cult recovery 101

Consultation with Families of Cultists

Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.

In recent years, families have sought help for a new problem—what to do when a son, daughter, or other relative appears to have undergone a relatively rapid and often drastic personality change as a result of affiliation with a group suspected of having unduly influenced that person (Clark, Langone, Schecter, & Daly, 1981; Delgado. 1977; West & Singer, 1980). Broadly speaking, these groups can be called cults. According to Webster‟s Third New International Unabridged Dictionary (1966), the term “cult” may convey one or more possible meanings: (1) a system for the cure of disease based on the dogmas, tenets, or principles set forth by its promulgator to the exclusion of scientific experience or demonstration; (2) great or excessive dedication to some person, idea, or organization, and (3) a religion or mystique ordinarily regarded as spurious and unorthodox. By “cultic relationships” we refer to those relationships in which a person intentionally induces others to become totally or nearly totally dependent on him or her for almost all major life decisions, and inculcates in these followers a belief that he or she has some special talent, gift, or knowledge.

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, parents were seeking help because a relative had entered one of the cultic groups often referred to as “New Age” or “New Movement” groups. More recently, families have been troubled about relatives who appear to them to have been drastically influenced by one of the human-growth or group-awareness organizations (Cinnamon & Farson, 1979; Ofshe, 1983; Singer, 1983; Tipton, 1982). Still others have relatives who have become enmeshed in pseudotherapy groups or involved with a person or persons who appear to be wielding undue influence over them (SCP Newsletter, 1984; Singer, 1983; Temerlin & Temerlin, 1982). Added to these are relatives concerned about young children who are being reared in cultic organizations. These relatives are primarily grandparents and separated or divorced spouses who have left the organization. Yet another new group are whole families that have emerged from cultic organizations. By far  the largest number seeking consultation are those families who have become alarmed at seeing a somewhat abrupt and marked shift in the social identity of a family member. They report noting a sudden personality change; a drastic change in goals, such as leaving school, a job, or a relationship; sudden attempts to transfer funds or personal possessions; or, more dramatically, the relative has dropped out of sight (Addis, Schulman-Miller, & Lightman, 1984; Clark et al, 1981; Delgado, 1977; West & Singer, 1980).

These situations call for appraisal and consultation with families in order to help hem realistically and legally deal with what they think has occurred. The term “therapy,” which originally meant to nurse or cure, implies the presence of a condition that needs treatment. In contrast, the term “consultation” historically referred to a “gathering together” in order to seek technical or professional advice before planning or deciding something. The families of cultists usually do not seek family therapy. They are not asking for treatment of an internal condition but, rather, aid in dealing with an external organization or situation. Thus, they are seeking consultation, including information and advice, about their options and the reality of their concerns. The first stages of consultation are the gathering of factual information and observations from those involved and then helping them to define and understand the situation. This process will be outlined later.

Social Identity and Influence

A series of events in the past half century has highlighted how fragile social identity can be under certain circumstances and how easily human conduct can be manipulated under certain conditions. In brief, these events began with the Russian purge trials in the 1930s in which people were manipulated into both falsely confessing and falsely accusing. The world press expressed bewilderment and amazement at the phenomenon but, with few exceptions, soon lapsed into silence (Rogge. 1959). The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the effects of the Chinese revolutionary universities that subjected an entire nation to a thought-reform program in which millions were induced to espouse new philosophies and exhibit new conduct through psychological, social, and political coercion techniques  (Chen, 1960; Hinkle & Wolff, 1956; Lifton, 1961; Mindszenty, 1974; Schein, 1961). Next came the Korean War, in which United Nations‟ prisoners of war were subjected to an indoctrination program based upon methods growing out of the Chinese thought reform program and combined with other social and psychological influence techniques. At that time the term “brainwashing” was introduced into our vocabulary. Interest in human influence and manipulation subsided for the most part after a few years except for general academic curiosity and the ever- present reports of blatantly unethical or illegal influence techniques being brought to bear on persons in distant countries, or local frauds, confidence games, and undue- influence situations.

