The Truth About Steven Hassan, PhD

The Truth About Steven Hassan, PhD

Thank you for your interest in wishing to know more about what is being said about me on the Internet. Over the decades, I have always had to deal with disinformation and ad hominem attacks done by cult agents, as well as, a few disgruntled folks who, for whatever their reasons, spend time saying negative things. It comes with the territory. Naturally, I have had to have thick skin. Some people are very confused by sociologists who are cult apologists and write that brainwashing and mind control do not exist. They want cults to be called “new religious movements”. (Here is a page I wrote about cult apologists.)

One useful page created by folks who have been in this field for decades is How to Select a Cult Expert. Fortunately, I have gotten incredible support from people all over the world and it empowers me when I receive thank you messages. I feel extremely grateful to have been rescued from the cult and have had amazing opportunities to contribute.

It is true that I am a bit of a dinosaur in the field of counter destructive cult activism. I got my start after my deprogramming from the Moon cult in 1976. It is now over 40 years later, and I have written my fourth book, the most controversial of all, The Cult of Trump for the Free Press imprint of Simon and Schuster that was released October 2019. continue to provide consulting services including intensive recovery consulting services; intensive intervention services; legal case consultation and expert witness services; and professional case consultations. I also provide education and professional training including community education; instruction for law students and psychiatry residents; workshops and plenary talks at state, national and international conferences; and media interviews. I am now in a doctoral program and plan to do much, much more.

When people ask me why I have not “taken on” my critics directly, I have been advised to not “feed the trolls.” I endeavor to stay focused on doing my work and helping as many people as possible. If you are not familiar with my credentials, please see below. Read my bio and CV, my books, and watch my videos including my TEDx talk. If you like, please read through this web site, especially my blogs.

They have even attacked my gift of the Jerusalem Medal and made claims that I have not been teaching at programs that are part of Harvard Medical School. We have permission to post an official letter from a psychiatrist who has been teaching and we have an official letter on file to provide that I have been teaching 4th year psychiatry residents for three semesters (Due to harassment, the name of the contact has been removed but is available upon request.) Here is a link to a video of my talk for Psychiatry Grand Rounds in 2017.

In order to cope with the expected onslaught of media, I have decided to put up this page and answer some of the false or misleading claims made against me. These include unscholarly attacks by sociologists aligned with what they like to term “new religious movements” and who deny the existence of brainwashing, mind control and destructive cults.  If there are accusations that are not covered in this page, please send us an email and put in the subject line, “Set the record straight”.  I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.

Uniquely Qualified to Help

As a former member of the Moon organization (Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon), I have direct first-hand experience of what it is like to be under the influence of a destructive group. Some “cult experts” have no such experience. I was not only deprogrammed but spent my first year out helping to deprogram other people in the Moonies. When legal ex parte conservatorships were no longer being granted to parents to legally do interventions, I saw that doing anything by force was doomed and renounced this approach. I went on to help pioneer exit-counseling and in 1988 my first book was published by the Park Street imprint of Inner Traditions and titled Combatting Cult Mind Control (with two ts in Combatting, as it was also published in a UK edition. This book was translated by numerous other publishers worldwide. (In 2014, I bought the rights back and did a massive update and republished it myself as Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling book for Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults.) In 2000, I published Releasing the Bonds, Empowering People to Think for Themselves in hardcover. in 2012, I published Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved One Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs. Now, The Cult of Trump. The books have been praised in academic circles, as well as from people who were born into cults or involved with controlling relationships. Countless people have said that reading my books helped to save their lives.

In 1985, I received my Master’s degree in counseling psychology from the accredited Cambridge College. I became a licensed mental health counselor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1991. I have traveled around the world to attend conferences and training programs to develop my clinical skills, as well as, to teach.

I have been blessed to have had incredible mentors over the span of my career, including Robert Jay Lifton, Philip Zimbardo, Daniel Brown, Alan Scheflin, and so many others. In the past several years, I have been mentored by Thomas Gutheil, Michael Commons, Harold Burszstajn and others at the program in The Program in Psychiatry and the Law, at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School. In March 2019, I published my first peer-reviewed journal article, which included a quantitative study of over 1000 former cult members. Judy Stevens-Long, Keith Melville, and John Austin were my mentors at Fielding Graduate University where I earned a doctorate in Organizational Change and Development.

