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Steven Hassan: Critical Material Deleted from his Wikipedia Biography Page

February 9, 2012

While I understand that some readers might see this as harsh, when someone is making the kinds of claims and charging the kind of fees this person does, it is important that mental health consumers have an alternate source of information and discussion about his work and claims, since his Wikipedia page appears to be sanitized with criticism kept to a very bare minimum. Again, I remind readers that the statements on this blog are an expression of my opinions regarding the individuals under discussion. For further details see the Wikipedia talk page for Steve Hassan and the talk page for biographies of living persons where this was discussed and ultimately, the material censored.

When I added some validly referenced criticism of Steve Hassan from his Wikipedia entry, one of the Wikipedia editors (who denies he has any association with Hassan) has repeatedly attempted to delete it.  Here is what Steve Hassan’s followers apparently do not want you to read:

Criticism from Other Cult Experts

Cult experts David Clark, Carol Giambalvo, Noel Giambalvo, Kevin Garvy and Michael Langone, PhD have criticized Steve Hassan’s approach to exit counseling in a chapter entitled “Exit Counseling: A Practical Overview” from an edited volume “[26]. These authors stated that Hassan’s four core beliefs are “vague and rather standard fare for counseling approaches within the field of humanistic psychology. As with many humanistic counseling approaches, Hassan runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly, on the framework’s foundational ambiguity and thereby manipulating the client.” (p. 175). The authors gave Hassan an opportunity to respond. Hassan’s response was that the critique “exaggerates the manipulativeness of his approach” and offered clarification that he tries to “minimize the danger by taking a step-by-step approach to help the cultist ‘grow'”. Clark et al.’s reply is “Despite these clarifications of Hassan’s approach, we still have several concerns.” Their concerns were first, that Hassan did not clearly communicate this sensitivity in his writings, second, that other professionals who rely on Hassan’s writings might not be sensitive enough to the potential of his approach to become manipulative, third, that Hassan’s approach “even when practiced in its most pure form, strategic intervention therapy is still overtly intrusive” (p. 176). Their fourth objection is that “subordinating exit counseling to a family counseling structure is usually not necessary for a successful exit counseling.” Their central criticism is that Hassan’s approach is said to “effect” change without the cult-involved person’s prior approval and is hence, manipulative, whereas in contrast, Clark et al’s informational approach “invites” change. To date, no research exists that demonstrates the superiority of either method of exit counseling.

^Recovery from Cults, Michael Langone (ed), 1993, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, ISBN 0-393-70164-6, p. 173-177

In a future article, I plan on posting an in-depth discussion of the material in this chapter. Contrary to the assertions and rationalizations of the individual who deleted this material, it is not a trivial matter. This is a controversy that has been central to people who do this type of work. I have attended a number of meetings of the exit counselors association at conferences where this has been discussed, where opinion was overwhelming against his work. Note that I am not trying to make an argument from majority here, only to point out that the Wikipedian’s arguments that people who criticize Hassan are in the minority is incorrect, as anyone who has been this scene for more than a few years can verify. A number of people who were his strong supporters in the past, have now defected from his camp, so to speak. I am far from being the only one who has come to realize the serious problems with his work. The problem is that much of this material is from conference proceedings that are not available on the internet and unfortunately some people seem to believe that everything on the internet is true and anything not on the internet is not true. What a sad state of affairs. I am hoping to remedy this soon by publishing some articles that will bring this and other controversies within the anticult community to light.

In the meantime, I  have to ask, why the attempt at information control of validly cited, published criticism of Mr. Steven Alan Hassan?

The final outcome is that after a discussion with the moderator, that because I am known to have had disagreements with  Steve Hassan, I am not allowed to contribute to the Wikipedia article on him since it constitutes a “conflict of interest”. Unfortunately the moderator gave credence to anonymous, completely undocumented and false allegations that came up on Google searches on my name that alleged with no basis whatsoever that I was trying to get Hassan’s license revoked. This is not true. The same anonymous posters lied that I had sexual relations with Hassan, also completely false and not just in the Clintonesque sense. Nevertheless, the upshot is that because of this false material that came up on Google, I am no longer allowed to post material to Steve Hassan’s Wikipedia Bio. It is too bad that the moderator apparently believes everything he reads on the internet.

That being said, Steve Hassan and his supporters can rest assured that this will not stop me from posting elsewhere about his work, including the criticism from other cult experts. That, they will not be able to censor. I find it interesting that Wikipedia stops critics from posting in biographies of living persons but not ardent supporters. Although this particular Wikipedia editor denies connections with Hassan, I know from my past direct experience with Hassan that he has enlisted his supporters to update his Wikipedia article and deal with negative information. To me, that looks like a recipe for a puff piece rather than an objective encyclopedia. This caution might be due to fear of lawsuits, although if Steve Hassan ever did decide to sue anyone, he can rest assured he would be thoroughly deposed during the discovery phase and as a plaintiff he would not be able to evade such a deposition. This means he would be required to produce full documentation on his fee structure, which aside from the fees for his first session, he no longer posts on his website and he would also be questioned in detail about the largely unsubstantiated claims he makes about the superiority of his method of counseling.

It is interesting that the Wikipedia editors denigrated the critique of Hassan’s work, saying it was just a “my theory is better than yours” type of critique when the authors never claimed that and unlike Steve Hassan, were honest enough to state that there was no research one way or the other. On the contrary, it is Steve Hassan who has repeatedly claimed, with no empirical basis whatsoever, that his approach is superior to all others. For example, on his website, promoting his book, it states:

Releasing the bonds reveals a much more refined method to help family and friends, called the Strategic Interaction Approach. This non-coercive, completely legal approach is far better than deprogramming, and even exit counseling.

There is no valid research evidence to support this baseless, bald assertion in this promotional piece for Steve Hassan’s second book (published by Freedom of Mind Press — essentially self-published).

The crowning irony is that Steve Hassan’s work is supposed to represent freedom of mind and freedom to engage in criticism, but apparently this only applies to the groups he considers “cults” rather than his own work. It appears that Steve Hassan has become what he is fighting and criticism of his work is not acceptable. Thankfully, however, free speech still exists on the internet.

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From → Pseudoscience

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  1. Steve Hassan fans want “information control”

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