Then Charles Manson‟s diabolical influence and control of a group of middle-class youths shocked the world (Atkins, 1978; Bugliosi & Gentry, 1974; Watkins, 1979). Soon after, in 1976, the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patricia Hearst and manipulated and controlled her behavior (Hearst, 1982). By the mid-1970s, thousands of families in the United States were beginning to be puzzled and alarmed as they saw the influence of a vast array of new gurus, messiahs, and mind-manipulators on their offspring. On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones, through his controls and manipulations, led 912 followers to their death in a Guyana jungle (Reiterman & Jacobs, 1982). If Jonestown served no other purpose, it did serve to call attention to the extent of control one man could exert over his followers in the modern world. People could no longer ignore or downplay the existence and extent of such domination. They could no longer think that such control methods had existed only long ago or far away. Jim Jones‟s renal hours of domination brought the concepts of influence, persuasion, thought reform, and brainwashing to the attention of the world. The many families who had sought help from state and national authorities because of the conditions they claimed existed within the People‟s Temple had not been listened to, for few people understood the totalistic control Jones held. One of the few who listened was Congressman Leo J. Ryan, who lost his life as a result of Jim Jones‟s last orders. Jones was not about to relinquish his mad control over the lives of those he dominated.

In the post-Jonestown world, thousands of families who had relatives in various other cultic organizations began to feel they might be heard when they described the control and influence they saw being wielded in various groups— religious, health, flying-saucer, and psychological cults. The first wave of families seeking consultation were primarily describing a phenomenon in which they had noted sudden personality changes in relatives who had become involved with some of the New Age religious and philosophical cults. But as Singer (1979x, 1979b) and West and Singer (1980) noted, throughout history the ever-present, self-appointed messiahs, gurus, and pied pipers appear to adapt to changing times. Thus we see a broadening of the possible realms into which persuaders will move.

More recently, families have been seeking consultation not only about cults but also for what, for lack of a better term, we shall call “cultic relationships,” which include pseudogrowth and pseudotherapy groups and “undue- influence” situations. An entirely new set of consultation problems are being presented by a number of families across the nation.

Here I am less concerned about whether or not a particular group would universally be labeled a cult. What is of interest are the properties of the relationship and the types of processes that go on between a group leader and his or her followers. In the past several years, families have been seeking consultation about groups and about relationships that cause them to question how much freedom of choice actually exists for followers, and how much initial information a new member was given about what would happen in the long run: Families are seeking consultation about the structure and impact of influence. As a shorthand convenience in this chapter, the terms “cult” and “cultic relationships,” experiences in intensive indoctrination, and thought-reform programs will be used interchangeably.

The following case description illustrates undue influence in a cultic relationship situation that both resembles and differs from the more widely recognized involvement with established cults. This type of problem is becoming more frequent as the focus of requests for consultation from families.

A “diet cult”: A case example. A young professional woman was asked by a casual acquaintance to participate in a “free, scientific, experimental weight control project.” While vague, the description implied that scientists were providing new educational methods. Instead of attending lectures and continuing her independent life, she soon was flattered by the male and female Leader into accepting their definition of her as a “natural clairvoyant healer” and “to go on course” with them. They induced her to sever ties with her family and friends, to leave her job and to join their small “weight control program.” Because she was not working; she eventually turned over her car, savings, and property to them in return for the “courses in natural healing” that they urged her to pursue with them.

Growing more obese by the day, as were the several other recruits, the woman moved with the group to an isolated small town where they lived with the two leaders and were persuaded not to write or contact families or friends who were said to be apt to “lower their consciousnesses” because outsiders were not privy to the “course.” The course consisted of a 20-hour, daily routine filled with 4 to 5 hours of hypnosis and self-hypnosis exercises plus many periods of hyperventilation. She spent additional hours “in group” and she was taught to “speak in voices and to hear in voices.” These were trainings in how to link, randomly but rhythmically, nonsense syllables into singsong patterns and to chant these aloud for interpretation by the female leader, who supposedly was “a natural knowing interpreter.” After being given her interpretations for the day, the young woman was instructed to try to hallucinate what she had just heard as if it were coming from outside her head. That is, her remembrances of the “interpretations” were now to be “heard in voices.” She was to learn to hallucinate and experience her own thoughts as if they were being heard through her ears. White attempting to accomplish this, she was berated, humiliated, and alternatively threatened with expulsion from the group or told she would have to “go on basic” again. While attempting to learn to hallucinate, she became psychotic. Her relationship with the group then ended and she was put on a bus with a ticket hone to her parents.

