Steven Hassan’s work is instrumental for anyone seeking understanding of religious mind and thought control, and how to free themselves or loved ones from it.
Hassan’s deep understanding of the cult survivor’s problems of shame, loss of dignity, and attachment to ideologies and omnipotent authority figures offers a solid foundation for clinicians and, clergy, and family members and friends who are approaching those victimized by extreme undue influence and groupthink.
Steven Hassan as a Healer
“Steven Hassan has nearly 40 years of experience and knowledge that will advance our efforts to develop methods for breaking bonds held by human traffickers. Steven is a leader in the field of social psychology and his one-on-one work to replace destructive bonds with healthy long-term relationships, has the potential to improve responses to human trafficking rapidly and effectively. Steven’s work goes far beyond physical removal of a victim from a perpetrator, empowering survivors to develop healthy memories and experiences in place of harmful and destructive thoughts and behaviors. We are proud to be in partnership with Steven and the team he has built at Freedom of Mind.”
Carissa Phelps, JD/MBA,
Runaway Girl, FPC
CEO “Creating Employment Opportunities”
“Steven Hassan’s work could change the lives of millions…At the end of his specialized counseling, people report that their addiction to the cult had disappeared. This has helped the individual as well as their family members. They started to feel empowered almost immediately and today they feel better than ever. Hassan’s clients are thrilled with their new lives.”
Dr. Brian Alman
Author of Self Hypnosis and Six Steps to Freedom
“My mother joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was 7 years old and by the time I was 18, I was baptized and fully committed. By 20 I was being disfellowshipped. While I went on to have a highly successful career as an actor, entertainer and comedian (including being on Saturday Night Live), I realized that I was still operating with a lot of programmed phobias and beliefs from the group. It had deeply affected me and it was reading Steve Hassan’s Combating Cult Mind Control that began to fill in what I was not understanding. I decided to contact Steve and after checking out his credentials flew to Boston to do some intensive work with him to clear away the past indoctrination. It was a very positive experience and I want to go on the record that it was worth the time, effort and expense. I meet so many former cult members with trust problems, within themselves and with others. People who have been in therapy but are not getting to a really functional place. I highly recommend Steven Hassan’s Freedom of Mind Approach because it helped me truly understand cult mind control and how to heal myself.”
I was in a bible cult for nearly 13 years. Things that happened to me in the cult and the process of leaving the controlling group left me with debilitating psychiatric symptoms (i.e. dissociation, suicide attempts, self-harm). I was unable to work, had to be on welfare and then on disability, and was hospitalized more than 12 times. Traditional psychotherapy supported me, gave me a lifeline, and helped me become more functional over time. But the fact that these symptoms were related to the type of coercive control perpetuated by cults was poorly understood by every single mental health professional I encountered. This ignorance led to misdiagnosis and medication instead of what was most needed: engagement in psychoeducation about cults and a framework to understand what happened to me.
Getting short term cult-related counseling from Steve Hassan helped me to understand what had happened to my mind. Steve gave me the skills to reconnect to parts of myself which had been damaged by the cult, and empowered me to live to my fullest potential, without the need for psychiatric medication.
I no longer have the severe dissociation or self-harm urges that plagued me for more than 10 years after leaving the cult. Widespread ignorance about cult mind control caused me unnecessary suffering.
I still find the support of traditional psychotherapy, along with other self-care practices, to be vital to continuing to live a healthy, fully connected life, but I am sorry that so many therapists and mental health systems fail to recognize the specific type of trauma caused by coercive groups. I hope that the system will look back on the work of Robert Jay Lifton and Margaret Thaler Singer, as well as contemporaries like Steve Hassan, to include treatment of this type of complex trauma into mental health training.
