Cult Information Centre

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868

About Us

What is Cult Information Centre (CIC)?

CIC is a charity providing advice and information for victims of cults, their families and friends, researchers and the media. CIC was founded in 1987 and became a registered charity (No. 1012914) in 1992. It was the first charitable organisation, established in the United Kingdom, focusing critical concern on the harmful methods of the cults.

CICs Concerns

CIC is concerned about the use of deceptive and manipulative methods used by cults to recruit and indoctrinate unsuspecting members of society.

CIC believes that these cult methods present a threat to the well-being of the individual and the family.

Consequently CIC sees the need for gathering and disseminating accurate information on cultism and aims to meet that need.

CICs Activities

Public Education

CIC gives educational talks to Schools, Colleges, Universities, Churches, Clubs and Corporations.

Media Interviews

CIC helps the media with interviews to further disseminate information on cultism.

Family Assistance

CIC offers information and support for families who have lost a loved one to a cult.

Ex-Cult Members Support

CIC offers information and support to ex-cult members who are often experiencing symptoms of cult withdrawal.

Research Assistance

CIC assists students and other researchers with bibliographies and other information for projects, academic papers and books.

Information Service

CIC provides information to the general public when questions are asked about a particular groups possible connection with a cult.

Who Represents CIC?

Ian Haworth is the General Secretary and main representative for CIC. He is responsible to the trustees.

Ian has worked full-time as a specialist in cultism since 1979. Initially, he worked in Canada before returning to Britain in 1987, when he helped to start CIC.

He is an ex-cult member, so he learned about cults the hard way! He has handled over 20, 000 enquiries and delivered over 1,200 talks on the topic.

He has acted as a consultant to police, social agencies, educational and religious institutions, as well as being called as an expert witness in cult-related trials.

International Network

CIC has established an international network of reliable cult aware contacts, particularly in the western world. This network of people, knowledgeable in cultism, comprises individuals from a variety of disciplines and includes other specialists in cultism, mental health professionals, clergy, relatives of current cult members and ex-cult members. These contacts have proved invaluable to those with loved ones in a cult in a foreign land.

CICs Location

CIC has an office in South London. For security reasons the office location is not made public. The mailing address for CIC is a private post box address in Central London. The letters BCM are the initials of British Corporate Monomark, a company specializing in secure post boxes.

How is CIC Financed?

CIC receives funds from speaking engagements, consultancy work and from the sale of leaflets and books. However, basic information on cultism is available free of charge to enquirers.

Since CIC is not financed by government grants, it is heavily dependent on the generosity of the public. If you would like details about the different ways in which you can contribute to CICs ongoing charitable work, please contact us. We would be pleased to send you information on covenanting, Gift Aid and other ways of giving.

Operating as a charity, CIC is now eligible for greater funding than was possible before. In order to build up CIC we need to continue to develop a sound funding base to help pay for all the ongoing expenses associated with the telephone, postage, the office, staff and all the other miscellaneous costs.

If you know of individuals or charitable trusts that might like to help CIC in this important educational work, we would be delighted to hear from you or them and to provide further information on the different ways that people and institutions and people can give.

Council of Reference

Dr. P. Cotterell
Former Principal, London Theological College.

The Rev. Jonathan Edwards, MA
Former General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Mrs. P. Harris
Former Central President, Mothers Union.

Dr. D. Irwin M.A., MD, FRCPsych.

Alan Meale, MP
Former Sec. of the All-Party Committee on Cults.

Hardeep Singh
Press Secretary, The Network of Sikh Organisations

Dr Alexandra Stein
Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck, Dept. of Psychological Sciences

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868


What is a Cult?

Every cult can be defined as a group having all of the following five characteristics:

  1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
  2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.
  3. Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.
  4. It believes the end justifies the means in order to solicit funds recruit people.
  5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.

Categories of Cults

Religious Cults Therapy Cults

Communal living common.

Communal Living rare.

Members may leave or not join societys workforce.

Members usually stay in societys workforce.

Average age at the point of recruitment is in the 20s.

Average age at the point of recruitment is in the mid 30s

Registered as religious groups.

Registered as non profit making groups.

Appear to offer association with a group interested in making the world a better place via political, spiritual or other means.

Appear to offer association with a group giving courses in some kind of self improvement or self help technique or therapy.

Are Cults Harmful?

To remain within the strict mental and social confines of a cult for even a short time can have the following disastrous effects:

  • Loss of choice and free will.
  • Diminished intellectual ability, vocabulary and sense of humour.
  • Reduced use of irony, abstractions and metaphors.
  • Reduced capacity to form flexible and intimate relationships.
  • Poor judgement.
  • Physical deterioration.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Hallucinations, panic, dissociation, guilt, identity diffusion and paranoia.
  • Neurotic, psychotic or suicidal tendencies.


"When you meet the friendliest people you have ever known, who introduce you to the most loving group of people youve ever encountered, and you find the leader to be the most inspired, caring, compassionate and understanding person youve ever met, and then you learn the cause of the group is something you never dared hope could be accomplished, and all of this sounds too good to be true-it probably is too good to be true! Dont give up your education, your hopes and ambitions to follow a rainbow."

Jeannie Mills
Ex - member of The Peoples Temple,
later found murdered.

Caring, loving, wholesome individuals and groups do exist. The call, however, is for discernment and a need to fully question all interesting groups before becoming involved and/or a member.

What is Mind Control?

Mind Control techniques include:

Inducing a state of high suggestibility by hypnosis, often thinly disguised as relaxation or meditation.

Peer Group Pressure
Suppressing doubt and resistance to new ideas by exploiting the need to belong.

Love Bombing
Creating a sense of family and belonging through hugging, kissing, touching and flattery.

Rejection of Old Values
Accelerating acceptance of new life style by constantly denouncing former values and beliefs.

Confusing Doctrine
Encouraging blind acceptance and rejection of logic through complex lectures on an incomprehensible doctrine.

Implanting subliminal messages by stressing certain key words or phrases in long, confusing lectures.

Removal of Privacy
Achieving loss of ability to evaluate logically by preventing private contemplation.

Time Sense Deprivation
Destroying ability to evaluate information, personal reactions, and body functions in relation to passage of time by removing all clocks and watches.

Encouraging child-like obedience by orchestrating child-like behaviour.

Uncompromising Rules
Inducing regression and disorientation by soliciting agreement to seemingly simple rules which regulate mealtimes, bathroom breaks and use of medications.

Verbal Abuse
Desensitizing through bombardment with foul and abusive language.

Sleep Deprivation and Fatigue
Creating disorientation and vulnerability by prolonging mental an physical activity and withholding adequate rest and sleep.

Dress Codes
Removing individuality by demanding conformity to the group dress code.

Chanting and Singing
Eliminating non-cult ideas through prolonged group repetition of mind-narrowing chants or phrases.

Encouraging the destruction of individual ego through confession of personal weaknesses and innermost feelings of doubt.

Financial Commitment
Achieving increased dependence on the group by burning bridges to the past, through the donation of assets.

Finger Pointing
Creating a false sense of righteousness by pointing to the shortcomings of the outside world and other cults.

Flaunting Hierarchy
Promoting acceptance of cult authority by promising advancement, power and salvation.

Inducing loss of reality by physical separation from family, friends, society and rational references.

Controlled Approval
Maintaining vulnerability and confusion by alternately rewarding and punishing similar actions.

Change of Diet
Creating disorientation and increased susceptibility to emotional arousal by depriving the nervous system of necessary nutrients through the use of special diets and/or fasting.

Inducing dependence on the group by introducing games with obscure rules.

