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.
Mary Jo Cysewski, LMFT, LPCC in addition to meeting with clients for individual therapy, she is currently offering three monthly support groups on the 4th Sunday of each month. These are not "walk in" groups, all potential support group members are screened for participation.
1:00 – 2:30 - Coercive Controllers
3:00 – 4:30 - 2nd Generation/Growing Up in a High Demand Group
5:00 – 6:30 - Former Members
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 310-963-4000
Colleen Russell, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Group Psychotherapist, general psychotherapy practice in California since 1992, area of expertise is trauma, loss, cult and high demand group and abusive relationship survivors and families affected, coercive control and influence. She offers individual, couple, and family sessions in addition to consultations and the following:
On-going Group for Former Members of High Demand Groups or Cults, Including Those Born and Raised in Them, alternate Saturdays, 3:00 – 4:30 PM. Currently offered online with pandemic. Discussion and exploration is based on what participants want to address, relevant to their lives. Psychoeducational materials included. An individual consultation is requested prior to participation. The group is currently in its 17th year, developed and facilitated by Colleen.
Online Workshop/Support Session for Cult or High Demand Group and Relationship Survivors, including those born and raised (10 +-Participants max). Alternate Saturdays, 12:00 Noon to 2:00 PM Pacific Time, co-facilitated by Colleen Russell, M.A., LMFT, CGP and Janja Lalich, Ph.D, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Specialist in cults, extremism, and coercive influence and control. Both Colleen and Janja are former members. Resources are provided based on topics participants want to address and explore. Contact Colleen Russell 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
Vanessa N Weber, MSW, LCSW through her private practice offers a support group. Contact: New Milford Counseling, LLC | Website: www.VanessaNWeber.com | Address: New Milford Counseling 5 Bennitt Street New Milford, CT 12522 | Phone: 860 717 4400
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
Manhattan, NY: - Closed until further notice. International Cultic Studies Association New York local meeting, began on March 25, 2011. ICSA's monthly meeting is for: families, ex-members, and others needing support; people who share ICSA's interests and want to learn more; people who want to work with others to educate the public about cult issues or help victims. This group is facilitated by Chris Carlson, LCSW and Daniel Shaw, LCSW. Phone: 201-497-0756
Jacqueline Johnson, DSW, LCSW-R, runs a support group in Poughkeepsie, NY. For information contact her: email@example.com
Dana Wehle, LCSW, MFA, certified psychoanalyst with a background in fine arts and an interest in the impact of undue influence on creativity. The bi-weekly, 1.5 hour, 8 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 thriving experience in relation to creativity. Pre-group screening required. The group is currently offered via tele-conferencing, and post-pandemic will meet face to face in New York City. Dana Wehle, LCSW | Phone: 212-479-7963 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
Doug and Wendy Duncan have been facilitating a monthly support group for former members of cults/spiritually abusive groups for over 13 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 firstname.lastname@example.org *NOTE* The group is on hold due to Covid 19.
Washington, DC Area
A Washington, DC area cult recovery support group meets once a month in Alexandria, Virginia. If you would like to attend the support group, please contact the co-facilitators, Marita LaPalm at 703-225-8576 or Mary Moore at 410-980-3155 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 separate monthly support groups in English and French. These support groups are intended for people who have experienced, or are presently experiencing, one or more controlling relationships, or various challenges in connection with groups, systems or environments with a high level of commitments, demands, or control.
The support group aims to provide these people with the opportunity to share with others who have had similar experiences. It can also help counter the isolation that can result from this type of experience.
The meetings are led by experienced facilitators (a psychologist and a psychoeducator), whose role is to welcome participants and act as moderators in order to facilitate discussions so that everyone can have the opportunity to express themselves.
Participation is on a voluntary basis, and can be more or less regular.
To take part in the support group meetings, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The project "destruktive Gruppen" runs a Berlin-based support group for former members of high-demand groups and cults.The support group is in its 4th year, 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: email@example.com (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.)
Dr. Gillie Jenkinson facilitates an Ex-Member support and education group near Sheffield, UK. It is a closed group, that is, everyone needs to have met me before they join, in order to ensure the group is a good fit for them and they are a good fit for the group. See the poster which gives all the information you should need. Gillie Jenkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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
“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