Discussion, Consultation, and Support Groups
ICSA provides this list of consultation and support groups for informational purposes only. The views and methods of individuals leading support groups are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisers. Individuals using this list should exercise discretion and make sure that a group is right for them. ICSA’s Counseling Resources page provides information on seeking counseling and links to credible resources, such as the American Psychological Association. The page also provides biographical and contact information on counselors around the world.
Groups are listed alphabetically US states first, then other countries, then online groups.
Colleen Russell, LMFT, and Certified Group Psychotherapist, has maintained a general psychotherapy practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond since 1992. Her area of expertise is trauma, loss, cult and high demand group relationship survivors, as well as family and loved ones affected by them. She is also a former member in her young adulthood. She provides online consultations, individual, couple, and family sessions. In addition to the above she offers:
Online Workshop/Support Sessions for Cult or High Demand Group and Relationship Survivors, including those born and raised in them. These small, personalized workshops are available on a drop-in basis with no more than 10 – 15 participants each session that includes “regulars” . Colleen has facilitated these workshops for over 10 years and she sends psychoeducational resources based on participants’ interests the Friday prior to the workshop so participants can choose topics they want to discuss and explore. $50 per 2 hour session, alternate Saturdays 10 – 12 Noon Pacific Time. Contact Colleen if interested: Website www.colleenrussellmft.com; Email: email@example.com. Phone: 415-785-3513.
Rachel Bernstein, MSEd, LMFT in addition to seeing clients in private practice, she currently facilitates a support group in Encino, CA for former members and family of current members. Phone: (818) 907-0036 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org | www.rachelbernsteintherapy.com
Jeana Roth, MA, LPC, NCC, leads groups for individuals coming out of spiritually abusive situations (especially toxic churches) in St Louis, Missouri. Each group is 8 weeks long and combines psycho education and group counseling. Next group scheduled for September, but inquire ASAP as there is a running list and the group often fills up. Email Jeana or call at 636-489-4822. email@example.com
New York / New Jersey
Englewood, NJ: Monthly support group for former members of cultic groups. Bill Goldberg, LCSW & Lorna Goldberg, LCSW | Phone: 201-894-8515 | Website: blgoldberg.com |Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We began our support group for former cult members in 1976 because we felt that this meeting would allow ex-cult members to gain support and ideas for coping with post-cult issues. Our group is the longest-running group of its kind in the world.
Meetings are held monthly on Saturday evenings. Since the onset of the pandemic, our meetings have been conducted on Zoom. The meetings begin at 7:30 PM EST and end at 9:00 PM EST. We send a Zoom invitation to participants before each session.
Before being invited to participate, potential members must meet with one of us for an intake/consultation. The focus of this consultation is centered on the individual's cult experience. It adds to former cult members’ understanding of their specific circumstance, and we make recommendations for helpful resources at that time. We try to ensure that everyone attending our group is a former cultist. The intake/consultation also allows potential group participants to ask questions about the group. If the potential member and we agree that the group would be a good fit, we invite them to participate. There is no fee for the intake or for the support group.
Group members are free to attend as many meetings as they wish. Some come for one or two sessions. Some come regularly. Others attend meetings when they need to touch base or deal with a particular issue that develops.
Those interested in attending meetings or who have questions about the support group can telephone or email us.
Dana Wehle, LCSW, MFA, certified psychoanalyst, cult therapist with a background in fine arts and interest in the impact of undue influence on creativity. The bi-weekly, 1.5 hour, 6-7 person group is offered as an adjunct to commitment to current long term individual trauma-informed psychodynamic therapy. The group addresses 1) creativity as part of emotional survival since childhood, 2) early cult and non-cult experience of the suppression of subjective voice, and 3) current obstacles and positive experiences in relation to creativity.