No Questions
Accomplishing automatic acceptance of beliefs by discouraging questions.

Reinforcing the need for salvation by exaggerating the sins of the former lifestyles.

Maintaining loyalty and obedience to the group by threatening soul, life or limb for the slightest negative thought, word or deed.

Replacement of Relationships
Destroying pre-cult families by arranging cult marriages and families.

Some of the above techniques used in isolation are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves. However, in a psychologically coercive cult environment, they are usually used en masse, in extreme ways and for prolonged periods of time.


Who Do Cults Recruit?

Cults want people who are:

  • Intelligent.
  • Idealistic.
  • Well educated.
  • Economically advantaged.
  • Intellectually or Spiritually curious.
  • Any age.

How Do I Avoid Cults?

Cults use sophisticated mind control techniques that will work on anyone, given the right circumstances. Those who think they are immune are only making themselves more vulnerable. Remember the assult is on your emotions, not on your intellect.

The two basic principles of psychological coercion are:

  1. If you can make a person BEHAVE the way you want, you can make that person BELIEVE the way you want.
  2. Sudden, drastic changes in environment lead to heightened suggestibility and to drastic changes in attitudes and beliefs.


Protect yourself! Why go away for a weekend or longer with a stranger or a strange group unless:

  • You know the name of the sponsoring group.
  • You know its ideas, beliefs and affiliations.
  • You know what is going to happen at the gathering.
  • You know what will be expected of you.
  • You know that you will be free and able to leave at any time.

How Do I Help a Cult Member? - The Dos and Donts

The Dos

  • DO try to keep in regular contact via mail or telephone even if there is little response.

  • DO express sincere love for the cult member at every available opportunity.

  • DO keep a diary of comments, attitudes and events associated with his/her life in the cult.

  • DO always welcome the cult member back into the family home no matter what is said.

  • DO keep copies of all written correspondence from you and the individual.

  • DO record all the names, addresses and phone numbers of people linked with the cult.

  • DO try to bite your tongue if the cult member makes unkind comments.

  • DO read all of the recommended books relating to cults and mind control, as well as reading other information on the cult in question.

  • DO seek help and information from organisations specialising in counter-cult work. We care about you and your individual situation.

The Donts

  • DO NOT rush into adopting a potential solution before carefully researching the cult problem.

  • DO NOT say:"You are in a cult; you are brainwashed".

  • DO NOT give money to the member of the group.

  • DO NOT feel guilty. This is not a problem caused by families.

  • DO NOT act in an angry or hostile manner towards the cult member.

  • DO NOT feel alone. It happens to thousands of families every year.

  • DO NOT underestimate the control the cult has over a member.

  • DO NOT antagonise the cult member by ridiculing his/her beliefs.

  • DO NOT be judgemental or confrontational towards the cult member.

  • DO NOT antagonise any of the cults leadership or members.

  • DO NOT be persuaded by a cult specialist to pay large sums of money without verifying his/her qualifications.

  • DO NOT give up hope of success in helping your family member to leave the group no matter how long the involvement has already been

  • DO NOT neglect yourself or other family members.

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868


Cult Concerns: An Overview of Cults and their Harmful Methods in the UK

Originally published in Assignation, the ASLIB Social Sciences Information Group Newsletter, Vol. 11, No. 4, July 1994.

When the word cult is mentioned, some people may think not only of the tragedy in Waco, Texas but also of Jonestown and the murder/suicides there on l8 November l978, when 913 died following the order of Rev. Jim Jones to drink cyanide laced Kool-Aid.

Both of these cases instantly became the focus of the worlds attention. Since the two groups were U.S. based, there is a danger that many people in the U.K. may consider the cult issue to be a North American problem and one that does not affect people here in Britain. They do so at their peril.

Figures quoted for the UK usually indicate 500+ cults in operation here. On a per capita basis the U.K. has a similar problem with the number of cults to that of the U.S.

Most cults register with the government as religious organisations or simply charities of one form or another. So what is the problem? It is that people are being deceived and then psychologically coerced into association with the cults through the use of methods sometimes called mind control techniques. On the latter point alone, the cult problem becomes a human rights issue.

People coerced into cult involvement usually find it is to the exclusion of all else that they have stood for before, whether it be their studies, beliefs, careers, families or friends. As the above may suggest, the impact not only on the cult victim, but on his or her family too, can be devastating. Some families have described it as being harder to deal with than death. "Its a living bereavement" said a woman recently.

When looking at the kind of person most likely to fall victim to the cults, many people are surprised by the findings. The following are characteristics of the most likely cult recruit and suggest that the person:

1. Is from an economically sound family background.

2. Has average to above average intelligence.

3. Has a good education.

4. Is idealistic.

Most cults can recruit and control a person in a matter of three or four days. However, leaving the group is not as easy. Some never do leave. For those that do it is often thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of their family and/or friends over a prolonged period of time. Some families elect to adopt a DIY approach to helping the loved one to try to critically evaluate once more, whilst others prefer to hire the services of an exit-counsellor to do the job for them. Whatever route is adopted there is never a guarantee of success.

For those who are fortunate enough to leave a cult there then begins a difficult rehabilition period. This typically takes a year or more. During this time the ex-member experiences a variety of symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms as shown in "Information Disease," Science Digest, January 1982, include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Insomnia
  • Amnesia
  • Guilt
  • Fear of the group
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Menstrual dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction

Without adequate assistance and information the ex-members rehabilitation is likely to be prolonged for an indefinite period.

In order to continue to discuss the issue, it is important to offer a definition for the term cult. The Cult Information Centre (CIC) defines a cult as a group having all of the following five characteristics:

  1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit and indoctrinate potential members.

  2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.

  3. Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.

  4. It believes the end justifies the means in order to solicit funds or recruit people.

  5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.

It is also important to consider the categories of cults. There are two main headings under which CIC chooses to categorise all cults:

Religious Cults Therapy Cults
  1. Communal living common.
  2. Members usually leave or do not join societys workforce.
  3. Average age at the point of recruitment is in the low 20s.
  4. Registered as religious groups.
  5. Appear to offer association with a group interested in making the world a better place via political, spiritual or other means.
  1. Communal living rare.
  2. Members stay in societys workforce.
  3. Average age at the point of recruitment is in the mid 30s.
  4. Registered as not for profit groups.
  5. Appear to offer association with a group giving courses in some kind of self improvement or self help technique or therapy.

If someone becomes an unwitting member of a cult then clearly the suggestion is that the person becomes a victim of psychological coercion. The techniques of mind control are many and varied and comprise a list of 26 as follows:

Peer Pressure
Love Bombing
Rejection of Old Values
Confusing Doctrine
Removal of Privacy
Time Sense Deprivation
Uncompromising Rules
Verbal Abuse
Sleep Deprivation
Replacement of Relationships
Financial Commitment
Finger Pointing
Flaunting Hierarchy
Controlled Approval
Change of Diet
No Questions
Dress Codes

The average cult uses a combination of the majority of the above described techniques, which result in a potential recruit being broken down physically and mentally and made highly vulnerable to suggestion. This pressure usually continues to a breaking point referred to as snapping by Conway and Siegelman (Conway & Siegelman, Snapping. New York: Delta Books, l979). After snapping, the subject is left in a state of hyper suggestibility where the critical ability is severely impaired. Simultaneously there is usually a sudden personality change, a change for the worse.

It is this change of personality and the relative inability of the subject to critically evaluate, that provokes family and friends of the average victim to react. Unless they are given some guidance in how to cope, the cult member will rapidly become more and more alienated from them.