The acute psychosis subsided after several days of hospitalization, but the woman remained in the hospital for 2 weeks. Her psychiatrist asked me to be a consultant during the hospitalization. He phoned the morning after her admission stating: “I‟ve got a new kind of cult case. This group combines odd diets, speaking in tongues, isolation, sleep deprivation, hypnosis, and a lot of magical thinking. There is no religious angle; it‟s a diet cult.” His description of what the patient had told him indicated that she had been in a cultic group and had been subjected to many stressful and bizarre processes. The psychiatrist asked that I meet with him and his patient in consult with them about the various activities of the group. He had told her that we had worked together on other occasions and that my knowledge of how various groups utilized Ericksonian-like trance-induction techniques and created verbal systems to block reflective thought might be of value. The psychiatrist had concluded that it was unlikely that the woman would have broken down if she hid not been exposed to the stimuli of the group. In addition, he wished to hear me interview her and give my views. He told her to quiz me about my research to see if any of the studies of other groups applied to her experiences in her group. He wanted to use a consultant as a sounding board to test his perception of reality. Both the psychiatrist and patient wanted an analysis of the organizations techniques and contents and an opinion from me as to whether I thought the techniques might have contributed to her mental and emotional responses while in the group.

My role was a technical one—to learn directly from her more about the group‟s practices and to attempt to relate its procedures to my research on influence techniques if it seemed appropriate. As we proceeded, the psychiatrist commented on how much new material about the group she was providing, because the wording of my questions were helpful to her. He used consultation to help the patient see that her breakdown was understandable to him as her physician, and he hoped that it would be understandable to her as a kind of “reasonable” response to what she had been through. The consultant became a part of the “reality testing” her therapist was helping her to achieve. The many implications this use of consultation permits are vast and beyond what can be detailed here.

Upon release, the woman, her parents, and siblings were referred to me for further consultation. The psychiatrist told her family that it was his opinion that she would not have had a breakdown had she not been subjected to the bizarre routines and processes the group used. He further stated that he found the family to be warm and closely knit, “a kind of all-American family until she became involved with these diet-cult folks,” and that he did not think that any of them needed treatment at this point.

Consultation with this family began by getting a clear picture of the woman‟s and family‟s immediate needs. All of them needed to talk about the cult because they were still in the dark about what had actually happened in the group. I joined in when needed to help explain certain effects. Further, the family had been frightened and bewildered at this woman‟s psychotic condition when she had been sent home by the cult. They wondered if it were all right to talk with her about her time in the group. Two meetings of 2 hours each, with the entire family (including two younger siblings), were held on successive days. During these sessions, the young woman explained details of many of the “processes” the leader had used. The consultant helped this family understand the role of influence, hypnosis, and self- hypnosis in the change process to which the young woman had been exposed. The consultant also clarified for the family how her social isolation and dependency on the leaders after they had separated her from her past support systems had stripped her of her old identity. They had attacked her belief systems, both her belief in how the world operated and her own beliefs about herself and her values. Her past life had been “revised” by the cult leaders, who declared that her good relations with her family were to be denounced as “crazy dreams from your crazy childhood.”

Consultation was an informational and educational process in which the woman and her family were assisted in discussing how the intensity and structure of her cult experiences appeared to have produced the exhaustion and dissociation that culminated in the acutely psychotic state she was in when the cult sent her home. Her mental state seemed to be a direct effect of the processes and combined stressors of the situation—including the beratings and her dependency on the cult leaders after losing her whole past view of herself  and substituting their interpretations of reality. The consultant aided the family in making sense out of what had happened. The approach was to provide a transactional explanation rather than to ascribe her reaction solely to some inherent mental weakness.

The consultation closed with the young woman, the family, and consultant concluding that further therapy was not indicated at this time. This was in agreement with the thinking of the referring psychiatrist, who also felt that consultation, education, and finding a support system was preferable to further treatment.

After a period of time in which site greatly profited from sharing her experiences with other ex-cult members (a national network of persons who have been involved in one or another of the vast array of cults operative in the United States today), the woman again sought consultation. She reported that she was working in her profession, and was successful occupationally and socially, but that she was experiencing what she has termed “flashbacks.” These appeared to be brief, dissociative episodes in which she felt depersonalized, dizzy, and anxious, that is, feeling as she often had while in the group. The fact that such episodes are a common aftermath of cult experiences was explained to her. Because she was soon moving to another part of the state and thought that the move might cause some unusual tensions, she was referred to a therapist in that area who was experienced in working with ex-cultists and those with dissociative problems.