Non-Violent, Ethical Approach

I have developed and pioneered a breakthrough method called the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal intervention alternative for families to help cult members. The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult. I use an ethical and non-coercive approach to helping victims of cults leave destructive groups. I do not condone violence nor kidnapping. Therefore, anyone claiming I am a violent deprogrammer is lying!

Forty-three years ago when I was doing deprogramming, this was not the case. Remember, I had experienced deprogramming myself. I stopped doing deprogramming when laws changed and conservatorships were not readily granted to families. The Strategic Interactive Approach is non-coercive and empowers individuals by giving them the tools they need to detect and remove undue influence from their own minds. It focuses on the development of healthy relationships within the family. The focus is on small, strategic, meaningful interactions that communicate unconditional love and provide space for the loved one to express doubts and fears.

Respectful of Spiritual & Religious Groups Who Follow the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I was raised in a conservative Jewish family in Flushing, Queens, N.Y. (approximately one mile from Donald Trump). For the past twenty-one years, I and my family have belonged to a Jewish-renewal independent congregation in Massachusetts. I like to study Torah, meditate, pray, daven and be part of a spiritual community dedicated to social justice. Any disinformation that says I am anti-religious is false. I am anti- destructive mind control cults that use religion as a cloak to the financial and political agendas of their leadership.

Profit and Non-Profit Entities

My company is a for-profit S-corp and has been for many years. I have financed my activism through consulting and speaking fees. While some may complain about my fees, when I go to professionals and expect professional services, I expect to compensate them according to their expertise, credentials, experience, and trust in their ability to do a good job. But there are people who charge significantly less and do not have the expertise, credentials and experience and network that I have developed during my career. People can choose whomever they wish. However, please know that anyone who offers a guarantee is dangerous. In the world of mental health and, especially cult mind control, it is a major project to help someone who is a true believer.

Cult leaders have accused me of wanting money and fame–a projection of their own psyches. I have been laboring all of these years to serve the public because I believe in justice and the protection of people’s human rights. I am wishing to empower the next generation and hope to develop training programs for mental health professionals, as well as, for law enforcement, educators, and politicians. As you will read in the final chapter in the Cult of Trump, I have some very concrete ideas for what needs to be done.

Most of my weekly hours are spent without compensation, that is doing research, writing blogs, giving interviews, and answering questions to the best of my ability. Yes, I do reduced rate and pro bono work, too. I wish I could clone myself into a hundred people, but, alas, I cannot.

I am, however, taking steps for the next five to ten years. Currently, I have a not-for-profit entity called Freedom From Undue Influence and my hope is to develop it, get grants and donors, and transition my efforts to work under a Board of Directors with an Advisory Board. I hope to have attorneys, media people, and corporate executives involved, not only in research, but also as a support group for those wishing to expose destructive cults. While I am currently operating under the non-profit umbrella of the Dare Association, we do have a separate bank account and are able to accept tax-exempt contributions.



Fielding Graduate University, School of Leadership Studies, Organizational Development and Change (ODC) (2020) 


Fielding Graduate University, School of Leadership Studies, Organizational Development & Change, (2020)


Cambridge College, Masters in Education in Counseling Psychology, Cambridge, MA (1985)

Additional Education

● Training in Strategic and Structural Family Therapy
● Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
● Dissociative Disorders
● Phobia and Panic Disorders
● Attachment Pathology
● American Psychological Association
● New England Society of Clinical Hypnosis
● International Academy of Law and Mental Health Congress
● International Society of Hypnosis workshops and conferences
● American Society for Clinical Hypnosis conferences
● National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
● Ericksonian Hypnosis and Psychotherapy workshops and conferences
● Neuro-Linguistic Programming extensive training (NLP) 1980-1981

Professional Licenses and Affiliations

●National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC): Nationally Certified Counselor, Cert. No. 43226

●Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, #820 (1992-)

●Member of Program in Psychiatry and the Law
● President of Freedom from Undue Influence, a division of the non-profit Dare Association, Inc.
● New England Complex Systems Institute – Affiliate
● Open Minds Foundation, Advisory Board Member
● Child-Friendly Faith Project, Advisory Board Member
● Against Violent Extremism (AVE) – member
● The American Counseling Association- member
● Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association- member
● American Society for Clinical Hypnosis- member
● New England Society of Clinical Hypnosis (NESCH)- member
● International Society of Hypnosis (ISH), member
● Fox Valley Technical College- consultant/ instructor
● International Cultic Studies Association- member
● Co-Developer of Ending the Game Curriculum – designed to educate and empower commercial sex trafficking victims.
● Newton, MA Crime Prevention Commission Advisory Council Member


Hassan, Steven (2019) The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hassan, Steven (2018) Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults Newton, Massachusetts: Freedom of Mind Press.