With cults representing such a threat to the individual, the family and society, how can we cope? There are many things that can be done as follows:

  1. Society needs to become aware of how everyone is vulnerable to manipulation.

  2. People need to be educated about mind control techniques, so they can recognise and leave an environment where psychological coercion exists, before becoming a victim.

  3. Society needs to become aware that there is a lot of good material on cults to be found in the media. It is useful for updating ones information.

  4. People need to learn to question, be discerning and feel it is OK to say NO!

  5. More mental health professionals need to be trained to help cult victims.

Hopefully some of the popular misconceptions have been overcome in this article. They are as follows:

Exploding The Myths

  1. People dont join cults. They are recruited.

  2. People are recruited by a method not a message.

  3. People do not stay in cults because they have nothing better to do with their lives, but because psychological coercion holds them there.

  4. Cults intend to retain a hold on people for life, or for as long as they are valuable to the cult. It is not a fad or a phase.

  5. Normal people from normal families are recruited into cults.

  6. Cult leaders should be blamed for the problems caused, not the individual members, ex-members or their families. (Blame the victim syndrome). It can happen to anyone.

  7. Cult members are sincere. (Sincere victims, but sincere.)

  8. Cult members are victims and need to be treated with love. They are people who need help, not hostility.

  9. Cults recruit people of all ages, not just young people.

  10. Cult recruiters are rarely visually identifiable. They usually look like quite normal people who appear to be very friendly.

  11. Anyone can become a victim of cult techniques of psychological coercion. The safest people seem to be the seriously mentally ill, or those that know how to recognise a cult.

  12. Accurate information on cults is not best obtained by trying to infiltrate a cult. This is far too dangerous.

Caring for Cult Victims

Originally published in Carer & Counsellor, Summer Edition 1997

Whilst most people would rightly assume that cults represent a major problem in North America, few realise the enormity of the problem in Great Britain and the rest of Europe. In the U.K. there are well over 500 cults in operation which means that on a per capita basis the problem is the same as that of the U.S. In Eastern Europe, since the collapse of the iron curtain cults are also flourishing by exploiting (and removing) the new found freedoms given to the average citizen.

Cults are operating throughout the fabric of contemporary society. They are active in the corporate world and on campus at college and university, where they are affecting both students and staff. They have made inroads into the religious and medical communities and are working in the prison system and even advertise in the media.

Since the average cult recruit becomes a recruiter of others, cults tend to the grow at an exponential rate if unchecked. This in turn highlights the tremendous need for trained people to care for cult victims and counsel them.However, without an understanding of the basics, a counsellor may overlook cultism as the source of a clients difficulties and even look for deficiencies in the individual as the root cause of the problems. Other carers, with the best intentions, may recognise that recent cult involvement is at the heart of a clients difficulties, but enter the counselling with many assumptions about cults that are unfounded and erroneous. This lack of understanding impairs progress and can be extremely harmful to the very person one is trying to help.

There are many myths associated with an understanding of the general cult phenomenon today. One popular notion suggests that to become a member of a cult you have to be experiencing a personal problem. This school of thought further postulates that the prospective cult member must be a lost, searching soul with no faith, who may be unstable and suffer from low self-esteem. It continues with the idea that he is likely to be an uneducated teenager, who may have a history of mental illness and/or joined the cult in order to fill a void in his life. The reality is vastly different.

By far the majority of people who are recruited into cults are in fact normal and healthy. They usually come from economically advantaged family backgrounds, have average to above average intelligence and are well educated, idealistic people, with no prior history of mental illness. Their spiritual perspectives vary greatly. Some have a strong faith and some do not.

People of all ages are influenced and many are professionals. It appears that anyone can be recruited. For rather than joining a cult they are actively recruited. No one wakes up in the morning and says "its about time I got involved in a cult" and goes out looking for one. Instead they become unwitting victims of deception and subtle techniques of psychological manipulation.

These techniques of mind control used by cults to overpower the unsuspecting are many and varied. They include food and sleep deprivation. Trance induction is common and achieved using hypnosis or prolonged rhythmical chanting. Another popular tool is bombarding members with conditional love. This love is removed whenever there is a deviation from the dictates of the leader. It is known as love bombing. Guilt and fear are also used to bring about conformity along with isolation from rational reference points, as well as a removal of privacy, so there is no time to think and reflect on the issues and activities experienced thus far. These techniques are employed against the individual in an atmosphere of intense group pressure to conform at all times to the desires of the leader.

A list of 26 cult methods of psychological coercion is as follows:

Peer Pressure
Love Bombing
Rejection of Old Values
Confusing Doctrine
Removal of Privacy
Time Sense Deprivation
Uncompromising Rules
Verbal Abuse
Sleep Deprivation
Replacement of Relationships
Financial Commitment
Finger Pointing
Flaunting Hierarchy
Controlled Approval
Change of Diet
No Questions
Change of Dress Codes

The victim is broken down physically and mentally so as to become highly vulnerable to the suggestions and wishes of the group and its leader. This process is likely to take only three or four days with the average person in the average group. The end result is a sudden, drastic personality change in the individual. The cult tries to equate this with conversion. However, Conway and Siegelman describe the change of personality as snapping (Conway & Siegelman, Snapping. New York: Delta Books, l979). The new personality is unable to reason, to choose, to critically evaluate and is dependent on the cult to interpret reality and his reason for living.

Having lost the freedom of choice, cultists will simply do what they are ordered and programmed to do by the leader, which usually revolves around recruiting others and soliciting funds. The intent of such a group is to control and keep its members for life or until the victims cease to be of value to the leader.

Whilst many victims do escape the clutches of the cult after varying lengths of time with the group, it is often thanks to the intervention of that persons family and friends. They have typically spent considerable time, effort and money to try to reactivate the critical thought processes of the cult member. This may have been achieved either with or without the services of an exit counsellor (a person specialising in counselling cult members in a voluntary environment) but knowing that whatever they did there was no guarantee of success.

However, some people are walk-aways. Typically they have left a cult because of something unusual that they have seen, heard or experienced in the group. That particular stimulus was something that provided information directly opposed to what each cult member was programmed to understand about the cult. It was sufficient to provoke the individual to walk away from the organisation, but without a full understanding of what had actually happened to him. Consequently, if a walk-away does not receive appropriate care and counselling, he is likely to suffer from symptoms of cult withdrawal for an indefinite period of time until he is helped to understand the experience. As one person once put it, "Getting a person out of a cult is one thing, but getting the cult out of the person is another!"

Even with the right help the typical ex-cultist still faces more than a year of pain and suffering before he recovers from the damage done by the group. Typical symptoms of withdrawal include confusion, depression, disorientation, insomnia, amnesia, guilt, fear, floating in and out of altered states, suicidal tendencies and violent emotional outbursts. Most were outlined by Conway and Siegelman in their paper "Information Disease," Science Digest, January 1982. An ex-member may even bear physical scars that serve as a constant reminder of his experience.

It is obviously a difficult recovery time for former members, but it is made easier if they are made aware of what it is they are experiencing. When ex-cultists experiencing the above symptoms are brought to the realisation that their suffering is quite normal, there is a tremendous sense of relief expressed. This is another area where a counsellor can be particularly helpful. It feels so good to feel normal again, even if only normal at this stage in the fact that they are suffering as they heal, like thousands of others before them.

They can soon be helped by carers to realise they are not alone, that their current situation is understood and has been documented in a growing body of literature published by other pioneers in this field including Dr John G. Clarke Jnr., Dr Margaret Singer, and Dr Jolyon West.

