This talk is an opening, a crack to let light into considerations of racialized survivor experience with hopes to expand this conversation, and invitations to research the lives, challenges, healing journeys, and to visibilize the living bodies of cult survivors of color.
How do people get trapped in cults? One tool cults use is emotional and mental coercion to exercise undue influence keeping people stuck in the group.
Gaslighting refers to attempts by cult leaders to manipulate their followers by creating an environment in which the cult members doubt their own thoughts, observations, interpretations, and memories.
Individuals who leave cults frequently exhibit symptoms of mental illness, in particular: depression, anxiety and schizotypal disorders. While these symptoms can affect all former cult members, they are particularly problematic among young people who have left cults, and especially those born into one. Although there are a number of interventions that can help these people live full, productive lives with robust mental health, many do not take advantage of them for a variety of reasons, largely related to their cult indoctrination. Often cults stigmatize counseling and psychotherapy, causing many former cult members to fear seeking professional mental health treatment. For those that do seek help, it can be difficult to find appropriate counseling because not all therapists understand the significance of the cult experience. To address these problems, an extensive survey was conducted of the relevant, current research available on the subject. Although there is a vast amount of research available concerning mental illness and mental health, there is a relatively scant amount addressing the unique needs of former cult members. Nevertheless, what is available is quite encouraging in regard to positive outcomes for emotional and psychological healing. A key point among the findings is the recognition that “core dysfunctional beliefs and consequent negative thoughts” are central in the development of mental illness (Kinderman, 2005). When false and damaging beliefs are replaced with accurate, healthy beliefs and coping strategies, individuals begin to recover and thrive. Psycho-education, particularly in connection with traditional treatments for mental illness, can help empower individuals suffering with mental health issues by providing them with tools for coping and alleviating those symptoms. Significant challenges remain and need to be addressed in order to make this information more widely disseminated and available to those that need it most: former group members, their families, helping professionals, and researchers.
Phases of Recovery and Growth when working with former cult members. She will explore how a psychoeducational approach can assist the individual to unlayer and dismantle their cult pseudo-identity.