: “The number of destructive mind control groups is growing, with estimates as high as 5,000 in the U.S. alone. Steven Hassan, himself a former member of the Unification Church, addresses the problem in Releasing the Bonds. Based on insider knowledge, years of scientific study, and the author's frequent workshops, the book offers a noncoercive, legal model for helping victims of mind control. The Strategic Interaction Approach teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved, laying out practical methods for recognizing the signs of a destructive relationship, undoing residual effects of past cult experiences, refuting fallacies about these groups, and becoming active in opposing them.”

Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements. Edited by Eileen Barker.

From the publisher: “This book explores different ways in which, as NRMs develop, stagnate, fade away, or abruptly cease to exist, certain orthodoxies and practices have, for one reason or another, been dropped or radically altered. Sometimes such changes are adapted by only a section of the movement, resulting in schism. Of particular concern are processes that might lead to violent and/or anti-social behavior.”

Servant of the Lotus Feet: A Hare Krishna Odyssey. Gabriel Brandis.

This book tells the true story of an adolescent's quest for spiritual meaning and his years in the Hare Krishna movement. Disillusioned by the contradictions and deceits perpetrated by the elders of the Indian religious cult, including his and other allegedly "pure" spiritual masters, he gradually backs out of the movement. While visiting his family for a holiday reunion, he is abducted and compelled to review the facts about the religious cult he had embraced. 

Spiritual Abuse Resources

This 16-page ICSA booklet includes a list of resources, an article by Michael Langone, PhD entitled "Guidelines for Spiritually Abused Persons," and an article by Rev. Neil Damgaard entitled "A Safe-Haven Church: An Introduction to the Basics of a Safe Religious Community."  Available in ICSA Bookstore.

Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships. Janja Lalich & Madeleine Tobias.

This book is an informative and useful introduction to the cult phenomenon. Take Back Your Life provides hands-on help for former members, their families, and professionals. It includes personal stories of healing and recovery, an analysis of cult leaders, an extensive list of resources, and sections on family issues. “Take Back Your Life is must reading for everyone who wants to understand the powerful appeal that cults have for so many ordinary people, using so many disguises, with so many subtle tactics. This book’s wisdom is vital for us all.” —Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. Bruce Perry & Maia Szalavitz.

A world-renowned child psychiatrist takes us inside his pioneering work with trauma victims to offer a groundbreaking new perspective on how stress and violence affect children's brains-and how they can be helped to heal. Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, witnesses, children raised in closets and cages, and victims of family violence. Here he tells their stories of trauma and transformation. Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, is the Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy ( He has served as a consultant to the FBI and is the former Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital, as well as former Vice-Chairman for Research in the Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. He lives in Houston, Texas, and Alberta, Canada. Maia Szalavitz is an award-winning journalist who specializes in science and health. 

The Challenge to Heal: A Recovery Guide to Help Reclaim Your LIfe After Leaving any High-Control Group. Bonnie Zieman

From the Introduction: "We will look at how to cope with the results of mind-control, traumatic stress, disempowerment, as well as the process of change, the inevitability of loss, ways to bear our losses, how to cope with and release painful emotions, how to re-educate ourselves, how to restore a sense of inner control, and how to begin to build competence in preparation for a new, independent life. Above all, we will look at practical strategies designed to help with healing from manipulation and exploitation, and regain our autonomous and authentic self - and life."

The Cult Phenomenon: How Groups Function. Mike Kropveld & Marie-Andrée Pelland

From the Introduction: "The “cult” phenomenon is first and foremost a group phenomenon. Understanding how groups operate and the rules that govern interpersonal relations can provide insight into all of the organizations termed “cults” or “new religious movements.” Info-Cult produced this publication to address these various issues and to inform the public about the internal and external functioning of groups. Work on this publication began in 1999, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the National Assembly's adoption of the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the 20th anniversary of the creation of Info-Cult. Four years later, the project has become a reality. This book, inspired by the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms as well as a desire to understand how these groups operate in a democratic society, explores various aspects of the “cult” phenomenon.

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping From Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority. David Johnson & Jeff vanVonderen.

From the Publisher: “Breaking the Silence on an Abuse Within the Church That Leaves Christians Feeling "Used," Manipulated and Shamed. Churches are meant to be safe places where spiritual leaders help and equip the members for the work of service. There are some churches, however, where leaders use their spiritual authority to control and dominate others, attempting to meet their own needs for importance, power, intimacy or spiritual gratification. Through the subtle use of the right "spiritual" words, church members are manipulated or shamed into certain behaviors or performance that ensnares in legalism, guilt and begrudging service. This is spiritual abuse, and the results can be shattering. Deeply ingrained spiritual codes of written and unwritten rules control and condemn, wounding believers’ spirits and keeping them from the grace and joy of God’s kingdom. Believers find themselves enslaved to a system, a leader, a standard of performance that saps true spiritual life. This is a message for Christians who feel they are spiritually abused and for those who might be causing it. Authors VanVonderen and Johnson address these important themes and point the way toward freedom: What are the abusive spiritual dynamics that can develop in a church? How do people get hooked into these abusive systems? What are the marks of false spiritual leadership and their impact on a congregation?”

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Robert J. Lifton, MD.