Before beginning counselling the counsellor needs to be sure that it was indeed a cult and not a sect in which the person was enmeshed. A sect may be described as a spin-off from an established religion or quite eclectic, but it does not use techniques of mind control on its membership. However, a cult can be defined as follows:

Definition of a Cult

A cult has all of the following characteristics:

1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain potential members.

2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.

3. Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.

4. It believes the end justifies the means.

5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.

There are two distinct categories into which most cults can be classified. Whilst most people have heard of Religious Cults, few are aware of Therapy Cults. Victims of both groupings require the same counselling skills, but it is useful to understand the differences between the two classifications even if only to help recognise these groups as being cults. The two types of cults are as follows:

Religious Cults Therapy Cults
  1. Communal living common.
  2. Members usually leave or do not join societys workforce.
  3. Average age at the point of recruitment is in the low 20s.
  4. Registered as religious groups.
  5. Appear to offer association with a group interested in making the world a better place via political, spiritual or other means.
  1. Communal living rare.
  2. Members stay in societys workforce.
  3. Average age at the point of recruitment is in the mid 30s.
  4. Registered as not for profit groups.
  5. Appear to offer association with a group giving courses in some kind of self improvement or self help technique or therapy.

Counselling Walk-Aways

A walk-away is a cult member who has left a cult without having had any form of counselling to provoke the exit from the cult. When counselling this type of ex-cultist, it is important not to assume that he has any real understanding of the of the group he has just left. It is therefore necessary to be able to discuss in some depth the three key issues that apply to all cults, i.e. the psychologically coercive techniques, the philosophy and the corrupt practices.

When talking to the ex-member about the psychological manipulation to which he has been subjected, there is much that can be discussed. Most cults use most of the 26 cult mind control methods listed above. The end result of the use of these techniques in a cult brings about a profound change in a cult member that he has been programmed to understand is associated with a breakthrough or achieving oneness with reality or conversion or some other equivalent term. The objective of the counsellor at this stage is to try to encourage the cult victim to reassess his conversion experience. However, it is important to recognise that whilst this transformation of the individual can be seen to be manufactured, it has still been a very powerful and real experience for the average cult member. Consequently, this topic needs to be discussed with a great deal of tact and compassion.

The aim when looking at the philosophy of the group is to try to bring to the attention of the former member the inconsistencies and contradictions within the particular groups world view. When a persons critical ability has been impaired by cult methods the belief system programmed into the cult member does not have to be as logical as one might first imagine. By analysing the philosophy with the former cultist, the counsellor can try to reactivate the critical faculties of the ex-member so as to help him to re-evaluate the true nature of the group and his former association with it.

When considering the third and last key issue for discussion with him, it is important to have as much information ahead of time on the corrupt nature of the group. This is not the case when preparing to talk about the psychology of the cults methods and the philosophy of the group, because this information can be given by the cult victim to the counsellor through the relevant questions being asked. However, the average walk-away is not likely to have much more information than being aware of the most common deceitful cult practice of misrepresenting themselves to the general public, when soliciting funds or attracting potential recruits to their first meeting.

Many cults use questionable accounting practices especially when handling cash. Some groups have been found to be involved in drug smuggling and/or weapons offences. Others use money, supposedly designated to third world projects, to pay for yachts, limousines and other items associated with the extravagant lifestyles of the leaders. Some cults sexually use and abuse the adults and/or the children under their control.

The more information there is about the cult in this general regard, the more likely the counsellor is to be able to emphasize the difference between the image of the group that usually suggests it stands for peace, love and brotherhood and the reality of lies, deceit and hatred. Hopefully this will further reinforce the evidence that has already surfaced in the counselling, about the groups world view and its psychological methods and provoke the cult victim to question.

A common statement in the field of counselling cult victims is, "If I can get him to ask that first question, then I am probably on the road to success." The primary objective of any such counselling is therefore to reactivate the critical mind of the cult victim. This in turn gives back to the ex-member his free choice and the ability for self-determination.

Counselling Ex-Members

An ex-member in this context refers to someone who has left a cult after some form of counselling. This guidance is either from friends and family members who have adopted a Do It Yourself approach or an Exit Counsellor, who specialises in counselling current cult members to help them to leave.

Again it is wise to not assume anything and be prepared to probe and investigate what the ex-member knows about the three topics discussed above that apply to counselling a walk-away. This should be done to make sure that the issues have been covered already and to determine whether or not there are any remaining areas of confusion in the mind of the former member, so that further counselling on those specific issues can commence.

In view of what has been said earlier, the carer can now see the need to avoid the irrelevant question of "What made you join the cult in the first place?" Former cult members are frequently asked this question. It probably always hurts because the blame should be directed at the cult and not the former member. The blame the victim syndrome seems to be as popular as ever. Whilst it is not just restricted to victims of cults but to victims of rape and other crimes too, it is still shows a gross lack of understanding of the problem.

Caring Through Withdrawal

During the recovery period it is important for the ex-member to be able to live with others, preferably in a family environment. It is often wise to have someone available to screen letters and phone calls for several months with the consent of the cult victim, so as to protect him from attempts by the group to influence him again while he is still healing from the damage done.

Similarly, is usually recommended that someone should accompany him if he goes out for walks, to shop or stray for any other reason from the family home. Cults will often try anything including a direct confrontation on the street to take the person back. Living with a family is also healthy because it means that the ex-member can again become used to experiencing normal people in a normal family environment interacting with each other.

If a former cultist is left to live alone his confusion and fears could grow and become too much for him to handle. This could result in a prolonged withdrawal period, or worse, he may develop irrational desires that he follows to return to the group, or he could adopt suicidal tendencies.

The family can also be helpful in monitoring his recovery. Ex-cult members experience a variety of symptoms of withdrawal including floating. This expression refers to the spontaneous adoption of the cult personality and mentality from time to time. Family members having been aware of this likelihood can recognise this when it occurs and help the individual to snap back to reality by talking to him and gently advising him of what has happened. Quite often this can be triggered by a cult related stimulus. It might be some clothing he sees that he used to wear in the cult, a bible or other book that he used in the group, a picture of the guru or he might hear some words spoken that were cult jargon. It is therefore recommended that the counsellor advises the ex-member and carers of the importance of removing all potential reminders of life in the cult until the person is fully healed.

During his healing it is a good idea to try to help him or her start again to make basic decisions. This is a difficult task for the average ex-member, particularly in the early stages of recovery, because while in the cult that part of the logical part of the mind responsible for decision making has been unable to function normally. It is therefore helpful to offer multiple choice answers to some questions e.g. the family might suggest going out for a walk and invite him or her to choose which of the three routes they should take.

Throughout this recovery time of a year or more the ex-cultist will not only be battling with the symptoms of withdrawal but he will have various needs that need to be recognised by carers and counsellors. They are as follows:

Needs of Ex-cult Members

to receive unconditional love and support to feel normal
to talk to sympathetic and/or empathetic ears to be understood
to be able to pace his own rehabilitation to feel worthwhile
to be able to question and be answered to feel wanted
to be recognised as free thinking again to feel secure
to be free to talk about the people he met in the cult to feel trusted
to learn your language while you learn this to feel accepted
to have a safe place to live at little or no cost to be free to doubt
to have an opportunity for manual work to give his mind a rest to be respected

Other former cult members who can speak the same language or families of current or ex-cult members are often very helpful to the ex-member while he is recovering. Various cult awareness organisations around the globe can usually assist with contacts in that regard. However, it is still a long and painful road to complete recovery.

