You're not alone.
Whether you are in a high-control group or a cult, trying to figure out if you are in one, or trying to help someone else get out: There are resources, organizations, and counselors that can help you. We're not trained professionals, but all of these these sites, people, books, movies, and shows have helped us over the last few years. This is a shortened list that was first put together by Bonnie Piesse, the original ”troublemaker." (Thank you to infinity and back, Bonfire.)
Websites & Experts
Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may be manipulated, exploited, or even abused. Learn about social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments to help yourself assess a particular group or relationship.
Dr. Janja Lalich is a world-renowned expert in cultic studies and an avid contributor to the field of cultic studies through her research, presentations, books, and articles. The resources she has curated will aid you in recognizing if you or someone you know may be getting involved with a cult.
Freedom of Mind Resource Center believes that everyone deserves the right to build their life free from undue influence.
They support those affected by undue influence by providing coaching and consulting services as well as training and educational resources for individuals, families and professionals. They use the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), which id an ethical, systems-oriented method that enables loved ones to help an individual regain their freedom of mind. This method was developed by founder Dr. Steven Hassan, who is a is licensed mental health counselor who has been helping individuals since 1976.
They also provide information to the media to help the public understand undue influence (mind control) in all of its forms including controlling people, cults, beliefs, estrangement, and parental alienation, so that everyone can have the tools and support they need to protect themselves from undue influence.
Dr. Stein offers programs and materials to help people understand how to identify and protect themselves and others from recruitment to cultic or extremist groups. She also studies and teaches about positive social relationships: "small d" democracy, inclusivity, and healthy social and personal networks that can oppose dangerous relationships.
The upending of “normal” life, the months of societal upheaval, polarization, grief, and confusion brought five ex-cult members together to create the #igotout movement. You are not alone. Whether you are in a high-control group or cult, trying to figure out if you are in one, trying to help someone else get out of one, or seeking to better understand past involvement, there is help for you.
If you've ever struggled with questioning your beliefs, or you feel shattered by the ramifications of leaving your religion, Dare to Doubt is a safe place and a resource hub for people detaching from harmful belief systems. Its aim is to help you heal from the damage of indoctrination by connecting you with mental health professionals, aid organizations, and peer support groups.
TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE: RECOVERING FROM CULTS AND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS // JANJA LALICH & MADELEINE TOBIAS
Cult victims and those who have suffered abusive relationships often suffer from fear, confusion, low self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress. Take Back Your Life explains the seductive draw that leads people into such situations, provides guidelines for assessing what happened, and offers hands-on tools for getting back on track. Written for victims, their families, and professionals, this book leads readers through the healing process.
COMBATING CULT MIND CONTROL: THE GUIDE TO PROTECTION, RESCUE AND RECOVERY FROM DESTRUCTIVE CULTS // STEVEN HASSAN
This book has helped thousands of ex-members and their families, therapists, clergy, as well as law enforcement understand the use of mind control techniques in cults. A former cult member, now a counselor helping those affected by destructive cults, Hassan exposes the troubling facts about cults' recruitment, their use of psychological manipulation, and their often subtle influence on government, the legal system, and society as a whole.
Hassan's new book, Freedom of Mind, explains how to identify and evaluate potentially dangerous groups and individuals. Hassan details his groundbreaking approach, the 'Strategic Interactive Approach, ' which can be used to help a loved one leave such a situation. Step-by-step, he shows you how to: evaluate the situation; interact with dual identities; develop communication strategies using phone calls, letter writing and visits; understand and utilize cult beliefs and tactics; use reality-testing and other techniques to promote freedom of mind. He emphasizes the value of meeting with trained consultants to be effectively guided and coached and also to plan and implement effective interventions. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is knowledge and awareness.
Recovery from Abusive Groups was written by former cult member Wendy Ford (now Wolfberg) with a preface by social workers Bill and Lorna Goldberg, pioneers in helping ex-cultists. Recovery From Abusive Groups provides practical advice for former cult members and their families and focuses specifically on what ex-members can do to negotiate their way through the challenging post cult recovery process. Utilizing study questions, exercises, worksheets, and an abundance of common sense, Ms. Ford provides concrete suggestions on such issues as: building a recovery plan, managing financial and work issues, reconnecting with family and friends, making new friends, dating, "Floating," and coping with depression. Wolfberg also gives families ideas about what they can do to help during recovery.