“I was a high level leader in one of the largest MLM’s* in the world. I left when I discovered that almost all who participate lose money. However, the real loss was the years of, unbeknownst to me, psychological indoctrination. I witnessed and was part of thousands being indoctrinated to believe that MLM is the ONLY way to be successful, happy and serve God. Steve’s work quite literally saved my life. After reading Combating Cult Mind Control, I reached out to Steve’s office and decided to do some intensive work with him. I came to his office in Boston and I finally understood about cult mind control and how to begin to heal. I have since been able to help countless others who reached out to me after I left the group. I wholeheartedly recommend Steve, his work and his books.”
*MLM stands for Multi-level-Marketing
I wish to encourage anyone who has experienced an abusive, narcissistic psychopath, like I have, to not suffer or rely on just any mental health professional. Nine months after breaking down and still being largely unable to sleep or function, I flew to Boston to work intensively with Steven Hassan. It was enormously helpful for me to share my experiences and for him to explain the techniques of covert hypnosis and NLP that had been used on me for years! I had been so terribly confused. So many phobias had been implanted in my mind that unraveling the grip of the mind control that had nearly irreparably destroyed me was a key to me reclaiming my personal power. While there are of course many gifted therapists who do significant work in numerous areas of mental health, there is no way that the standard model of seeing someone one hour a week—or working with someone who is not extensively educated in the area of mind control—would have ever worked to assist me. It took a world class expert like Steve to first recognize the nature and devastating effects of what had been done, and then to hone in on the specific kinds of healing that would be most effective. Thank you, Steve!
In 2017, I and my two grown children came to the clear realization that my wife of nearly 40 years (and their mother) was trapped in a destructive cult. We knew that this situation was beyond what we could deal with on our own and decided that we needed professional help or we would likely lose her. Extensive internet research led to a few potential professional options and Steve Hassan seemed the best qualified. Speaking with him and reading his books made it clear that he was right for us and he accepted our case. After asking for references and speaking with two other families who were helped by Steve, it seemed clear he has had good success and we proceeded to do a two day preparation meeting involving my wife’s siblings who were professionals, former members of the group and close friends.
That began a months long process of preparing for a voluntary intervention. This was a very complex and stressful process with lots of moving parts. During this period his thoughtful advice and attention to detail was always spot on. We did a lot of texting using an encrypted app as well as video conference calls. His 40 years of experience, thoroughness, and professionalism were on full display throughout. His communication skills were remarkable. More than once when things seemed the darkest he assured us that “love is stronger than mind control.”
In fact, this is true. The intervention was 100% successful and I will be forever in Steve’s debt for literally saving my family. It has been 7 months since the intervention and my wife and I just returned from an anniversary trip to Italy.
I personally was impressed with the steady, loving way that Steve built the case and educated all of us who joined in the effort.
It was life changing for all who participated in the most positive way.
This last year I had an opportunity to work with Steve directly as he helped a dear friend of ours recognize and get free from a situation of undue influence. He is a masterful listener, a compassionate counselor, and he treated our friend with great respect throughout the process. Most importantly, the effort succeeded in helping her to regain the ability to think for herself.
I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for me! As you know, the love of my life was born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We met 20 years ago, and fell madly in love. Unfortunately, after my own research, and a valiant effort as a teenager, I was unable to convince her that the Watchtower was a destructive organization and an abusive high control group.
After 3 years of dating, we parted ways back then, sadly and solely due to “religious” issues, as her parents wanted her to marry another Jehovah’s Witness, and she was ill-equipped at such a young age to handle that kind of pressure. She did marry a JW, and let’s just say it didn’t work out for her. Upon my receipt of an email from her after 17 years of “radio silence,” we picked up right where we left off, but still had the issue of the mind control that was plaguing our relationship.
I found you online and emailed you right away with the header, “Manna from Heaven!” Boy was I right! You were so patient and kind to me in our prep calls and for the first time ever, I felt as though someone understood my situation. That alone was a wonderful feeling! I was very well versed in the JW doctrine but you educated me so much on my interactions with her and how to process my feelings and thoughts and emotions. Your books, “Freedom of Mind” and “Combating Cult Mind Control” were huge for me!!
