Mental Health Professionals
Bullet Point Overview
Do not assume that a group involvement is merely a sign of normal adolescent rebellion and identity searching, and that "this too will pass."
Do not assume that a group involvement reflects only unconscious individual psychopathology and/or a dysfunctional family system. Though these may be factors, do not focus on the person's or family's past to such a high degree that you overlook possibly traumatic effects of an abusive group experience.
Avoid confirmatory bias, that is, the common human tendency to notice, seek, and/or be alert to information that supports our initial impressions or formal assessment.
Do not approach a cult-related case as a strange, deeply mysterious phenomenon requiring esoteric expertise. Cult-related problems are, at their heart, consequences of unusually powerful social influences interacting with the spectrum of human personalities, needs, and goals.
Cults vary tremendously and change over time. Do not overgeneralize from cult definitions to a specific group.
Those who join cults as adults or young adults form their identity in the mainstream world and, therefore, can return to their "former self" and relationships when they leave a group.
Those who are born or raised in cultic groups form their identity in the group. When they exit a group they leave family and friends behind and enter a new and sometimes frightening world.
Clinical experience suggests that a significant percentage of former cultists suffer from PTSD.
People who leave cultic groups often experience volatile emotions and difficulty trusting people, including professionals. Be patient with them.
If you work with former cultists or family members of cult-involved persons, take advantage of ICSA's resources, including support from fellow professionals.
Are Cultic Environments Psychologically Harmful? Jodi Aronoff McKibben, M.S.; Steven Jay Lynn, Ph.D.; Peter Malinoski, Ph.D. Cultic Studies Review, 1(3), 2002.
Born or Raised in Closed, High-Demand Groups: Developmental Considerations. Leona Furnari. LCSW, ICSA E-Newsletter, 4(3), 2005.
Family Responses to a Young Adult's Cult Membership and Return. Lorna Goldberg, MSW & William Goldberg, MSW. Cultic Studies Journal, 6(1), 1987, 86-100.
Overview: Support Groups. William Goldberg. ICSA Today, 9(2), 2018, 6-7.
Post-Cult After Effects. Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.
Prevalence. Michael Langone, PhD
Psychotherapy with Ex-Cultists: Four Case Studies and Commentary. L. Goldberg, MSW & W. Goldberg, MSW. Cultic Studies Journal, 5(2), 1988, 193-210.
Recovering From Sexual Abuse in Cults: What Can We Learn From Neurobiology? Doni Whitsett. ICSA Today, 12(1), 2021, 14-17.
"That's Not Me": Multigenerational Adult Leavers of Cultic Groups. Jill Aebi-Mytton. ICSA Today, 12(1), 2021, 6-13.
What Counselors Should Know About Cultic Dynamics - Michael D. Langone. ICSA Today, 10(2), 2019, (6-7.
What Impact Does Cult Involvement Have on a Member's Family? NYC Educational Outreach Committee
What is a Cult? NYC Educational Outreach Committee
What is the Impact of Leaving a Cultic Group? NYC Educational Outreach Committee
What Do We Need to Know About Being Born or Raised in a Cultic Environment? NYC Educational Outreach Committee
Problems Ex-Members and Families Face: An Overview. Lorna Goldberg, MSW, PsyA; William Goldberg, MSW, PsyA.
Mental Health Issues in Cult-Related Counseling. Steve Eichel, PhD, ABPP; William Goldberg, MSW, PsyA; Steven Hassan, MEd, LMC, NCC; Arnold Markowitz, LCSW
Leaving and Recovering From Cultic Groups and Relationships. Michael Langone, PhD; Patrick Ryan
Traumatic Narcissism: The Psychology of Cult Leaders. Daniel Shaw, MSW
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