We offer extensive resources to help in former members of destructive groups recovery from their experiences.
Destructive cults or controlling family systems can have long-term effects, even if you have been physically away for some time. If you feel like you are still experiencing negative after effects, you could probably benefit from specialized counseling.
Steven Hassan M.Ed., LMHC, NCC offers short-term counseling in MA for ex-members who need assistance with their recovery. As a former member of a destructive group himself, he understands the situation in ways most mental health practitioners who have no training or experience with mind control related issues don’t.
Steve offers professional counseling in Massachusetts. If you would like to schedule a telephone consultation with him, please call the office at 617-396-4638 with any questions about fees. You may also click here to submit an Ex-Member Case Evaluation Form. The form is also available in a Word document and a PDF here. Please note, that for lengthy submissions, it is recommended to download the Word document, fill it out then copy and paste the answers into the online submission form. This prevents the webpage from timing out and losing all the information inputted.
Most Therapists Don't Understand
Based on 36 years of experience, we know that to fully recover from an experience of undue influence, most people require specialized counseling. But most therapists are not trained to help with the aftereffects of mind control and cult-related problems. Many people complain that they have spent money on therapy sessions in which they had to teach the therapist about cult mind control.
One common complaint is that the therapist ignored, minimized, or simply did not understand the deception, manipulation and mind control that are hallmarks of the cult experience. Many clients are mistakenly directed by their therapists to look at childhood issues to explain why they ‘joined’ the cult, ignoring the fact that most members are deceptively recruited.
What Steve learned as a counselor and ex-member is that dealing with childhood issues is usually best done after dealing with the entire mind control experience.
After receiving specialized counseling, most ex-members realize that they have endured years of unnecessary suffering. Individuals who left cults or abusive relationships as long as 30 years or more ago, still suffer from beliefs programmed by the cult. They often experience a variety of psychological and relationship problems—anxiety disorders, panic attacks, sleep disorders, lack of trust, paranoia and feelings of alienation. Untreated, they often become especially vulnerable to the normal stresses of life, such as health problems, the deaths of friends and loved ones, divorce and, especially in recent years, economic pressures and the threat of terrorism.
Everyday Situations Can Trigger Aftereffects
In addition, environmental cues often trigger aspects of left-over cult programming that ex-members still carry. Some ex-members get to the point that they actually think about returning to the cult, or feel they must seek out some new guru, leader, or group. It takes time and often guidance to get beyond the black and white, us-versus-them, elitist mentality that cults tend to program into their members.
The way to recover from destructive mind control is to learn to control your own mind. In our practice we help people develop increased self-awareness so that they can reclaim, or in some cases, create for the first time, a healthy internal locus (center) of control. Cults actively work to short-circuit this internal locus of authority.
Using a variety of mind control techniques, and especially the cultivation of allegiance to a central authority figure, cults can turn even the most independent-minded person into an obedient cult member. Though one of our main aims is to undo this cult programming, we have found that what works best is for people to take responsibility for their own recovery. Steve serves as counselor and coach to help people know themselves so that they can change and grow in healthy ways that they choose.
Steve has found that doing very intense, deep work over a period of a few days or, in some cases, a few weeks is the fastest and most effective way to recover from the effects of undue influence. Meeting once or twice a week for an hour, while much better than doing nothing, is a much less effective approach for most people. On a slow schedule, it could take years to accomplish what could be done in a relatively short period of time. Though we offer telephone as well as email counseling with individuals all over the world, the most effective options are often the following.
Option One: Short intense in-person counseling work done in Boston over a few days.
Intense, work means six to eight hours a day for three or four days. This allows you to go into great detail and get as deep as you can. We identify the areas of greatest concern and plan sessions accordingly, essentially creating a plan just for you.
For example, some people want help understanding how destructive mind control was used on them. They may want Steve to teach them about altered states of consciousness—hypnosis, meditation, chanting and other exercises and processes used by undue influence agents—and how to use those techniques themselves in appropriate and healthy ways. Others have had very unhappy childhood experiences and traumas, which can set them up for years of destructive relationships, and possibly group involvement(s). They want to focus on how to heal past traumas, create healthy relationships, and move forward. Each person is best served by a truly customized approach. Steve is able to draw from a large toolbox of different strategies that help empower you to heal yourself. We apply the ones that work best for you in your sessions.
Breaks are taken whenever you choose. Though Steve spends a great deal of time talking with clients, he also employs a variety of media, including audio and videotapes, to augment the educational component of your work together. Sharing the experiences of other ex-members, through our collection of excellent videotapes of news and television shows, helps many people to better understand the patterns of mind control. You may be asked to consider watching a video, reading, writing or practicing a healing technique between sessions.
Option Two: Moderately paced in-person counseling done in Boston over one or two weeks.
If you have trouble focusing for long hours you may need a less intense therapeutic experience. We have found that counseling one to three hours a day over a one or two week period may work best for you. Some clients fly to Boston, stay with friends or relatives, or get a bed and breakfast or hotel room. Some find that visiting the great city of Boston, combining personal growth and vacation, is a powerful mix.
Option Three: Steve travels to you for a number of days.
Unlike most therapists, Steve is willing to travel almost anywhere to help. For many ex-members, traveling to Boston feels like too big a step; cult phobias can make them quite anxious or fearful. Counseling in the comfort and safety of their own home is often much easier. An additional benefit to home-based counseling is that, if you wish, Steve can also work to educate those close to the ex-member, perhaps family or friends.
Educated family and friends are often able to offer excellent long-term personal support and encouragement. And clients really appreciate the chance to have loved ones sit in on some sessions and actively take part in the recovery process, especially the videotape presentations. Family members and friends, many of whom were traumatized by the cult involvement, report that they benefit tremendously from participating. If requested, Steve can do family counseling, teach strategies and techniques for effective communication, and help resolve any long standing family issues. An option is to include some group sessions that include other former members.
Option Four: Sponsor a workshop or attend a scheduled ex-member workshop.
If you are on a very limited budget but would like to work with Steve in person, consider organizing a program in your city. If there are a number of other former members who also want to work on issues relating to cult involvement, then pooling financial resources is a good choice. If you have experience at event planning, or are just a highly motivated person and have good organizational skills and free time, just contact the office for more information.
Option Five: Ask Steve to supervise your local therapist.
If you have a good working relationship with a local therapist, but they have no formal training to work with ex-members, they may be willing to get professional help (therapists call it supervision) via telephone from Steve.
If they want professional training, please encourage them to contact the office and we will discuss training opportunities. You might also encourage him or her to visit the freedomofmind.com web site, read Steve’s books (and others too, of course), and learn more about the group or situation that most closely fits your experience.
If your therapist seems uninterested in learning about the lasting effects that cults and mind control can have, we encourage you to strongly consider an alternative therapist, as your needs are not likely to be met.
To find out more about an option, call 617 396-4638 during office hours.
We would really like to be of help.
To make the most of the initial consultation, we strongly suggest you fill out our ex-member evaluation form before your appointment. You can copy the online background evaluation form or just complete it securely online. We recommend that you keep a copy of whatever you send to the office for your own files. Please be assured that your information is completely confidential. Steve is a licensed mental health counselor and follows the highest ethical standards of his profession. During the initial phone consultation, a decision will be made together how to proceed.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have a Frequently Asked Questions section that may be of help in answering some of your questions.
Steve Hassan is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His license number is 820. He is a member of the American Counseling Association, and the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association. He also belongs to the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and the International Society of Hypnosis. As a member of the American Counseling Association, he adheres to their ethical guidelines.