So as not to frustrate people with a potential interest in the group, please note this group builds on an individual’s current work in long-term psychodynamic individual therapy (with me or elsewhere) and is not a stand-alone support group. If you are not currently in long-term individual psychodynamic therapy, please feel free to get in touch to discuss beginning individual therapy with me. After a period of time, we can discuss whether the group is or is not a good fit. This clear structure provides a common basis for those who have a deep commitment to the benefits of simultaneously being in individual and group psychodynamic, creativity and trauma-informed therapy.
Pre-group screening required. The group is currently offered in person on the first and third Thursdays of every month in New York City. Dana Wehle, LCSW, MFA Phone: 212-479-7963 | Email: email@example.com
We are a Christ-centered support group for folks who are trying to break free from dangerous high control or cult groups. We believe what often keeps people from getting the help they need is the fear of the word cult (which is the root word of words like culture or cultivate; which simply means to group). The danger comes when the group begins to isolate members, elevate leaders, and mutilate truth, all in the name of "god" or "religion." Our goal is to educate, come along side, and encourage relationship, all in the name of Jesus Christ. We meet one night a week for eight weeks and off for 4 weeks and back on a rotating schedule in Columbus, Ohio. This group is now conducted via Zoom. Please contact Gina Harding for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education (SAFE). The Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education is a regular meet-up in Portland, Oregon for those who have left or are considering leaving high-demand religious groups, and for those with friends and loved ones who are members of such groups. SAFE offers education and support in a low-key, relaxed setting. Survivors from all high-demand groups and religions are welcome. This group is led by survivors and educators experienced with spiritual abuse. If you are interested in learning more about SAFE or attending a meet-up, please visit https://www.safeportland.org/.
Doug and Wendy Duncan have been facilitating a monthly support group for former members of cults/spiritually abusive groups for over 15 years. Although both Doug and Wendy are licensed mental health professions, the group is run as a peer-support group rather than a therapy group. They were both involved in a pseudo-Christian spiritually abusive cult and understand the emotions and tasks of recovering. The group is free and is held on the 3rd Saturday of every month from 4:00-5:30. The group is currently an on-line group due to the coronavirus pandemic and is available to individuals across the United States.
Generally, the group opens with psychoeducation on spiritual/cultic abuse recovery followed by a period of open discussion among the participants. The Duncans believe that the most helpful part of the group is the opportunity for individuals to tell their stories in a safe environment and receive support and feedback from people who have been through similar experiences and who will not judge them. There are no requirements or expectations regarding the frequency of attendance.
In Judith Hermann’s book, Trauma and Recovery, she writes, “The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections. Recovery can take place only within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation.”
Individuals wishing to attend must be screened by one of the leaders prior to attending the group. This can either be done by telephone or email contact.
Gerette Buglion and Mark Laxer run a monthly community discussion forum on the first Tuesday of every month in Morrisville, VT. Cults & Culture is a forum for engaging dialog about the role of power, authority and control in groups. For questions, contact Gerette Buglion at email@example.com *NOTE* The group is on hold due to Covid 19.
Washington, DC Area
A virtual Washington, DC area cult recovery support group meets once a month via Zoom. If you would like to attend the support group, please contact Mary Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Mary Janetzki, a generalist psychologist in Brisbane Australia, has run a monthly support group for ex-cult members for about 4 years. email@example.com
Virtual Support Group for Former Members
Info-Cult: Centre for Assistance and for the Study of Cultic Phenomena runs monthly support groups for former members, in English and in French. They are intended for those who have experienced or are experiencing controlling relationships. This can include various challenges in connection with groups, systems or environments with a high level of commitments, demands or control.
Info-Cult also runs a support group, in French, for the friends and family of persons currently or formerly involved in controlling relationships or groups.
The aim of these support groups is to provide a confidential space for people to share with others who have had similar experiences and to help cope with feelings of isolation. The meetings are facilitated by experienced professionals, who act as hosts and moderators. Participation is voluntary and attendance can be more or less regular.