There is a vital need for carers and counsellors to become skilled in helping cult victims if our society is to begin to cope with this vast and growing problem, which is currently out of control. It is also important to recognise that for every person taken into a cult there are usually at least three family members left grieving on the side-lines. They are victims too. They also need your help.

Ian Haworth,
General Secretary, Cult Information Centre

Caring for the Family of Cult Victims

Originally published in Carer & Counsellor, Sping Edition 1998.

For every person who becomes a victim of a cult, there are usually at least three other victims instantly created. They are the anguished family and friends of the cult member, who are left in shock and confusion watching helplessly on the sidelines.

They know better than most people that something is seriously wrong. Jane is no longer herself. She has changed and changed for the worse. Instead of being warm, friendly, affectionate and good humoured, she has become cold, alienated, distant and defensive. Gone are the times of casual banter, the light hearted witticisms and the sympathetic ear. Jane is now angry, secretive and paranoid. She is convinced that her brother Tim is an agent of the devil, simply because he expressed concern about her new association with the group.

Members of a family often throw up their hands in despair, when confronted by this nightmare and feel there is probably nothing they can do. But, there is!

First the family needs to be made aware of what has happened to Jane from a psychological point of view. They need to familiarise themselves with the techniques of mind control used by cults in general (see Table 1, p. 28, Counsellor & Carer, Vol. 7, No. 3). It is then important that they understand the specific techniques employed by the group, that has Jane in its clutches. The more they recognise the psychological methods used by the group, to recruit and indoctrinate the members, the better able they will be to undo some of the damage done by the cult, in the weeks, months or years to come.

Similarly, it is vital that Janes new cult philosophy be understood as soon as possible. Not only is it crucial to understand the basics of the groups world-view but also the ideologys origins and what the cult jargon means. The cults own definitions for terms such as God, salvation, ultimate reality, higher consciousness, peace, enlightenment, good, evil, love and truth need to be made available to and understood by the family. By understanding the cults language, family and friends will be able to have more meaningful conversations with Jane, strained as those discussions may be.

Of course, before there is any attempt to unravel the web in which Jane is caught, the family need to be shown what to do and what not to do in order to keep the lines of communication open, to pave the way for more productive dialogue. Dos and donts are shown in Table 1.

To add to the already overwhelming stresses facing the family trying to cope with Janes situation, the counsellor needs to be aware that there will usually be feelings of guilt shared by the different family members and friends ... If only I had checked out this group ahead of time, when Jane first talked about going to that introductory meeting ... If only I had gone shopping with Jane, the day she was recruited in the shopping mall ... If only I had warned her more often about cult groups ...

Life is, of course, filled with the ‘if onlys. However, it is the fault of the cult that Jane was recruited. Her recruitment was not engineered or provoked by anyone else.

Some parents of cult members may ask themselves, “Where did we go wrong for Jane to want to join a cult?” Jane did not join. She was actively recruited. Jane had no idea about the true nature of the group or its methods before going to that first meeting. Some siblings may also try to blame themselves. Janes brother Tim might wonder if she would have been recruited if he and Jane had not had that argument on the Tuesday before she met the cult.

Table 1: Dos and Donts for Families and Friends of Cult Members

The Dos

  • DO try to keep in regular contact via mail or telephone even if there is little response.
  • DO express sincere love for the cult member at every available opportunity.
  • DO keep a diary of comments, attitudes and events associated with his/her life in the cult.
  • DO always welcome the cult member back into the family home no matter what is said.
  • DO keep copies of all written correspondence from you and the individual.
  • DO record all the names, addresses and phone numbers of people linked with the cult.
  • DO try to bite your tongue if the cult member makes unkind comments.
  • DO read all of the recommended books relating to cults and mind control, as well as reading other information on the cult in question.
  • DO seek help and information from organisations specialising in counter-cult work. We care about you and your individual situation.

The Donts

  • DO NOT rush into adopting a potential solution before carefully researching the cult problem.
  • DO NOT say:"You are in a cult; you are brainwashed".
  • DO NOT give money to the member of the group.
  • DO NOT feel guilty. This is not a problem caused by families.
  • DO NOT act in an angry or hostile manner towards the cult member.
  • DO NOT feel alone. It happens to thousands of families every year.
  • DO NOT underestimate the control the cult has over a member.
  • DO NOT antagonise the cult member by ridiculing his/her beliefs.
  • DO NOT be judgemental or confrontational towards the cult member.
  • DO NOT antagonise any of the cults leadership or members.
  • DO NOT be persuaded by a cult specialist to pay large sums of money without verifying his/her qualifications.
  • DO NOT give up hope of success in helping your family member to leave the group no matter how long the involvement has already been.
  • DO NOT neglect yourself or other family members.

It is perhaps important to note that many fathers of cult members seem to have great difficulty in understanding and accepting the concept of psychological coercion. They would often prefer to see the cult involvement as merely a fad or a phase. If and when they do finally appreciate the enormity of the problem, they then often have more difficulty coping than mothers. Some fathers ‘explode in frustration and break many of the ‘donts in Table 1. Other fathers try to appear to be coping, but internalise their problems and ‘implode through heart attacks and illness. One father once said, “It was like being on a plane with no pilot”. For him, for once, everything seemed to be totally out of his control.

Many families, living with a loved one in a cult, equate the experience with bereavement. One family once said, “It was like living with a living death. In some respects, it was harder to deal with than death. We know. We had a daughter who died and a son who was in a cult. The pain dragged on and on, until mercifully he escaped from the group.” Accordingly, counsellors may find their bereavement counselling skills invaluable in caring for the typical family with a loved one in Janes predicament.

Many parents facing such pain and the accompanying stresses find that their marriages are soon at risk. Counselling of the partners can help to avoid this difficulty from increasing and getting out of control.

Finances usually suffer too. Jane may only contact family and friends by phone and reverse the charges. If she is posted by the group to a location abroad the phone bills alone can soon become considerable. To add to the expense there may be visits to see Jane in that foreign country. So this is another factor that the counsellor needs to take into consideration.

Then there are Janes children and husband to consider. They may wonder if she really loves them anymore. She seems so engrossed in cult meetings now that her life appears to revolve around those gatherings and no longer her spouse and children. They too may wonder if they were to blame and suffer from similar feelings of guilt and confusion being experienced by Janes parents. In addition, her husband has probably been under extreme pressure from Jane to go to cult meetings. He is likely to feel that their marriage is disintegrating before his eyes.

The above feelings and questions tend to create additional unhealthy stresses and need to be neutralised by the counsellor through discussion. There are many resources available to assist the average counsellor and family dealing with a cult problem. There are many cult monitoring organisations around the world, that can put one in touch with family support groups, ex-cult members, publications on the topic and other relevant information.

Family tensions are often increased by a general lack of understanding from the police, educators, politicians, general practitioners, mental health professionals and the clergy. This can sometimes be further aggravated by false assumptions made by the family, or misinformation from the cult in question, or cult apologists. Misinformation can lead to the family taking the wrong course of action. It may often mean that the family takes no action at all. Instead, they wait for Jane to leave. When that does not happen, they feel even more guilty and frustrated having wasted so much time.

As well as helping a family cope with the various stresses they now face, it is important to encourage them to be proactive where possible. With this in mind, it is crucial that the majority of the familys energy should be directed towards taking as many positive steps as possible to assist Jane to leave. It is vital for Janes family and friends to work together as a team to offset the impact of the cult on Jane. They all need to work to the same plan, otherwise the strategy will become fractured and one persons good work could be accidentally undone by the unwise, but well-meaning, efforts of another.