A recent telephone call to her revealed that she had met with the therapist three times after she had experienced some periods when she “spaced out and got stuck”—her words for an Atypical Dissociative State (DSM-III. code 300.15; American Psychiatric Association, 1990) during periods of marked exhaustion and anxiety. The episodes were similar to those she frequently had had while in the cult, The therapist used behavioral and educational techniques analogous to those I, as the consultant, had offered to the woman. These taught her how to control the intensity and duration of the episodes so that they were only momentary phenomena and no longer caused her any  alarm. She has now married, is functioning well in all areas of her life, and is a volunteer in a local cult clinic.

Consultation or Therapy

Reactions such as this woman‟s are not uncommon in persons subjected to similar treatment in cults and various intense indoctrination programs. Special approaches are needed in those relatively unusual cases in which the cult member has had a disturbed psychiatric history apart from the cult experience. Most often, the best treatment to effect a fast recovery for these people focuses on helping them properly attribute to the cult or indoctrination procedures the psychological and social pressures that overwhelmed them. They need to see that the behavior change or breakdown does not doom them to a life of fragility or a need to see themselves as weak or mad creatures. It is important to educate the ex-cultist and the family about how the indoctrination programs in intense confrontational groups produce the psychological and social effects that contribute to their changed behavior and occasional breakdowns. The focus is upon the impact and evaluation of such group processes.

This approach is not typical of the path taken in traditional therapy in which therapists wittingly or unwittingly assume that inherent, intrapersonal weaknesses of either a psychological or constitutional nature cause the breakdown or behavioral change. Such a therapy format demonstrates to the client that problems stem from internal needs and defects, and it directs the patient to seek hidden motivations and weak internal properties of the self without properly conceptualizing the context, the external factors, and the system within which the breakdown or behavior change occurred. A better perspective is that which has been effective in working with victims of many kinds—victims of kidnapping, violent crimes, natural disasters, and victims of thought reform programs. Many victims of violence and coercion need help in seeing that their symptoms arose out of their responses to intense, external stressors. They should not leave the consultation or therapy feeling that they were uniquely fragile in the face of the duress or highly unusual circumstances that existed in a group situation.

Whether a family seeks consultation during the period of involvement or after a member has left a cultic relationship, some form of the general educational, consultative format described above is useful. However, few professionals or agencies have addressed these special needs of families of cultists. These families are faced with a perplexing and unusual problem that has arisen between them and an outside force. They seek specific information, concrete guidance, and advice. This outside influence has so affected one of their members that the conduct, demeanor, and personality of that person has changed to such an extent that they no longer know how to deal with him or her. Often that member may have disappeared and they have no knowledge of where to locate the relative. The majority of these families, until the entry of a member into a cultic relationship or organization, have been ordinary, normal families—not necessarily ideal or free of difficulties, but average families.

Therapists often ask: “How is consultation with families of cultists different from therapy with families in general?” This question requires several answers. The first is that therapy is a procedure therapists engage in with families who usually say, in effect, that something “internal” in our family system is not working; help us fix “our” system. The families of cultists are saying, help us deal with an “outside” system in which one of our family has become enmeshed. The families of cultists need a great amount of input from informational and assistance networks. Such information can be prodded by the consultant as well as by suggested readings and referrals to local, national, or international parent and ex- member networks, and to law enforcement and other agencies when indicated. The consultant is in the role of a broker or triage person. That is, based on the best available information, the consultant makes a tentative assessment, informs and directs the family to the next stage of procedures if they agree with the plan, and remains available for further consultation at different junctures in the subsequent efforts at problem solving, which may include ex-cultists and parents of ex-cultists if indicated.

Many professionals are unaware of cultic practices and thought reform programs and falsely assume that anyone who becomes involved in these programs is merely acting  out teenage rebellion or, if not, most have a severe personality disorder or an “ambulatory psychosis,” or be some type of markedly impaired person. Such practitioners are both uninformed and harmful because they often delay families from locating proper help early.