This classic work describes Dr. Robert J. Lifton’s work with Korean-War POWs and Chinese civilians subjected to thought reform programs in the early 1950s. Dr. Lifton’s analysis of the eight themes of totalism has helped countless form members of cultic groups and psychological abuse better understand their experiences.

Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain—bogus science, hidden agendas, and David Lynch’s campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation while falsely claiming it is not a religion.  Aryeh Siegel.Los Angeles, CA: Janreg Press. (2018). ISBN-10: 0999661507; ISBN-13: 978-0-9996615-0-5 (paperback). $17.99 (; $9.99, Kindle). 222 pages. Reviewed by Joseph Szimhart (ICSA E-Newsletter, August 18, 2018). Available in ICSA Available in ICSA Bookstore. (Books donated to ICSA, so all proceeds go to help ICSA continue its work.)

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. Judith Herman.

“When Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery was first published five years ago, it was hailed as a groundbreaking work. In the intervening years, Herman's now classic volume has changed the way we think about and treat traumatic events and trauma victims. In a new introduction, Herman chronicles the incredible response the book has elicited and explains how the issues surrounding the topic of trauma and recovery have shifted within the clinical community and the culture at large. Trauma and Recovery brings a new level of understanding to a set of problems usually considered individually. Herman draws on her own cutting-edge research on domestic violence, as well as on a vast literature of combat veterans and victims of political terror, to show the parallels between private terrors such as rape and public traumas such as terrorism. The book puts individual experience in a broader political frame, arguing that psychological trauma can be understood only in a social context. Meticulously documented and frequently using the victims own words as well as those from classic literary works and prison diaries, Trauma and Recovery is a powerful work that will continue to profoundly impact our thinking. Annotation"...a psychology classic, called one of the most important psychiatric works since Freud, containing a new afterword by its author...discusses how violence in all forms affects its survivors and how those survivors cope." Publishers Weekly.

Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. Dan Shaw.

From a review by Gillie Jenkinson: “Shaw’s book is clearly organized and is an important contribution to both the psychotherapy and the cultic-studies fields. He stands on the shoulders of many great psychoanalytic thinkers and practitioners who have attempted to describe the complex phenomena of pathological and traumatizing narcissism, and how to work clinically with its various presentations. Shaw is an original thinker. He has used his own personal experience of being in a cult with a traumatizing narcissist at the helm and his extensive clinical experience as a psychoanalyst to inform this theoretical and clinical contribution. This book is a must for psychotherapists because it addresses the theoretical and clinical issues of working with both the victims of a traumatizing narcissist (referred hereafter as TN) and with TNs themselves—although he notes that, by nature of their disorder, TNs rarely attend psychoanalysis. Shaw also addresses degrees of authoritarianism and TN in supervision and in therapy, where, in some cases, the therapist has become an abusive TN and in effect a cult leader.”

Understanding Religious Abuse and Recovery: Discovering Essential Principles for Hope and Healing. Patrick J. Knapp.

Currently there are at least four major, identifiable perspectives on how people best understand and recover from religious abuse. Both secular and faith-based (Christian) adherents can be variously identified in each of these approaches. This book examines these viewpoints and evaluates their various strengths and limitations. It concludes that each perspective is helpful to the extent possible, given the limitations of its respective philosophic or theological assumptions. This book summarizes each viewpoint and suggests a larger contextual perspective, helpful to better understand involvement in and recovery from religiously abusive environments. The conclusion is an integration of the various conceptual frameworks, and a different model (SECURE) is described that includes essential principles and practical strategies necessary for recovery from religious abuse. Suggestions are made for future research and study both for academics with interest in the cultic studies and counseling fields, and for various people negatively affected by religious abuse and in need of recovery.

Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International. Charlene L. Edge.

A "riveting memoir about the power of words to seduce, betray, and, in her case, eventually save. After a personal tragedy left her bereft, teenaged Charlene rejected faith and family when recruiters drew her into The Way International, a sect led by the charismatic Victor Paul Wierwille. The Way became one of the largest cults in America. Charlene gave it seventeen years of her life...Eventually Charlene was promoted to the inner circle of biblical researchers, where she discovered devastating secrets: Wierwille twisted texts of Scripture to serve his personal agenda, shamelessly plagiarized the work of others, and misrepresented the purpose of his organization. Worst of all, after Wierwille died in 1985, shocking reports surfaced of his secret sex ring. Amid chaos at The Way's Ohio-based headquarters, Charlene knew she had to escape--for her own survival and her child's." - from Available in ICSA Bookstore. (Books donated to ICSA, so all proceeds go to help ICSA continue its work.)

Whispering in the Daylight: The Children of Tony Alamo's Christian Ministry and Their Journey to Freedom. Debby Schriver

University of Tennessee Press. Coming in early 2018. “What is new about this book is that it describes the journey of second-generation former cult members (SGA’s) who were rescued from the cult as children or teenagers . . . The section on the interviews with the children in which they described their own post-cult growth was incredibly interesting. Gaining insight into the lives of these children while they were in the cult and after they left has not been done before in this way. I appreciated this new approach to information in the cult field.” —Lorna Goldberg L.C.S.W., Psy.A., Director, Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Past President, International Cultic Studies Association. Available in ICSA Bookstore. (Books donated to ICSA, so all proceeds go to help ICSA continue its work.)