Whilst there is never any guarantee of the family being successful in helping Jane to leave, the odds are in their favour. However the problems do not end there. Jane is likely to experience at least a year, on average, of symptoms of withdrawal. It is important for the counsellor to help the family to be familiar with these symptoms of withdrawal (see p.29, Counsellor and Carer, Vol. 7, No 3), so that they are not further confused and so that they can assist Jane in her recovery.

Janes rehabilitation could be accelerated by a stay at a cult rehabilitation centre. Several have sprung up in the last 15 years to meet the ever increasing demand for such services. One of the oldest and probably the most successful is ‘Wellspring in the United States. There is a vital need for such a centre in the United Kingdom. At such an establishment Jane would receive help, for a week or two, from trained counsellors. They would help her not only re-evaluate her experience in the cult, but also give her coping skills to help her fully recover and again become a productive member of society.

Just as there are ‘Dos and Donts for families with a loved one in a cult there are more general ‘Dos and Donts for families with a loved one that has just left a cult, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Dos and Donts for Families of Recovering Ex-Cult Members

The Dos

  • DO express love clearly.
  • DO things together as a family.
  • DO show that no blame is attached to the ex-member.
  • DO encourage simple decision making, e.g. asking the ex-member to choose a meal, video etc.
  • DO realise that full healing usually takes a lot of time, love and understanding.
  • DO talk about the cult when ex-member wants to do so.
  • DO screen out phone calls and mail from the cult with the ex-members approval.
  • DO accompany the ex-cult member initially, when outside the home.

The Donts

  • DO NOT pressure the ex-member to work or study too soon.
  • DO NOT be scared of discussing your feelings.
  • DO NOT be suffocatingly protective.
  • DO NOT blame the ex-member for being involved in the cult.
  • DO NOT assume the cult will not try to take the ex-member back.

Janes family need to know that it is all right for Jane to talk to them about her experiences and the feelings she had while she was in the group.

She may also want to talk about the decent people she met, who were other members of the cult. After all they were victims too. Family members are often fearful of an ex-member talking fondly of some of the people left behind in the cult, because they wrongly assume that Janes love for individual cult members means she may also be thinking of returning to the group.

Sometimes families are terrified of any discussions about the cult at all, either because they do not want to say the wrong thing, or because they feel it would be unhealthy for Jane if they were to do so. The reverse is usually true.

A common problem, for a counsellor to be aware of, is that some family members may push Jane too hard in trying to encourage her to ‘get on with her life. They may try to force her to think and make too many decisions, before she is ready to do so. Janes husband or others in Janes social circle may start to make decisions for her, which also does not help. She needs encouragement and to find her own pace to adjust and return to normal. The recovery rate will vary from one ex-cult member to another.

Some families that share a very strong faith may try to force feed Jane with what they believe is sound theological information. The material may be fine from a theological point of view, but the practice of doing this can be very harmful from a psychological point of view. Again it is better to answer Janes questions, rather than to try to push her in one direction or another.

During Janes rehabilitation time her family need to be aware of the typical needs of an ex-cult member (see Table 4, p. 32, Carer and Counsellor, Vol. 7, No 3), so that they can work with the counsellor to improve Janes progress as she heals.

With the right kind of care and attention, there is every reason to expect Jane and her family to make a full recovery. In the course of my 18 years full-time work as a specialist in cultism on both sides of the Atlantic, I have had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of families reunited. Some of the families that are successful often finish up even closer than they were before. In addition, many like Jane have not only recovered but have made a fresh start, going on to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. However, it will be an experience none of them will ever forget.

Ian Haworth,
General Secretary, Cult Information Centre

Coping With Stress (For Families of Cult Victims)

Concern about stress is not just a modern fad. While some level of stress is beneficial and energising, more stress than you can manage can have serious effects on your health and relationships. Negative effects of stress on your health include: anxiety, panic attacks, irregular heartbeat, raised blood pressure, insomnia and sleep disturbance, loss of appetite and weight loss, impatience, uncontrolled anger, nausea, stomach cramps, digestive problems, impaired immune system, feelings of despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, depression and a worsening of conditions such as asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and angina.

The good news is that our bodies are designed to cope with stress and we all have well developed, individual techniques for doing so. The bad news is that when a crisis hits us the shock and anxiety which result can override our normal stress coping mechanisms. We can forget to do the things we know have worked for us in the past. Discovering that someone you love is involved in a cult presents an acute level of ‘crisis stress and that high level of stress may continue for many months or years. It combines shock, overwhelming anxiety and a sense of being out of control, powerless or being at the mercy of someone else. Developing new (or rediscovering old) stress coping mechanisms will not actually change the situation you face, but they can help you to respond to it more effectively and protect your health and relationships so that you can put into practise the advice given by exit counsellors and others.

Take action - however small: We all react to stress in different ways and when some people discover that a loved one has joined a cult, they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. There seems so much to do but they feel paralysed and unable to do anything. The good news is that taking any form of action, connected with the problem situation, creates a momentum and if someone can be encouraged to take action - reading a book, seeing a solicitor, making a phone call to a cult monitoring organisation, then the momentum created will make it easier to do more and more.

It is also the best cure for the feeling of being powerless and at the mercy of someone elses decisions. This can also be helpful for a situation that has been going on for a long period of time and has reached stalemate or stagnation. This situation can be equally stressful, but because you have been living with it for so long you are not always consciously aware of the harmful effect it is having Reviewing the situation, going over past notes, re-reading a book, talking to someone from a cult monitoring group or a exit counsellor again can re-energise you, give you some fresh perspectives and may even lead to a new course of action.

Get a support group together: There will be people who by natural or more selective process gather around you to give you support. In an ideal world they would be your partner, your closest family members, your dearest friends. But they could be people you do not know terribly well, but who turn out to be unexpectedly helpful. They might be professionals, a doctor, a clergyman, your childs old teacher at school. It is a great stress reliever to be able to talk about the problem with those with whom you feel safe. Sometimes it will ease the burden of stress on a family if these are friends rather than other family members. People are generally reluctant to push help on those they think are coping well by themselves and for most people this is such an unfamiliar situation that they may not know what to ask or say after a while. Being direct about the kind of help you need will help you get the kind of support you want and is less stressful in the long run than waiting for someone else to make the first move.

Be very selective about who you confide in: One obvious reason for this is security. But sharing the problem with everyone around us - at every possible opportunity, can actually increase our burden of stress. A sympathetic response can make us feel temporarily better but continually talking about the problem to all and sundry can actually reinforce our feelings of misery and powerlessness. It can wear us out. Also we expose ourselves to conflicting advice and to unsympathetic and ignorant remarks which can dramatically increase our feelings of guilt, anxiety and stress. Save your energies for those closest to you and, where possible, make educating others about cults a project for when you have more emotional energy and toughness

Dont take someones lack of support personally: Sometimes the person closest to you just does not see the seriousness of the cult problem - they may even refuse to acknowledge it at all. When it is your spouse or partner who does this, it is particularly difficult to deal with. Refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem may be their mechanism for coping with the stress around them, but it adds to your burden of stress considerably.

There are no easy answers here but, if a person is determined not to see the true nature of the problem once one has tried patiently and calmly, with proof and rational reasoning, to win them round - leave it. Arguing and confrontation is not going to change their minds and, if it is your spouse, will make home life a nightmare.

Rather than risk your marriage or relationship on this point try to get the support you need from elsewhere. Remind yourself of the other areas in your life where this person does support you and concentrate on those. Tell yourself its not personal - it is not a rejection of you, it is just their way of coping with the situation. For friends, ask yourself: what makes this relationship worth saving? If their qualities and your feelings for them outweigh the hurt caused by their indifference, then concentrate on that.