Professional assessment failure: A case example. Two children, aged 10 and 12, were taken by a drug-using, bizarre, charismatic street person into his small cultic group. Their parents were told by three consecutive therapists that the children were merely “doing pre-teenage rebelling” and the parents needed to allow the children “to individuate.” The parents were persuaded to embark upon couples‟ therapy by each of these professionals. None directed the parents to the proper legal authorities. When this was done by a cult expert whom the parents contacted after several years had passed, swift and helpful action was taken and the children were located and restored to their parents by the police. Needless to say, by that point the children needed some appropriate professional assistance, which was provided along with consultation with the rest of the family.

The general format followed by cult consultants begins with a history-gathering period in which it is determined what group or persons the missing member is with, for how long, what contact, if any, bas been made, how it went, what the family would like in the way of help at this point, and what their hopes and plans are. An outline is made of how they and the consultant and others will proceed. The consultant needs to have available reading materials on specific cults, lists of material available in libraries, bookstores, and from cult-information agencies. A general outline is made of the social and psychological influence mechanisms used in thought reform programs and cultic relationships (Addis et al,, 1984; Hinkle & Wolff, 1956; Lifton, 1961; Ofshe, 1983; Schein, 1961; Singer, 1993; West &. Singer, 1980). These group processes are discussed and linked to the concrete experiences that the family or former cultist has related. The family is helped to learn about psychological and social influence techniques that may have been involved in their relative‟s behavior. They are assisted in getting continuing network assistance, such as meeting with ex-members of the same group, who often have specific instructions about the best ways to communicate with persons in the group.

When indicated, they are given addresses of local, national, and international parent-support networks and informational agencies.

The role of the consultant varies with each family, and the multiple contingencies that may arise cannot be delineated here. A thorough history of the cultist is always obtained to determine how stable or unstable that person bad been in the past and what is known about their present physical health and mental status. For example, a mother described her adult son as severely malnourished, mute, and unable to leave her house. However, the cult leader was phoning the son and badgering him to return to the group even though he was reported to be too feeble to leave the house. The consultant recognized the emergency nature of the son‟s condition and put the mother in touch with a psychiatrist in her area who, upon making a house call, arranged for an ambulance transfer to a hospital.

Most of the above remarks describe my work as a single practitioner. A team approach is used by a Los Angeles agency that has developed a cult clinic for families (Addis et al., 1984). Since early 1979, this clinic bas primarily used teams of volunteers, psychiatrists, social workers, attorneys, ex-cult members, parents of present and former cult members, and a mental health administrator. A full-time professional conducts an initial intake interview with the family. This person assigns certain families to meet with individual volunteers if the problems of the family are severe. Otherwise, most families participate in group sessions. These sessions focus on education and problem solving. Staff ex-cult members and staff parents of cultists share their experiences with the new families. Cult recruitment methods and the processes used in inducing behavior changes are discussed. The objectives are to help the families gain perspective, understand what strategies and options are available, mobilize the family, and attract the cult member‟s attention. Addis et al., (1984) point out that these objectives are achieved over a period of time and are not instant solutions.

The staff meets before each group meeting to share information about the families that will attend. This insures continuity and coherence. In the interval between meetings  of the large group, individual contacts sometimes occur between a family and a staff person because of outside developments with the cultist members. The staff person shares this information in order to keep the group abreast of developments and to help direct the consultation-education meetings that ensue.

When local cult consultants are not available, it is useful for family therapists to locate a network of ex-members and parents of former members to co-consult with him or her and families of cultists. Reviewing the literature is also helpful for formats and techniques to use with families (Addis. et al., 1984; Andron, 1983; Clark et al, 1981; Dellinger, 1982; Etemad, 1978; Goldberg & Goldberg, 1982; Singer, 1979a; West & Singer, 1980).

Recent Trends

Earlier it was noted that changes have occurred in the type of cultic groups about which families seek consultation. In the mid-1970s, families sought assistance primarily in dealing with relatives who had become involved with new religious groups. Recently, there has been a burgeoning of occult, psychotherapy, and prosperity groups.

There has also been a shift in who is coming out of cults. Instead of young adults emerging after a period of time in a cult, we now have children, teenagers, and young adults reared in cultic groups who often emerge into the general society in need of special assistance. These individuals often have had limited age-appropriate contact and experiences with the larger society, or quite unusual experiences that may ill-equip them for life outside the group.

