An Introduction to Steve Guziec

Guest Blog by Steve Guziec

 

 

I’m so excited to be working with Steven Hassan and the Freedom of Mind team. It’s a wonderful cause and a truly worthwhile line of work. As someone who understands just what it’s like to be involved in a cult, I am often asked to share my story. So, here it is.

I was born and raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a bible-based cult otherwise known as The Watchtower. When I was 25 I was kicked out of the organization and shunned by my family and friends in the group (“disfellowshipped” in the loaded language of the Jehovah’s Witnesses). This action crushed my world. I was so alone and confused; I had never known life outside of the group. Even worse, my indoctrination had taught me there was only death outside of the organization. Having lost everything, I decided to end my life. Fortunately the attempt was unsuccessful and I am still here today.

At first, like most, I didn’t know I was in a cult, I thought it was the one and only true organization here on earth serving the true god. However, once leaving the organization I quickly learned their love and care for me was conditional. Within a matter of weeks after being disfellowshipped, I lost everything. I had been employed by a company that was managed and staffed by Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I was fired because, as the VP of operations said “If you have left Jehovah how can we trust you?” Later the VPs would lie to any potential employer, saying, among other false accusations, that I was dishonest and a thief. Due to a lack of employment and income, I was forced to live out of my car for a year, and later I ended up filing bankruptcy. Only after sending a “cease and desist letter,” was I was able to get back into the land of employment.

After a time, I began taking night classes to get my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Robert Morris University. My goal was to become a CEO and make lots of money. However that was to change once I started to explore my experience as a Jehovah’s Witnesses. I started small, by Googling “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” I still remember doing this and thinking “Oh my god, they are going to find me!” My hands trembled as I typed in the words and clicked through the sites. After realizing that demons were not attacking me and I was indeed safe, I started looking further and further.

Soon after, I found a strange looking book in a used bookstore in Minneapolis; the cover featured a man’s head with a chain around it, and a key at the bottom. The book was called “Combating Cult Mind Control” by Steven Hassan. I bought the book and hid it under the other books in the bag– just in case a Jehovah’s Witnesses was watching me or stopped me on the street. I started reading the book that night and was shocked! All I could think was “How did this guy know what happened to me in the Jehovah’s Witnesses? He was never in ‘the truth’.” When I returned home from my business trip, I quickly finished the book, and then read it again.

Later that year during a World Religion class, my professor asked me, “Why don’t you help other people in groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses?” My initial response was, “There isn’t any money in that.” But my professor quickly responded, “Do what you love and the money will be there.” So, that day, I changed my career’s direction and decided to become a mental health professional. That was the easy part.

This conversation with my professor inspired me to email Steven Hassan and see if he could recommend a graduate program that specialized in cultic abuses. Thankfully Steven was kind, and helped me to understand the underserved nature of “my” population – that is, those whose lives have been affected by cults. Steven pointed out that there is no single university or program that teaches people how to work with cult victims; he suggested I attend an accredited university and attain a license to practice mental health. And that’s just what I did.

In 2014 I graduated with my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Benedictine University and attained my license to practice mental health in the state of Illinois. Once I finished my degree, I began training with Steven on his Strategic Interactive Approach and now I’m thrilled to be joining the team at Freedom of Mind and taking clients of my own. As part of the team, not only will I be offering one-on-one consultations, but I will be working with Steven and others to create a one-of-a-kind educational program that can be used to train other professionals on the specifics of recovery from cult influence.

For me the biggest benefit to my joining the Freedom of Mind team, is the opportunity to help so many people, from all across the world. I know that so many are feeling just as I was – in pain and confused about what to do – and I am honored and humbled to know that I’ll be able to help them heal, and that I will have the benefit of Steven’s 40 years of experience to apply to the process. So for those looking for help and needing some coaching to achieve freedom of mind, I’m here to assist and help you on your journey.

 

5 Comments

  1. Leesa July 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Steve, So encouraging to see an ex Jehovah’s witness well educated and supported by Steve Hassan’s Freedom of Mind team who can provide support to ex-members. As a 3rd gen born in, when leaving the cult I found it nearly impossible to find any professional psychologist or counselor who even vaguely understood the cult mindset. I am currently my final semester of a 4-year social work degree will your educational program be available in Australia? Thanks Leesa

  2. Glenda Miller July 8, 2016 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Dear Steve
    Congratulations on your association with Freedom of Mind! Mr. Hassan’s expertise and knowledge through reading his books and speaking to him several times helped us greatly by finally identifying just what it was that happened to our son and his older sister who were involved in a charismatic Bible Cult. Our daughter is doing quite well as she has been counseling regularly with Rachel, but our son is more reticent to embrace the healing process, however he’s at least functioning well and has an amazing job where he’s helping other people. May God bless you as you move forward in your new career, and may the money be there 😉

  3. Clement Mabunda July 18, 2016 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Steve,
    I’ve always said that had I not studied law, I would have venture either in journalism or psychology. I’m fascinated by these. As a former JW myself, your experience resonates with me. Over the years, I’ve found solace in documenting and dissecting “the truth” (JW speak) in an effort to connect the dots that led to my assimilation into this “religion.” Undue influence is not a mere concept, it’s a real thing.
    thinkingwitnesses.org/undue-influence-watchtowers-compliance-strategy

  4. Malachi Sawyer October 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story Steve, it is inspiring to see someone moving forward as you have after exiting the cult. I wish you all the best in your new career where you can genuinely help other people rather than give them false hope and promises.

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