Create ‘worry-free zones: Anxiety, if allowed, will expand to fill every part of your consciousness, waking and sleeping. A hundred scenarios whirl around in your brain: things you want to say, things you wish you hadnt said, possible outcomes, nightmare situations. This level of stress, if left to itself, will make a person very ill indeed. One way of coping with this is to force yourself to make artificial ‘worry-free zones in your time. In other words saying (out loud, if necessary) “For 5 minutes, for 20 minutes, for a whole hour etc., etc., I will not think about this situation”. It seems incredibly unnatural, and it is. But it has proved a sanity preserver for many people. It also gets easier the more you practise it.

Make time for yourself: Any article on stress will tell you to do this and it is vital advice in a time of crisis. But when we are in the midst of this sort of problem we can feel exceptionally guilty about concentrating on anything else. We certainly feel we shouldnt be enjoying ourselves. However, when you are coping with somebody in a cult, it can become a situation that completely takes over family life. It can become an obsession and nothing will destroy your own health and the health of other family relationships faster. Every step you can take to protect your own health, mental and physical and that of your family is vital Otherwise the cult member will not have a family left to come back to. So if you feel guilty - tell yourself you are doing it for them. Do whatever makes you feel good and takes your mind away from the problem, albeit temporarily. Shopping, watching football, community activities, something you gave up when the crisis first hit - now is the time to take it up again. Look for those things which make you feel energised afterwards, where time passes in an instant. Or activities where you are forced to concentrate on what you are doing and nothing else (e.g. counted cross stitch, computer games, squash).

Organise where you can: The stress from concentrating on helping a loved one in a cult can make us feel less equipped to cope with other areas of our lives. The result - more stress. We are preoccupied, things get forgotten, important papers lost, appointments missed. Very quickly we can feel that life is coming apart at the seams. So organise where you can, when you can, in advance. Even if normally you have a really good memory increased stress will affect it, so dont trust to it alone. Help yourself - use a diary, make lists, reminder slips, post-it notes, anything that works. Writing things down helps marshal your thoughts, crossing things off proves to you that you have achieved something, when you are feeling at your most useless. This kind of problem can generate a huge amount of paperwork of one kind or another. Have it all together in one spot in a file or a box. De-cluttering at home and planning your time will help you tackle daily living more easily. When you are struggling under a heightened state of tension you do not need the little things of life, like mislaid car keys, making you explode.

Keep a personal journal or notebook: Some people have found that as well as keeping a diary of their loved ones cult involvement, it helps to also keep something more personal. Ideas and advice can come thick and fast, if you dont write them down you may lose track of them and end up feeling even more stressed. Writing down your worries and fears can free up your mind to think of something else too (or to get back to sleep). You may get a different perspective on them and feel more in control and able to manage better.

Remove the ‘drains: Some things (and some people) just drain away your energy and resolve, leaving you even more stressed out. At the same time as you are doing things that build you up and which give you emotional and physical energy, remove the things that are sapping it from you. If you can get out of stressful engagements and commitments, now is the time to do it. Force yourself to reject the guilt involved. You are doing this to protect yourself and your family from overload. You have more important things to concentrate on. Also, now is the time to avoid taking on major life style changes or projects with a high risk factor.

Try to maintain a balanced diet: Stress can rob us of our appetite, the desire to cook or even shop for food. Our health can suffer in a relatively short time. It is a vicious circle. Stress robs us of our energy and the fact that we arent eating properly makes it even worse. So make use of the short cuts available to modern man. ‘Ready meals are better than nothing and can be made more balanced by adding salad. They are ready before the desire to eat leaves you. Get things in that are easy to prepare. This doesnt have to be ‘junk food - a sandwich and some fruit can suffice. But even ‘junk food is better than not eating very much at all. A multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement can also help.

Make use of ‘stress-busting foods: Foods which are rich in B vitamins (tuna, whole-wheat products, almonds, brown rice, broccoli, peas, lentils, eggs, soya, marmite) can help our nervous system function better and deal with stress more efficiently. Levels of iron are diminished by stress, and can lead to the symptoms of anaemia - such as lack of energy and impaired memory. So choose iron rich foods such as broccoli, green leafy vegetables, red meat, cocoa and pulses.

The exhaustion and weariness we feel, when we are stressed out, can sometimes lead us to reach for something quick, fast and sugary that will give us an immediate energy surge. But, our body responds to the sudden sugar high by releasing a large amount of insulin to counteract it - resulting in an energy low as our sugar level drops dramatically. The body reacts to this by releasing adrenaline into the blood stream, something we already have more than enough of because of our increased stress level. Again its a vicious circle.

Choose instead foods that have a ‘low glycaemic value, which release their sugar into the body more slowly - so that you get a steady and sustained release of energy rather than a sudden high followed by a sudden low. A general rule of thumb is that these are 'whole or unrefined foods, an apple or an orange rather than a glass of juice, a wholemeal and low sugar biscuit rather that one made with white flour and lots of sugar.

In a high stress situation you should not be trying to tackle a complete change of diet but develop an awareness of what foods will make you feel better in the long run. It doesnt have to be complicated - it can be as simple as having egg on toast for a snack rather than a couple of doughnuts. Stimulants such as tea and coffee too can fool the body into feeling more energised. It is pretty standard advice to say use them as sparingly as you can - giving them up entirely may create more stress than you need right now!

Cultivate good sleep habits: Insomnia or a disturbed sleep pattern is one of the most common signs of being in a stress situation. Many people feel their worst at night. All the usual advice for what is called 'good sleep hygiene is applicable here - avoid tea, coffee, cola drinks at least four hours before bedtime, allow yourself time to wind down before getting into bed (create bedtime rituals that tell your body 'it's time to sleep), make your bed-room a work-free sanctuary (definitely dont do cult related work in there), a warm bath before bed time helps to relax the body (not too hot or it has the opposite affect), dont read or watch anything stimulating before bedtime. If you wake up and have trouble getting back to sleep, dont lie there stewing, get up if you can, make a drink, keep warm and try again later. Diet can help too. The traditional bedtime milky drink works because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses in the creation of serotonin, a brain chemical that makes us feel calm and relaxed. If you cant face a milky drink, yoghurt, bananas, peanuts, dates and turkey all are rich in tryptophan (but eat them early to avoid indigestion!)

Find time to exercise and relax: Rather than making you feel more exhausted, exercise can actually give you more energy to tackle the problems you face. This may be because when you exercise the body produces endorphins, chemicals which affect the brain giving you a feeling of happiness and elation. The all round health benefits of exercise will also help offset some of the negative effects of stress too, such as a raised blood pressure. It doesnt have to be sport. It could be going for a walk in the park, a gentle swim, gardening etc..

Setting aside time just to relax can feel totally wasteful. But again, tell yourself that this is vital to help you continue with fighting the problem that faces you. Having time set aside in the day when the body and mind are just resting can dramatically reduce the harmful affects of stress in a very measurable way (reduced heart rate, lowered blood pressure etc.). Twenty minutes or half an hour a day, relaxing with your mind focused on nothing in particular at all is all you may need. Some people like to incorporate this with prayer or a religious practice, but just sitting and listening to music or the birds singing can be very effective. It isnt easy, especially when you are dealing with the anxiety levels produced by having a member of your family in a cult, but it will leave you much better equipped for the long haul.

