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Steve Hassan to Speak at Ego-State Therapy Conference in Germany

November 18, 2011

In the past, I have expressed concerns that Steve Hassan may have gotten involved with questionable DID therapies with ex-cult members, based on exchanges on the now-defunct Freedom of Mind list serv where he defended it. Now we learn that he is scheduled to speak at an Ego States Therapy conference in Germany next week (website is in German but can be easily translated into English with Google Translator).  Ego States Therapy is basically parts work and includes highly questionable therapy for DID. Here is the first paragraph of Steve Hassan’s description of the workshop he will be presenting (English translation) click here for full description:

Millions of people have experienced unethical uses of hypnosis, behavior modification techniques and systematic pattern of social influence by destructive cults or individuals in his own body. There is a strong need for therapists who understand it, how to advise these people helping (these people are in the DSM listed IV as Atypical Dissociative Disorders 300.15).

The first sentence with the curious addition of “individuals in his own body” would seem to indicate that he is indeed endorsing DID therapy. Does he inform prospective clients of the highly controversial nature of this therapy? Are his clients being educated on how this can be highly iatrogenic? I would have to ask Steve Hassan: What evidence is there that this therapy helps and does no harm, rather than authoritative assertions and anecdotes?

Additionally, in his bio, he presents himself as: “The leading expert on destructive cults in structures, fundamentalist groups, pathological relationships, etc…” The leading expert? According to whom?

This is a prime example of why it is so important for mental health consumers to question and challenge authority.

The way in which his characterization of post cult pathology and treatment fits several points in Eileen Gambrill’s recently published Propaganda Index (go here for a full copy and article), including:

1. The nature of the problem in distress is in dispute.

12. Prevalence is in dispute.

17. Significant distress and adverse effects are claimed.

21. Course without treatment is described as poor.

25. It is claimed that the problem is under-diagnosed.

29. It is claimed that the problem is under-treated.

These are all the types of claims that Hassan has made in his writings, without, as the checklist indicates, data described in quantitative terms and citations to references that actually provide evidence to support them (as opposed to references to more authoritative unsubstantiated assertions). Instead what we see are vague terms and assertions. Hassan has repeatedly claimed a high prevalence for post cult distress and pathology, including dissociative disorders, that people will stay the same or get worse without treatment from cult “experts” and that the problem is under-diagnosed and under-treated. Where is the evidence to support this?

People who have left cults who do not feel that they are having problems are said to just not be aware of them. What we have here is a classic example of Karl Popper’s unfalsifiable claims. A claim, to be scientific must have a way to be tested/falsified. Post cult syndrome has been rendered unfalsifiable. Anyone who denies having it can be taken as evidence that they are even more in need of treatment. The bottom line, in my opinion, is for therapy consumers is buyer beware. There is no research evidence that therapy from such “experts” helps or is better than therapy from other credentialed mental health professionals who Hassan attempts to steer people away from, claiming that it can make people worse, based on his “experience”. He seems to think that saying “in my experience” alleviates him from the need to support his claims. It doesn’t.

If people think I am being overly harsh here, my intent here is to provide mental health consumers who are seeking help for cult involvement with another perspective that they may not be exposed to through the websites of those who make their living providing such help. Since I do not make a living from this, I am not a business competitor of Hassan’s. As always the views expressed here are my opinions and should not be interpreted as advice. People are obviously free to examine what he and others have to say and make their own decisions.

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