Eventually, using your Strategic Interactive Approach, we were able to arrange a sit down with the three of us for 3 days and have you speak to her, allowing her to maintain her own thoughts and free will the entire time. The interaction was brilliant to watch, and most importantly, effective in achieving the desired result!! You got her out!! Her and I can now live the life together that we’ve always wanted to live! She is so HAPPY and so GRATEFUL to you!!! As am I! You literally saved my life, her life, and the life of her 3 children through your efforts and kind, warm approach.
We are eternally grateful and wish there were words to express the way we feel right now. You are incredibly gifted at what you do as a professional, and without a doubt, a truly honorable man! Thank you again and we’ll see you at our wedding in a few years!
Steven Hassan as an Educator
“I am a professor who teaches a class on brainwashing and modern techniques of mind control in the History of Science department at Harvard University. My background is as a researcher who has written about the twentieth-century history of experiments in behavioral engineering; while doing research for my Ph.D., I came across historical links between the behaviorist experts I was writing about and the scientific programs assigned to investigate “coercive interrogation” during the Cold War. I grew interested in how “brainwashing” emerged into American public consciousness as a threat during the Korean War (see “The Manchurian Candidate” for a popular depiction), and how cults described in the literature of the 1970s and 80s mimicked some of the mechanisms described as operating in brainwashing during the earlier period. In my class, in addition to learning about forceful indoctrination, we also discuss “soft brainwashing” as employed in advertising, marketing, reality TV, and the Internet. Steven Hassan has visited my class twice as a guest lecturer (this year and in a past year). Each time his lecture was enthusiastically received. The students were most interested to hear about his first-hand experience with cult recruitment; in particular, they had many questions about his experience of being indoctrinated into a belief without his full knowledge or understanding of what had happened. His analysis of the effects of brainwashing methods on the “self” was riveting. Students also were eager to hear about his work counseling people to move away from cults, and his discussion of exit-counseling methods. Overall, I found Hassan’s work and approach to be a uniquely valuable contribution to our understanding of a subject — brainwashing and mind control in the twentieth century — well deserving of intensive study.”
Dr. Rebecca Lemov 2012
Associate Professor of the History of Science &
Director of Graduate Studies at the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University
“Steven Hassan’s writings and life work fill a critical need in our health and our lives. Health care professionals have long ignored the essential role that social psychology and influence play in our efforts to be healing. Beyond the skills of therapeutic persuasion in our own clinical effectiveness, too many sources of undue influence pervade our culture to ignore its significance in health and illness. Our work must include investing in the resiliency of those for whom we care by teaching them to test their realities, to value their intuitions, to know their own minds. This is Hassan’s mission. He succeeds largely because of his intelligence, passion and dedication. Those are contagious characteristics and just cause for due influence.
Laurence I. Sugarman, M.D. F.A.A.P., A.B.M.H., Director and Research Professor, Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation, Institute of Health Sciences and Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology; Past-President, American Board of Medical Hypnosis. Co-author, Therapeutic Hypnosis with Children and Adolescents, second edition.
“Hassan brings decades of thought and experience to his invaluable work in helping people emerge from “thought reform” and mind control and to reassert the precious human attribute of freedom of the mind.”
Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.
Author of “Witness to an Extreme Century : A Memoir” and “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism”
“Steven Hassan is a compelling spokesman on the topic of cult mind control, which encompasses issues of human identity and our innate psychological vulnerability to dissociate. In addition, he educates and challenges us to think about the groups using mind control techniques in our culture, and how to help those affected reclaim their lives. His commitment to this neglected area of human experience is exemplary. At my invitation, Steven has taught psychiatry residents at Brigham and Women’s Hospital about these issues for the last 14 years. Knowledge of these issues is crucial for all mental health professionals.”
