Recovery From Mormonism

This past March, I visited Utah at the request of psychologist John Dehlin and the Thrive Beyond Religion non-profit movement. It was a solid opportunity for me to learn more about the LDS organization and its impact on its members. My last trip to Utah was at the request of the Ex-Mormon Foundation in 2000 after my second book, Releasing the Bonds, was published. I became deeply interested in the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Dr. Phil (the television show host) asked me to counsel, pro bono, two 15-year FLDS runaways who did not want to marry men in their sixties or older. FLDS sticks to the original Joseph Smith polygamous teachings. I agreed to help counsel them, and the show sent them to Boston. The resulting expose motivated the Attorneys General of Utah and Arizona to investigate Warren Jeffs, the so-called prophet, who is currently in jail but still influencing his true believers. 

Mormonism, Mental Health, And Whistleblowing With Dr. John Dehlin 

Whistleblowers often suffer consequences for speaking out, and our guest Dr. John Dehlin knows that first-hand. A 6th generation member, he was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) for speaking up about gay rights and the suicide problem within the LDS church and for hosting a podcast that discussed problems with LDS Church history, truth claims, etc. They didn’t like him raising those issues, but he persevered and is now helping provide support for Mormons experiencing religious faith crises.   

Helping to counsel people in the UK with Cult Issues with Christian Szurko

Cults are often thought about as organizations with charismatic leaders who pull people in, strip them of all their worldly goods and autonomy, and implement mind control. However, many of these abusive methods can also be associated with domestic abuse, gangs and organized crime, and political extremism. Additionally, they can be seen in relational power abuse dynamics such as employee abuse, abuse by tutors, mentors, and coaches, and misconduct within various professions. Christian Szurko talks with us about these issues and how recognizing the pervasiveness of these methods informed and broadened his approach to abuses of relational power. 

From Growing Up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Counseling People Who Wish to Exit it with Frances Peters

When we think of cults, we think of being recruited into them. It’s easy to forget some people are born into them like my guest today, Frances Peters, who was born and raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses before leaving in 2004 with her husband and two children. As soon as she realized how controlling and harmful the group was, she decided to leave. Since then, she’s been researching the workings of undue influence and what people can do to (re)gain their identity.  She experienced how challenging it is to become a thriver instead of remaining a victim of institutionalized undue influence. 

Opening Our Minds – on Predators and Prevention with Jon Atack

Jon Atack’s Opening Our Minds is quite simply the best new book on authoritarian cults. It digs into the reasons why authoritarianism is ruining the world and what we can do about it. Jon and I first met over thirty years ago; I was the “go-to” guy on the Moonies, and Jon was the “go-to” guy on Scientology. However, we found more in common than our expertise on cults – we hit it off immediately and have been fast friends ever since. There is much to admire about Jon: he is an artist, a musician, a writer, a historian and biographer, a scholar-practitioner, and a truly grounded, authentic individual. Despite decades of exploring the worst aspects of human behavior, he is also thoroughly life-affirming and believes that we have the tools to save the future from the human predators who are so intent on wrecking it.

Wake Up Grateful: the Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted – with Kristi Nelson

Committing to a practice of being grateful may seem like an odd prescription for healing from adverse life experiences. However, for over 46 years, I have worked with clients who have survived cult indoctrination and known many friends who have experienced various types of tragedy in their lives. Because of their experiences, many have become cynical and lost their sense of joy in life. When I came across the work of Kristi Nelson, I knew she had something valuable to contribute. Kristi is Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living and the author of Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted. So, I invited her to appear on The Influence Continuum to share the healing effect of practicing gratitude with my clients, friends, and the general public.

Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD by Jason Kander 

If you have read Jason Kander’s book or listened to his self-read audiobook, you know why the title – Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD – is important. Jason sat in President Obama’s office as the president said, “I think you should run for president.” Dropping out of that race in the lead, Jason made what would have been a successful run for mayor of Kansas City. Yet, he eventually recognized his need to get help as a former army captain in the intelligence division for what he describes as a “secret psychological disorder,” PTSD. 

Moving from Victim to Survivor in Precarious Times — A Conversation with Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.

I’ve been hosting the Influence Continuum podcast for over seven months, and I’ve spoken with guests on topics ranging from election integrity to 4th Generation Warfare and the Christian Right. It is plausible to say that I would not even be investigating any of these topics had I not encountered the work—and later met—the esteemed guest of my first ever podcast episode, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton.  

Leaving NXIVM, an Authoritarian Cult, Was Not the End: A Conversation with Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames

Two years ago, in May of 2020, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Edmondson for my blog. Sarah, and her husband Anthony (Nippy) Ames, met while both were high-ranking members of NXIVM, a cult founded by Keith Raniere. At the time of that interview, Raniere had been convicted of federal crimes that included sex trafficking and conspiracy. In October 2020, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison.

LDS (Mormon) Church, Leaving & Recovery–Reddit AMA: ExMormons

This past Sunday (January 9, 2022), I was invited to answer questions about the Mormon Church during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) for the subreddit group, ExMormon. This is the link to the entire thread: AMA: I’m Steven Hassan, Ask Me Anything! : exmormon ( I had recently written…

Synanon and Enthusiastic Sobriety: Cults Disguised as Drug Treatment

Cults take on many disguises to recruit and control members, including religious organizations, marketing schemes, drug treatment, and even yoga or martial arts groups. But the tactics of recruitment and control are very similar, and the malignant narcissists who profit from the cults also act in similarly destructive ways.