To take part in the support group meeting for former members, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the support group for family and friends, please contact: email@example.com
The project "destruktive Gruppen" runs a Berlin-based support group for former members of high-demand groups and cults .The support group was founded in 2018, developed and facilitated by Jan Buschbom and Gloriett Kargl. An individual consultation is requested prior to participation. German website: https://destruktive-gruppen.de
Julia Isomettä, (social worker and Deacon) runs a support group in Stockholm, Sweden, together with a social worker/therapist every second week. My co-worker has a background in a cultic group and so have I. We have run groups for about two years. We are using ”Hjälpkällan ” site on Facebook to invite people to come to our group. We are both educated and we talk a lot of how control and manipulation affect us, and also about the problems people experience after leaving. You are welcome to contact me If you have further questions: firstname.lastname@example.org (Note: Our groups had a pause almost for a year now. Our plans are to go digital and have zoom meetings first and when it is possible, also have meetings in person. In the future, we probably will meet up with both zoom and in person.)
The Family Survival Trust runs a London-based support group for ex-cult members and others affected by cults. It meets monthly. To inquire email: email@example.com
Online Support Groups
Becoming Free - New Virtual Support Group for Women. The Women's support group was completed back in March 2022. We do not currently have a group running, but will likely start another before the end of the year and will keep you posted. Becoming Free is located near Denver Colorado. Through offering an online format, we look forward to providing a group experience for women living in Colorado and for those living in other parts of the United States. More info.
“Dear Demeter” – Online Member-Run Family Support Group. This group is for family members who have loved ones in cults or relationships of undue influence. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emerging Faith. This online group is a safe place where people can go to engage with others who have left faith-based belief systems and are looking for community. The process to join is to simply email email@example.com for more consideration.
Laura Prickett (spiritual director and dream group facilitator) hosts an online group on the topic of Dreams and Recovery from Spiritual Abuse. This "closed" Facebook group is for those of us who feel we have experienced spiritual abuse to share our experiences and learn from one another about how dreams that we have while sleeping may relate to our recovery. To join the group, please contact Laura by visiting the "contact" page of her website at: www.spiritmirrorstudio.com/contact.php.
The Waldorf-Anthroposophy-Steiner Survivors Only (WASSO) email discussion list (WASSO) is an international online discussion and support group for those who have had negative experiences related to Waldorf Schools, Anthroposophy, Camphill, and other programs based on the occult ideas of Rudolf Steiner. Current members include former Steiner Waldorf School students and teachers, parents of former Steiner Waldorf students, and others by approval of the volunteer moderators. Members are welcome to share personal stories, ask questions, and express concerns—from the personal to the more global—about Waldorf education and related topics. All posts to the list are confidential—for list members only.
Please note that although members often provide each other with emotional support, the moderators are not mental health professionals and cannot offer real counseling. The international team of list moderators has many years of experience with Anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf schools and is experienced in dealing with sensitive issues and privacy concerns of applicants. English is the language of the list but perfect written English is not necessary. For reasons of confidentiality, privacy and integrity of this online community, all candidates for membership are required to share their real names, addresses, phone numbers and basic reasons for wanting to join with the moderators only. This information will be kept completely confidential. After acceptance to the group, members are free to use pseudonyms and are under no obligation to share identity or location with anyone. If you have had a disturbing experience with Waldorf education or any other Anthroposophy/Steiner related program and are looking for support in a respectful online environment, our group might be of some help. To apply for membership please follow the link provided at http://waldorfcritics.org/survivors.html.
Dr. Jill Aebi-Mytton has run an email list support group for the past 20 years for former members of the Exclusive Brethren. The email group is called FEEB - Family of Ex Exclusive Brethren. We welcome former members of the brethren to join. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The HEART (healing from emotional, anger and relational trauma) groups cosponsored by FamilyKind (that works with families going through divorce) and QLICS (Queens Long Island Community Services offering counseling services) directed by Dr. Paul Engel DHL, LCSW incorporates forgiveness, gratitude, anger management and other emotional healing from narcissistic trauma and gaslighting for those who have experience from a group, community, or various one-on-one relationships. The group includes educational information and time for the members to support each other. Call: 516-547-4318 for more information.