Hassan, Steven (2012, 2013) Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs, Newton, Massachusetts: Freedom of Mind Press

Hassan, Steven (2000) Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves  Somerville, Massachusetts: Freedom of Mind Press. This book has also been published in Chinese, Persian, Polish, and Russian.

Hassan, Steven A. (1988,1990). Combatting Cult Mind Control. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press. This book has also been published in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Slovak, Spanish, and Russian.

Book Chapters

Forthcoming: Hassan, S.; Caven-Atack, J. and Shah, M. (2020). Fringe Actor Terrorism: Societal Influence and Social Media Impact on Violence. In J. Holzer, P. Recupero, P. Gill, and A. Dew. (Ed.), LONE-ACTOR TERRORISM: An Integrated Framework. Oxford University Press USA.

Hassan, S., Caven-Atack, J. (2020) Anti-Semitism in Cults and Hate Groups. In: H. S. Moffic et al. (eds.), Anti-Semitism and Psychiatry,

Hankir A.Z., Hassan S. (2019) Psychological Determinants and Social Influences of Violent Extremism. In: Moffic H., Peteet J., Hankir A., Awaad R. (eds) Islamophobia and Psychiatry. Springer, Cham.

Hassan, Steven. (1994). Chapter 6: Strategic Intervention Therapy. In Shupe, A. & Bromley, D. (Ed.), Anti-cult Movements in Cross-cultural Perspective. New York: Garland

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Hassan, S. A., & Shah, M. J. (2019). The anatomy of undue influence used by terrorist cults and traffickers to induce helplessness and trauma, so creating false identities. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, 8, 97–107.

Hassan, S. A. (2020). The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking and the Law. Fielding Graduate University doctoral dissertation.


During my many years of work, I have provided numerous training workshops and seminars for mental health professionals, educators, and law enforcement officers worldwide, as well as for families of cult members. I was a featured speaker and at the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2009 National Amber Alert Symposium, where I explained why victims don’t flee and how children abductors convince victims to stay. In 2013, I participated in training over 600 Law Enforcement professionals at the Joint Regional Intelligence Center in California on human trafficking. I have also given innumerable lectures to universities, colleges, churches and synagogues, junior high schools, high schools, youth organizations, and other civic and community groups including: Harvard University, UCLA, Yale University, Stanford University, John Hopkins University, MIT, Hong Kong University, American Psychological Association Convention (2001), American Psychological Association Eastern Regional Convention (2001), The American Counseling Association National Convention, and The American Bar Association’s Conference on Tort and Religion.

Media Coverage

With almost 40 years of cult awareness activism, my insightful perspective and expert commentary have made me the definitive source for hundreds of national and international media outlets including: 60 Minutes, CNN, Fox News, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Newsweek, Night Line, NPR, Oprah Winfrey Show, The O’Reilly Factor, The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Washington Post. Most of these can be found on our YouTube Channel or the Media Archive Page.


  • “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 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.”–E.S., Former Client

  • “During my last year at college I was recruited into a quasi-Buddhist/Business/Computer-programming cult. Within months I planned on leaving my friends and family behind, forever. My parents hired Steve to teach them how to communicate with me effectively, and he ultimately led a peaceful exit-counseling session, which was calm, respectful, and a complete success. During the session, I actually had the sensation of “popping” out of a foreign mind state, as if I had been living someone else’s dream for the past year. I cannot recommend Steve’s services enough.”–Jim Picariello, Former Client
  • Additional Endorsements can be seen here
  • Review of Combating Cult Mind Control by ICSA can be found here

Professional Experience

Personal Message

Learn More About Steven Hassan (pronounced /hɑːsɪn/)


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