Get professional help: If you find yourself simply unable to cope anymore, seek professional help. A GP may not know the first thing about cults, but he/she is trained to spot the signs of acute stress and depression and can offer medical help or general counselling. It is a particularly good idea to have a regular check up with your GP, especially because some of the physical effects of stress are so serious - raised blood pressure, increased susceptibility to strokes etc.. Added to that, nothing happens in a vacuum and you may also be dealing with other issues as well as the cult situation, for example, bereavement, physical illness or caring for an elderly relative. Grab whatever help you can from social services and voluntary groups.

© Cult Information Centre
March 2001

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868


Sources of Further Help

This page contains links to other websites. These sites are independent from the Cult Information Centre - we have no control over their content and make no representation as to their accuracy. The opinions expressed are those of the authors of the site or publication/s in question, not of the Cult Information Centre.

We encourage all researchers and those seeking help to investigate each expert and/or resource organisation themselves. We also recommend that you obtain a variety of points of view and exercise caution before acting on any advice given.

Links to International Help:

(In alphabetical order by country)


Fundación S.P.E.S


N.S.S. - National Spiritual Security


C.I.F.S. - Cult Information and Family Support

Cult Information Service

Cult Awareness & Information Centre


Gesellschaft gegen Sekten-und Kultgefahren


Center of New Religious Movements Studies


Contact et Information Groupes Sectaires asbl


Info Cult


Uskontojen Uhrien Tuki Ry (Support Group for the Victims of Religions)


Union Nationale des Associations de Défense des Familles et de lIndividu

Centre de documentation, déducation et daction Contre les Manipulations Mentales

Groupe détude des mouvements de pensée en vue de la prévention des individus

Attention Enfants


Germany Aktion für Geistige und Psychische Freiheit e.V.

Sekten-Info Nordrhein-Westfalen Artikel 4 - Initiative für Glaubensfreiheit e.V.


The Israeli Center for Victims of Cults


Centro Studi Abusi Psicologici

Associazione Nazionale Familiari delle Vittime delle Sette


Pascal Zivi

National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales


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Stiftelsen Liv i Frihet


C.R.S. - Center of Religious Studies


Ústav pre vztahy 154;tátu a cirkví (Institute for State-Church Relations)


Atención e Investigación de Socioadicciones


Förening Rädda Individen


Schweizerische Arbeitsgemeinschaft gegen destruktive Kulte


Family and Personality Protection Society

Ukrainian National Centre of Religious Safety and Help to Victims of Destructive Cults

Ukrainian Network "InterAction"


Wellspring (Rehabilitation Centre)

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Ross Institute


Freedom of Mind Center


International Cultic Studies Association (Formerly - American Family Foundation)

Apologetics Resource Center

Cult Clinic & Hotline



Spiritual Counterfeits Project

Christian Research Institute

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868


Essential Reading:

Ian Haworth, Cults: A Practical Guide. London: Cult Information Centre, 2001. Pbk. ISBN: 1873166842. pp.44. £3.99. To find out more or to order click HERE.

Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control. Park Street Press, 1990. Pbk. ISBN: 0892813113. pp.236.

Steven Hassan, Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. Freedom of Mind Press, 2000. Hbk. ISBN: 0967068800. pp.416.

American Family Foundation, Cults: What Parents Should Know: A Practical Guide to Help Parents With Children in Destructive Groups. Carol Publishing Corp., 1989. Pbk. ISBN: 0818405112.

Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: Science & Practice. Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Pbk. ISBN: 0321011473. pp.260.

Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: Americas Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change. Still Point Press, 1995. Pbk. ISBN: 0964765004. pp.401.

Ronald Enroth, Churches that Abuse Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992. Pbk. ISBN: 0310532906. pp.231.

Nansook Hong, In the Shadow of the Moons : My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moons Family. Little Brown & CO., 1998. Hbk. ISBN: 0316348163. pp.288.

Michael D. Langone, editor. Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1995. Pbk. ISBN: 0393313212.

David Johnson & Jeff Vanvonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Bethany House Publishers, 1991. Pbk. ISBN: 1556611609. pp.235.

Deborah Layton, Seductive Poison. Aurum Press, 1998. Pbk. ISBN: 1854106007. pp.324.

Robert Lifton, Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism. Norton Press. Reprinted: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Pbk. ISBN: 0807842532. pp.528.

Walter Martin, The New Cults. Vision House Publishers Inc.

George A. Mather, Larry A. Nichols, Alvin J. Schmidt (Editor), Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993. Hbk. ISBN: 0310531004. pp.384.

D.R. McConnell, A Different Gospel: Biblical and Historical Insights into the Word of Faith Movement. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995. Pbk. ISBN: 1565631323.

Una McManus & John Charles Cooper, Dealing with Destructive Cults. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982. Pbk. ISBN: 031070281X.

Jean Ritchie, The Secret World of Cults. Angus & Robertson.
Only available from the Cult Information Centre - £6.00 inc. P&P)

Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority. Pinter & Martin, 1997. ISBN: 0953096416. pp.250.

Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich, "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? Jossey-Bass, 1997. Pbk. ISBN: 0787902780. pp.288.

Margaret Thaler Singer with Janja Lalich, Cults in our Midst . Jossey-Bass, 1996. Pbk. ISBN: 0787902667.

Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich, Captive Hearts Captive Minds. Hunter House, 1993. Pbk. ISBN: 0897931440. pp.304

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868


The Cult Information Centre is a media friendly organisation.  Our talks, lectures and publications have proved to be very useful in warning the general public about the techniques used by the growing number of cults in the UK.  However, media coverage of this topic has helped to further disseminate this type of information on a much greater scale.

The Cult Information Centre is therefore available for television, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews on topics related to the general cult phenomenon.

Please direct media enquiries to Ian Haworth at 0845 4500 868

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868


The Cult Information Centre offers talks/lectures to…..

 For bookings and further information telephone 0845 4500 868

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868



Here below is a selection of videos/short films that you may find useful in understanding some of the issues surrounding the topics of psychological manipulation and/or the general cult phenomenon.  The following material has not been published by the Cult Information Centre (CIC) and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of CIC.

‘The Asch Conformity Experiment’

This experiment was a series of studies published in 1958 that demonstrated how people quickly conform to group pressure.

Mind Control Made Easy - Instruction Manual for New Cult Leaders

Warning - Some images may be upsetting!
This short film uses humour to expose the very serious methods associated with how cults work. It presents the topic of cults in a tongue-in-cheek way, as though it is a guide for future cult leaders.

‘The Wave’

This film is about the true story of a high school teachers unusual experiment in 1967 to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictator and how his exercise spins horribly out of control.

Lecture - Dr. Robert J. Lifton on Cults

This is a video of a lecture given by Dr Lifton. He is the author of ‘Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.’ Chapter 22 of the above described book has for many years been used by cult critics as a yardstick to use in evaluating whether or not a group uses what is often described today as ‘psychological coercion,’ ‘mind control’ or ‘radicalisation.’

Dr Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment

A film about the notorious prison experiment conducted by Dr Philip Zimbardo in 1971 at Stanford University.

Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment (2009)

A recent film (2009) in three parts repeating Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment in 1961, which showed people’s level of obedience to authority.

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

‘How Cults Work’

This video of scrolling text offers another perspective on how cults work.

‘A Class Divided’ (The Eye Colour = Intelligence Experiment)

This film is about the true story of a teacher’s classroom experiment in 1968. The idea of the experiment was to expose the damage done by racism. However, it perhaps also shows how people can act in inappropriate ways when given (or psychologically programmed with) inaccurate information.

Lecture - Dr Margaret Singer – ‘Recovery from Cults’

Address: BCM CULTS, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: 0845 4500 868