In the early 1970s, Ted Patrick, a man with plenty of street smarts but at the time, no formal training in counseling, believed that members of his family were being brainwashed by Moses David Berg, the leader of a group called the Children of God, now known as “The Family.” Patrick was determined to take action. He reasoned that since cults use indoctrination methods that “program” beliefs through hypnosis, repetition, and behavior modification techniques, he would reverse the process. He called the new procedure “deprogramming.”
In the middle to late 1970s, an increase of media coverage brought about a rise in public awareness of the destructive potential of cult membership. Professional deprogrammers were being hired to forcibly rescue cult members with the aim of reversing the cult’s brainwashing.
For thousands of cult members, this proved successful. However, there were also many cases where deprogramming from a cult failed, resulting in members and cults bringing about lawsuits against families and deprogrammers.
In the 1970s, there were few other options. But by the early 1980s, exit counseling had become the preferred approach. Unlike deprogramming, exit counseling is non-coercive and legal. It is respectful of the person’s free will as participation is completely voluntary. But exit counseling is restricted to simply freeing the cult member by just providing information about cults and destructive influence.