Mary K. McCarthy, M.D.,
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
Renee Jones, President & CEO
Renee Jones Empowerment Center
Lisa Goldblatt Grace, LICSW, MPH
Co-Founder & Director
My Life My Choice
Books by Steven Hassan
“I want to go on record as strongly endorsing Steven Hassan’s approach to understanding the sources of cult power in controlling the minds and behavior of members. His now classic text on cultic mind control, Combatting Cult Mind Control (1990, Park St. Press) integrates his personal experiences in a cult with his cogent analysis of the underlying dynamic processes, and then adds in to the mix current research and theory.
Hassan is a model of clear exposition, his original ideas are brilliantly presented in a captivating style. I am confident that readers of his new book, Releasing the Bonds, will share my enthusiasm for what this author tells us about how to deal with the growing menace of cults.”
Sowers Education Group
Melissa Farley, Ph.D., Executive Director
Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco
Unfortunately, cult dynamics and undue influence are still subjects that remain on the periphery of education in the mental health fields. Because Hassan’s latest book significantly demystifies cult practices and delineates methods to support victims’ struggles to heal at an even deeper level than in his prior work, Freedom of Mind represents a rare and essential contribution to the field that should be required reading for all mental health professionals and clergy as well as lay people involved in various recovery programs. The book is both encyclopedic and yet completely accessible. It exposes in systematic detail the methods and madness of cults and the creative and relationally-oriented interventions required to help restore the cult victim to sanity, to dignity and freedom, and to resurrect his or her critical thinking capacities most which had become buried, dislocated and compartmentalized during the years of cult indoctrination and cult membership. Hassan’s work is actually translatable across a wide range of human hostage and malevolent group situations beyond mainstream and underground cults — from pathological family systems, exploitative business and self-help/human potential movement groups, pimps/prostitution, human trafficking, criminal cartels, and to all past and modern day slavery situations. His compassionate approach underscores the value of human relationship, inclusivity, dialogue, patience, persistence, humor/creativity and non-dogmatic forms of intervention. His keen savvy as a kind of warrior approaching these complex matters — turning cult mind control upside down and forcing it to collapse in on itself — is always balanced with tenderness, humor, and an appreciation for the irony buried in cult hypocrisy. While not shying away from articulating disturbing aspects of human nature and human group experience, Hassan reminds all of us — readers, healers, victims, survivors, theorists, philosophers, clergy – that in spite of the undeniable power and efficacy of cult strategies and systems, there remains an authentic self buried and protected at the core of all human beings regardless of the amount of time spent in the cult, regardless of how deeply and cruelly the participation in the worst of the group behavior might have been. I highly recommend this book not only for all the reasons outlined above, but because this book serves as a truly rare and powerful light on a still poorly illuminated region of our collective human experience where hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings remain trapped, helpless, and almost beyond reach. I wholeheartedly honor and celebrate Steven Hassan’s contributions and commitment to the universal struggle for freedom, human rights, and transparency in human social systems.”
Dr. Harvey Schwartz, Ph.D.
Author of Dialogues With Forgotten Voices and The Alchemy of Wolves and Sheep
Peter R. Breggin, M.D. Author of Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime
Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D, ABPP. Emeritus Professor, Former Member Board of Directors International Cultic Studies Association
Moshe Waldoks, Ph.d. Rabbi, Temple Beth Zion, Brookline, MA and Author of The Big Book of Jewish Humor
The Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Pastor, Bread Fellowship, Fort Worth
Alan W. Scheflin, Professor Emeritus of Law
Santa Clara University
Coauthor of The Mind Manipulators; Recipient of seven awards in the field of mental health.
Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D, Author of Influence, Founder of Influenceatwork.com
Seeing that the techniques, patterns, and behaviors that they use are common in all destructive mind control cults showed me that it could not be the true religion, because it did not allow anyone to actually be a true person. It was a jump start to discovering my authentic self and has proven to be invaluable as a touchstone to make sure that I don’t fall sway to undue influence again. Thank you Steve”