Endorsements for Steven Hassan, M.Ed., LMHC
“As a Baptist pastor for 35 years, I take no pleasure in testifying that religious abuse is one of the most pressing social problems in the world today. True religion always serves to liberate– never to enslave. 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. He not only brings exhaustive authority, research, and expertise to this critical field, but also compassion, respect, and sensitivity. Every pastor, minister, social worker, therapist, and counselor needs to read his books!”
The Rev.Charles Foster Johnson, Pastor, Bread Fellowship, Fort Worth
“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”
Freedom of Mind is a courageous and powerful book that combines innovative theory with effective, practical applications to penetrate the often misunderstood and seemingly mysterious realm of cults, mind control, and other forms of psycho-spiritual slavery. Steven Hassan, whose late 80’s groundbreaking and essential text on cults, cult dynamics, and the extrication and recovery of people who have become ensnared in cults (Combatting Cult Mind Control), has clearly matured and evolved in his thinking and practice; he has gone on to produce another invaluable contribution to this still poorly understood area of human experience. Filled with deep compassion and wisdom, Freedom of Mind takes the reader on a journey through the mazes of pathological human influence, cult practices, and the patterns and beliefs that sustain various forms of psychological hostage/slavery behavior and dynamics. His book aims to assist people (and their families and friends — helping in, and also benefiting from, the healing process in Hassan’s vision of healing) victimized in cults to understand and contextualize their experience in clearly stated universal principles. Hassan’s thorough and systematic presentation of intervention strategies and their underlying philosophy is truly impressive. He explains how to disentangle people (and help them disentangle themselves) from matrices of utter and complete personality destruction, where individuals have almost completely lost any sense of critical thinking, autonomy, or authentic personality functioning. 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. In a word, Hassan has covered all the bases and done so with a level of clarity and sophistication.
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
“Before anything significant had been published about the methods and effects of coercive influence and destructive cults, this book emerged and offered a unique and solid foundation for both lay people and professionals (from a wide array of disciplines) to begin comprehending the subtle and insidious tactics used by manipulative religious/spiritual, political, economic, and human potential cults to ensnare the unsuspecting in complex, seemingly inescapable webs. Using his own personal experience and mining his own fascinating journey from cult victim through escape and survivorship and eventually transformation and becoming a healer/consultant himself, Hassan explains in clear and cogent terms how coercive and manipulative leaders/groups create psychological and spiritual hostages out of vulnerable or well-intended, human beings — people who are either going through painful life transitions or who are searching for higher truth. Early in my career this book was an invaluable resource to help me understand the nature of this unique type of victimization. Hassan’s work inspired me, helping me create more effective pathways for healing for individuals emerging out of criminal and underground cults and trafficking situations. The book also enabled me to become a better consultant to other professionals at the time, since so little had been written in the professional clinical literature in the 1980s about mind control, coercive influence, and psychopathological groups. It seems to me that the value and significance of critical thinking and freedom of mind in our lives in general and in psychological health have not yet been fully understood or appreciated. On a mission to correct this gap in communal wisdom, Hassan leads the reader on a journey unveiling the universal emotional and psychological vulnerabilities that leave all of us human beings susceptible to undo influence and group takeovers of our minds, hearts, and spirits. In very accessible and clear language this book offers excellent analysis and guidance, hope for cult survivors and their families, as well as clinicians and clergy who may be part of the individual’s healing and integration process. This classic work belongs in all mental health training curriculums and is a worthy addition to the libraries of anyone interested in the struggles for human rights and healing from the damage of oppressive and totalitarian systems.”
Dr. Harvey Schwartz, Ph.D.
Author of Dialogues With Forgotten Voices and The Alchemy of Wolves and Sheep
“Steven Hassan’s book Freedom of Mind is especially valuable to those of us working in fields that are not yet understood as cults. I work in the field of trafficking for prostitution, in which survivors describe the same psychologically destructive social influences that Steven Hassan details in the book. To give a few examples: an extremely controlling leader (pimp or trafficker) who postures as omnipotent, coerced adherence to a worldview and values that turn one’s previous values upside down, control and regulation of body functions, enforced dependence, degradation, coerced gratitude, sensory deprivation, capricious rules, traumatic bonding, and deliberate creation of dissociated parts of the self. Steven Hassan demystifies the complex manipulation and adverse influence of malignant groups in a way that clarifies and instills hope. The book is useful not only for advocates and survivors but for clinicians and attorneys who want to better understand and help their clients.”
Melissa Farley, Ph.D., Executive Director
Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco
“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.
…Steven Hassan’s approach is one that I value more than that of any other researcher or clinical practitioner…
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.”
Philip G. Zimbardo, Ph.D.,
President of the American Psychological Association 2002 (apa.org)
Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Stanford University
Author of Influencing Attitudes and Changing Behavior, Discovering Psychology, and Shyness
“We were quite honored to have Steven Hassan as our keynote speaker at the 2014 National Human Trafficking Conference in Cleveland, OH. Mr. Hassan shared The BITE Model of Mind Control applied to Trafficking which really gave all of the first responders and all of the conference attendees an understanding of how pimps and traffickers operate to take control of the victim’s behavior, intellect, thoughts and emotions which was invaluable information for those working to help restore the lives of victims of this heinous crime.”
Renee Jones, President & CEO
Renee Jones Empowerment Center
1340 West 65th Street Front
Cleveland, OH 44102
Visit us on Facebook
RJEC Mission Statement:
The Renee Jones Empowerment Center is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization that fosters opportunities for the disadvantaged. The center defines the disadvantaged as those who have been faced with many adverse challenges, such as poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and drug-abuse. The Center’s mission is to empower these individuals to advocate for themselves and to improve their quality of life through personal, social, and professional development.
“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 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
“Steven Hassan is one of our most eloquent defenders of freedom of the mind. For decades he has labored mightily on behalf of the majesty of the human spirit. His good work has brought psychological and spiritual relief to countless victims and families who have unknowingly stumbled into the clutches of mind control perpetrators. As a spokesperson for the ordinary individual’s right to be the master of his or her own thoughts and choices, Hassan has resisted the dangers and threats manufactured by manipulators who have sought to silence his courage. His new book will bring special hope for current victims, but it should be read by anyone who values individuality.”
Alan W. Scheflin, Professor of Law
Santa Clara University
Coauthor of The Mind Manipulators; Recipient of seven awards in the field of mental health.
“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.
“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
“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