ICSA Annual Conference: Leaving family to join a cult, getting out, & healing. The power of connection.
Friday, June 24, 2022, 4:00 PM-4:50 PM
When an individual joins a cult, it can be the case that so many others are affected beyond that individual. In 2001, at the age of 25, I joined a “mystical christian” cult that I would remain in for 11 years. I was immediately targeted by the leaders as they sensed the close bond I had with my brother, mother, and father. This schism from my family would prove to be one of the greatest experiences of torture I would endure. But it was also this deep connection with family that seemed to shift from a bold rope that tied us all together, able to endure, until it slowly thinned into a frayed piece of string, constantly tugged on by the leaders of my group until it was a whisper of a web that I perceived as a glistening temptation of the past.
And then an awakening began to emerge, resulting from my question that arose against the messages I had been fed. I wondered for the first time in a long time, ‘Why had I not communicated with my family in 8 years?’ Any question of being attached had disappeared years ago with the puff of wind that sent the thin silky thread floating as a distant memory. This curiosity initiated my return to self and release from the group.
While the survivor stories of how we left are varied, the role that relational connections might play are often central to recovery, healing, or even survival. We will explore the power of this beyond my story. My hope is that this presentation provides relatable information for survivors, and helpful suggestions for friends and families with a loved one in a group of high control.
Jennifer French Tomasic is a mental health counselor working with clients across the United States and Internationally. She has a Master’s Degree in the Psychology of Coercive Control and has been conducting research through Salford University, overseen by Dr. Linda Dubrow-Marshall, related to the impact of Internal Family Systems (IFS) for those who self identify as having experienced coercive control. While Jennifer works with a variety of clients and therapeutic models, her expertise is working with individuals who have experienced religious or spiritual trauma, often found in high demand / high control groups. In July 2022 Jennifer is expected to complete her Post Cult Counseling Certification (PCC) through Gillie Jenkinson’s Hope Valley Counseling. Jennifer’s history includes 11 years in a mystical Christian cult that she left in 2012. Her captivating experience of how she transitioned both in and out of the organization is contained in episodes 1 & 2 of the Project Hope Podcast, which she hosts for families, friends and anyone who has been in groups of high demand / high control. For more information, visit Jennifer-French.com.