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Overview for Clergy

Michael D. Langone, PhD

Clergy should recognize that joining cults is often related much more to psychological and social influence factors than to an evaluation of a group's theology. Clergy and other religious persons can help families concerned about a loved one or people who have left cultic groups by listening sympathetically and referring them to cult specialists. Religious helpers can also aid the recovery process of those ex-members who need to re-orient themselves spiritually.

Cults vary tremendously.

  • Different people respond differently to the same group.

  • Controversial cults tend to be characterized by control-oriented leadership that places high demands on members, expects compliance, discourages questioning, isolates members from those who might threaten the leader's control, and offers the carrot of a pseudo-elitism to compensate for the members' submission to leadership.

  • Former members are often "gun-shy" about churches or any organization.

  • Religious helpers need to be patient with ex-members' suspicions and fears and offer a safe haven that the ex-member can use when and if he/she wants.

  • Families who seek help about a child in a cult may have good reason to be concerned and should not be dismissed as "overprotective" parents.

  • Religious helpers should encourage families and ex-members to take advantage of specialized resources, such as those ICSA provides.

Although our capacity to give individualized responses to inquiries is limited, we do what we can and, when appropriate and feasible, refer inquirers to people who may be able to give additional assistance. The ICSA network includes experienced helping professionals, some of whom run support groups.

If this service interests you, contact us.


Priority resources bolded.


See ICSA YouTube Channel.

ICSA members have access to additional videos from conferences and virtual events.

Spiritual manipulation in pseudo-Christian cults: A panel discussion with former members. Wendy Duncan, MA, LBSW; Doug Duncan, MS, LPC

Post-Cult Spirituality: Toxic Vs. Healthy. Wendy Duncan, MA, LBSW; Doug Duncan, MS, LPC

MeadowHaven: A Treatment Approach for Long-term Trauma Survivors. Robert Pardon, MDiv

Introduction to Spiritual Abuse. Elisha Cox

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