The aftermath of cult child rearing: A case example. One young man, taken into a group by his parents at an early age, ran away from the group at age 21. He hid out with other, older ex-members who were also afraid the group would seek them out and attempt to make them return. They helped him get a laboring job and suggested he see me. He was overwhelmed by his lack of knowledge about the outside world. He did not know how to rent a room, get a telephone, start a bank account, get a driver‟s license, and lacked knowledge of other simple skills. All these had been taken care of by the cult hierarchy. He was embarrassed to  let his employers and new friends know that he was as “uninformed as a Martian,” to use his terms. My consultant‟s role consisted of determining that he was neither seeking nor needing therapy. He needed education, explanations, and a support system. I helped him contact some ex-cultists of his own age who were glad to assist him and quickly walked him through all the new places and procedures he needed to learn.

Entire families are now exiting from certain cults with young children who have been taught habits far afield from the mores of the outer society. Some families have sought consultation in person, some have phoned for advice and guidance in how to retrain their children. Usually these families have left cults in which incest and child-sex activities had been practiced. Once out of the cult, the parents easily return to their pre-cult behavior, but find themselves with young children who have seen and been taught behaviors that are taboo in the outer world. Consultation focuses on clearly delineating those behaviors that have been carried out in the cult but are not practiced outside. It is suggested that the parents tell the children that they had lived by the outside standards until joining the group. Now they are bringing the children and themselves back into the outside world where the parents really want to live and have their children grow up. Out here there are different rules, and they are easy to learn. A clear-cut break with the cult rules and an avoidance of guilt-inducing explanations works well over time.

Siblings of cultists are a neglected group. When teaching and lecturing, I have asked certain siblings of former cultists to appear along with the ex-member and parents to inform other families of how neglected a sibling can feel during the months or often years that a family‟s attention has been focused almost solely on the cultist.

As social and economic climates have changed, so has the nature of some cultic organizations. Recently, families are seeking help in dealing with relatives caught up in psychotherapy cults in which either professionals have gone astray and have multiple relationships with clients and patients, or nonprofessionals start “therapy” groups. In both instances, cultic relationships have occurred and the  therapists or pseudotherapists have become the landlords, employers, financial advisers, and lovers, having “patients” move in and live with them, perform household chores, and turn in pay checks to the leader (Singer, 1983. Temerlin, 1982).

A number of occult cults have sprung up. But with the tightening of the economy, the largest number of new cultic relationships that nave appeared seem most to resemble purely financial scams. Somewhat charismatic schemers using a “psychological” or a “prosperity-minded” philosophical content entice young working adults to move into a group living situation run by the leader. The leader usually “psychologizes” about trust, integrity, and other virtues, using the vocabulary and experiential exercises of the human potential movement and encounter group. These techniques keep members dependent on him or her in continuing relational and living arrangements. Eventually the conditions resemble those in the well-known cults. These cult members drop contact with their family and old friends, put all free time and money into the “group,” drop their career, and work at low-level jobs with hours that permit more time with the leader and group and less with the outside world. The personality changes originally seen in members of exotic cults now are reported in these persons living in the smaller cultic groups.


The role of the consultant to families of cultists is first to assess the immediate informational and support-system needs of the family and to see that the family begins to receive this information and guidance.

Different approaches need to be taken in those instances in which the cult member appears to have had a poor psychiatric history before and/or since being in the cult. These families are relatively few and need special assistance. However, all families, looking forward to the possible emergence of a relative from a cult need to begin to plan among themselves for their roles in assisting the reentry of the cultist into everyday life when that person exits from the group. Concrete issues such as where these persons will live, how they will support themselves, and what educational or vocational plans need to be considered ahead of time, should  be dealt with by the consultant because families, in their haste to rescue a relative, may fail to plan ahead. Without being a purveyor of doom, the consultant should also warn families that a certain number of cultists may never leave groups; this possibility should be considered as one possible outcome no matter what is hoped.

Because this is a new area of family consultation, it behooves the practitioner to know when to call on cult specialists. These specialists can usefully direct practitioners to selected readings and help them contact local, national, and international groups interested in research and consultation on cults, undue influence, and persuasion issues. Generalists, it is hoped, will become more fully informed about group influence and cultic phenomena, and thus may become more able to consult directly and effectively with families of cult members or, alternatively, know when to refer these families to specialists.


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This chapter was originally published in Systems Consultation: A new Perspective for Family Therapy, edited by Lyman C. Wynne, Timothy T. Weber, and Susan H. McDaniel. Guilford Publications, 1986.