Daniel Shaw, LCSW, is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City and in Nyack, New York; and Faculty and Supervisor at The National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York. His papers have appeared in Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalytic Dialogues. His most recent book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, was published by Routledge for the Relational Perspectives Series and nominated for the prestigious Gradiva Award. In 2018, the International Cultic Studies Association awarded Shaw the Margaret Thaler Singer Award for advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence.
The following is from Rachel Bernstain’s website: “As an educator and therapist, I see the value in teaching and offering practical information along with listening. My job is not to judge. I want you to feel heard, and understood. People do what they do for a reason. It’s something you want to change, let’s look at it together so you understand why you’re doing it and how to start to change it. I want to help you get what you are hoping for, and where you want to go in your life.
“I feel honored when a client comes into my office because I know that client is entrusting me with information that is not usually shared with others. I respect my clients and the effort they make to improve their lives or the lives of their loved ones. I make every effort to help people along the way who are looking to improve the sweetness of their lives or to get some relief and feel less burdened by their past or a situation they are dealing with now."
Rosanne Henry is a professional counselor licensed in the state of Colorado. Over the last 25 years she has worked with hundreds of cult survivors to help provide credible resources and evaluate harm in cultic groups, relationships, and potentially abusive organizations, especially those disguised as churches. She has also created viable strategies for protection, departure and recovery for those that have found themselves in these situations.
Dr. Natalie Feinblatt is a licensed psychologist in California. She’s an LA native who went to UCSD to get her BA in Psychology and then came back home to get her Master’s and Doctorate in Psychology from Pepperdine University. She’s been helping people using psychotherapy for over 15 years…and she wants nothing more than to continue to do so. She knows what it’s like to have to reach out for help and how the transformation process can be both grueling and exhilarating.
Movies, TV, & Podcasts
Filmed by Will Allen about his experiences as a member of the Buddhafield cult for 22 years, the film gives an inside look at Buddhafield, a West Hollywood cult formed by a charismatic teacher in the 1980s that eventually imploded. The cult's leader, who has several names but is typically called Michel, is claimed to have abused his followers. The film uses footage Allen shot during his capacity as the group's videographer and new footage of interviews with former members and of the group in Hawaii.
Elizabeth Vargas goes on a search to uncover how controversial organizations use their influence to prey upon people's desperation to create powerful and often destructive belief systems.
The film deconstructs the church's claims by presenting a condensed history of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, examining how celebrities interact with the church, and highlighting the stories of a number of ex-members who described the abuse and exploitation they saw and experienced. The Church of Scientology responded vehemently to the film, complaining to film critics about their reviews and denouncing the filmmakers and their interviewees.
In this hourlong docuseries, actress Leah Remini turns investigative reporter, she says, to "share the shocking truth about Scientology," the secretive, controversial church that Remini herself was a member of for years. With her personal experience acting as a driving force, Remini -- along with high-level former Scientology executives and members -- relates shocking stories of abuse and harassment alleged by ex-practitioners who claim their lives have been affected even well after they left the organization. The Church of Scientology, which has made multiple attempts to have A&E Network pull the series, refers to Remini as a "has-been actress" who's exploiting her former religion to make money.
The Path follows a family at the center of a controversial cult movement as they struggle with relationships, faith and power. Each episode takes an in-depth look at the gravitational pull of belief and what it means to choose between the life we live and the life we want. The series blends elements of mystery-thriller, romance and the supernatural.
Documentary on how Bikram Choudhury built his yoga business. Tracing from his rise in the 1970s to his disgrace in accusations of rape and sexual harassment in more recent years.
The Vow shows the experiences of people deeply involved in the self-improvement group NXIVM, an organization under siege with charges including sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy brought against its highest members and founder Keith Raniere.
Megan Morrison, a young actress, auditions to play the female lead in a high-profile film opposite action star Kyle West. She meets Terrence Anderson, the leader of the Institute of the Higher Mind, a self-help organization. Anderson offers her the title "arrangement"—a contract offering her $10 million if she marries West.
20 DIVERSION TACTICS HIGHLY MANIPULATIVE NARCISSISTS, SOCIOPATHS AND PSYCHOPATHS USE TO SILENCE YOU | THOUGHT CATALOG
A overview into understanding narcissistic, sociopath, psychopath, and other anti-social personalities.
An overview of how gaslighting is used to gain power/control over people.
This article identifies the different ways people leave a group and defines the 10 stages of leaving a group.