Cults, Dissociation and Models of Helping and Recovery
In order to set the record straight about some misconceptions about the presentation I made at a 2009 conference of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) in Denver, I am posting the Power Point to this presentation. Strangely, enough, the gossip about this presentation was that it was an attack on Steve Hassan when in fact, as the Power Point shows, this presentation was not about him and contained no personal attacks upon anyone. I was therefore quite surprised that Steve took it this way and then told others who were not there that this was the case, as well as letting me know that evening that he perceived that way. To this day, his perception of it baffles me as there was nothing unique to him in this presentation.
In fact, the presentation outlines different models of recovery and pointed out the predominance of the medical model among certain “cult experts”. While this does apply to some extent to Steve Hassan, more of it applies to other therapists who do cult recovery work (e.g. Rosanne Henry, LPC), who were probably not at all happy with what I had to say since I directly challenged her suggestion of having clients identify cult leaders as having certain diagnoses. There is also psychoanalyst Daniel Shaw’s (and a number of other people’s) preoccupation with so-called malignant narcissism and the “traumatizing narcissist” (not even valid diagnoses) of cult leaders. Although I presented credible, well recognized and accepted models, not one of these people issued one word of rebuttal to anything discussed in this session. In fact, when some of us tried to raise these issues on a supposedly professional discussion list, these therapists were ultra sensitive and took my challenges very personally saying it made them feel “unsafe” to be questioned and challenged in this manner, rather than engage in a discussion that would have been healthy, not only for them as professionals but also for the clients they profess to serve. Is this kind of model of putting psychiatric labels on cult leaders and cult survivors really helpful to recovery? At this point we simply do not know and there is good reason to suspect that it may do more harm than good to label both the cult leader and victim with psychiatric disorders who then feel they need intensive and extensive therapy and years of support groups to recover when there is no good evidence that any of this is effective and does no harm.
To access the PDF, click on the link below:
This way, people can view the presentation and decide for themselves whether Steve Hassan, who was reportedly in tears during this presentation, has any cause to complain.
I can understand how some people could be upset about this, as I challenged the dominant model of so-called cult recovery in this presentation and proposed some possible different models but there were no attacks on anyone in this presentation.
Cathleen Mann also presented in this same session. The session was entitled Cults, PTSD and Dissociation: Is the Medical Model Helpful to Ex-Cultists? I guess some people were not happy that we posed this question. This is not surprising, given that some masters level mental health professionals who claim to be cult experts have been known to charge some pretty hefty fees for their services that are far above what most masters level therapists would charge.