“What Constitutes a Cult?”
“The criteria that determine a cult are not definitive, and some organizations are classified as cults by some definitions and not by others. This incongruity can especially be seen with the classification of certain religious organizations, which are only considered to be cults by some.
“Organizations that are recognized as cults typically have a charismatic leader who is self-appointed and whom members obey without question. They often form a totalitarian society and also tend to exhibit most, if not all, of the following traits:
- The use of manipulation or coercion to recruit and teach new members.
- A dislike, distrust, or general devaluation of outsiders.
- A claim to offer the only path to salvation or possess unique powers.
- An involvement in illegal and harmful practices, such as child abuse, physical or sexual abuse, and illegal drug use.
- The discouragement and punishment of doubt or dissent.
- The discouragement or prevention of members from leaving.”
My Qualifications to Work with Cult Survivors
While I have not been a member of a cult per se, I grew up in a family that had some cult characteristics: autocratic, narcissistic leader; physical, sexual and emotional abuse; and a constant threat of manipulation and coercion.
I have been a psychotherapist for nearly 30 years, after doing years of personal therapy. I’m licensed as a psychotherapist in the State of California and have a master’s degree in clinical psychology.
My professional work began with adults who were traumatized as children, typically from incest. Then I developed a specialty working with people who were, or had been, in a relationship with a narcissist. Both of those populations are natural precursors to my work with cult survivors, and I am working with several people healing from cult experiences.
As that part of my practice grows, I am learning everything I can about religious cults, and what happens when one exits a cult. I have joined several organizations that provide such information, such as the International Cultic Studies Association, The Cult Education Institute, and The Aftermath Foundation. My library on this topic is quickly expanding, and I’m seeking out films and documentaries on cults to continue my learning.
- International Cultic Studies Association – www.icsahome.com
- The Aftermath Foundation (Mike Rinder, former Scientologist) – https://theaftermathfoundation.org
- The Cult Education Institute – www.culteducation.com
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