Cult counselor and mind control expert Steve Alan Hassan has been on the forefront of cult awareness activism since 1976.
A former member of a religious cult himself, Hassan (pronounced as ‘Has-sen’) has long been recognized as a leading cult expert.
Steven Hassan holds a Masters degree in counseling psychology from Cambridge College, is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is considered an expert on destructive mind control issues.
Ex-cult members and others seek him out for specialized counseling to help them recover from symptoms other mental health professionals are not trained to address.
Steve’s professionalism sets him apart. His work is praised by cult experts, cult counselors, mental health professionals, religious leaders, former cult members, family and friends of cult members, psychologists, law officials, and educators.
Hassan has authored three critically acclaimed books:
- Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults (1988). A well-received revised and updated version was published in 2015.
- Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000), in which he introduced a non-coercive approach people can employ to rescue their friends and loved ones. 1
- Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs (2012) [reviewed here] shows how he has evolved and fine-tuned his approach.
Combating Cult Mind Control — Updated
Those who own a copy of the older version will definitely want to ‘upgrade’ to this new edition.
In her review of the book for the International Journal of Cultic Studies, Marcia Rudin [profile] wrote,
Thirty-five years have passed since we met Steve and since our seminal book was published, and 27 since Steve first published Combating Mind Control. Since then, numerous books have been written by former members, families, and loved ones of present and past cultists, and by psychologists and other academicians. But Hassan’s book has been extremely influential because of its wide popular exposure and circulation. Over the years, I have heard former cult members talk about standing in the aisle of Barnes and Noble reading Hassan’s book and saying to themselves, “So that’s what happened to me! I was in a cult!”
Because so many years have passed and so many changes have occurred, Hassan revised and updated his book in 1990 and now again in 2015. This latest edition summarizes and explains the many changes throughout these years in cultic groups, members, and former members, and in the countercult movement itself. These important changes include the diversity of cult members, the presence of small children and the elderly in cults, members who were born into and raised in groups, varieties of cultic groups, different locations and methods of recruitment, internal changes in major cultic groups such as the Unification Church, progress in academicians’ and helping professionals’ understanding of what Hassan prefers to term “undue influence,” and the transformation of both cult recruitment and access to available assistance because of the growth of the Internet.
– Source: Marcia Rudin 2, Book Review – Combating Cult Mind Control (25th Anniversary Revised Edition), International Journal of Cultic Studies, Vol. 7, 2016, 55-56. 3
From the Moonies to Freedom of Mind
Deceptively recruited into the Moon organization at the age of nineteen while a student at Queens College, Steven spent twenty-seven months recruiting and indoctrinating new members, fundraising, political campaigning and personally meeting with Sun Myung Moon during numerous leadership sessions.
Steven ultimately rose to the rank of Assistant Director of the Unification Church at National Headquarters.
Following a serious automobile accident, several former members at his parents request deprogrammed him. Once he realized the insidious nature of the organization, he authorized police officials to take possession of his personal belongings, which included a massive set of private speeches documenting Moon’s secret plan to take over the world.Steven Alan Hassan, cult counselor and mind control expert is a Nationally Certified Counselor and licensed Mental Health Counselor and has developed a breakthrough approach to help loved ones rescue cult mind control victims.
During the 1977-78 Congressional Subcommittee Investigation into South Korean CIA activities in the United States, he consulted as an expert on the Moon organization and provided information and internal documents regarding Moon’s desire to influence politics in his bid to “take over the world.”
In 1979, following the Jonestown tragedy, Steven founded EX-MOON Inc., a non-profit educational organization composed of over four hundred former members of the Moon group. Although now defunct, it was the first and largest ex-member organization in the world.
– Source: Steven Alan Hassan, M.Ed., LMHC, Biography Last accessed, Mar. 5, 2007
Steven went on to created the Freedom of Mind Resource Center Inc., a counseling and publishing organization dedicated to helping people to become psychologically empowered, upholding human rights, promoting consumer awareness and exposing abuses of destructive cult groups.
In his commitment to fight against destructive cults, Steven devotes a major portion of his time and energy to preventive education. In this function he has addressed hundreds of campus, religious and professional organizations throughout the world.
Involvement with cults usually — though not always — includes religious aspects. Cults are defined sociologically or theologically, and generally include elements of both:
- Sociological definitions of the term ‘cult’ …
…include consideration of such factors as authoritarian leadership patterns, loyalty and commitment mechanisms, lifestyle characteristics, [and] conformity patterns (including the use of various sanctions in connection with those members who deviate).
– Source: Ronald Enroth, “What Is a Cult?” in A Guide to Cults and New Religions, e.d. Ronald Enroth (Downers Grove, Ill,: InterVarsity 1983), p14
- Theological definitions of the term ‘cult’ make note of the reasons why a particular group’s beliefs and/or practices are considered unorthodox – that is, in conflict with the body of essential teachings of the movement the group compares itself to.
Not surprisingly, cult experts operate from a variety of perspectives and motivations. By way of example:
- Some Christian cult experts deal primarily with theological aspects (i.e. cults of Christianity), and may be interested only in helping someone move from Mormonism to mainstream Christianity, or from an abusive church into a healthy fellowship. Other Christian cult counselors — including the publishers of Apologetics Index — will help anyone regardless of what type of cult is involved, and regardless of whether or not the person in question is interested in Christianity.
- Likewise, some Jewish anticult organizations and individuals have a rather hostile approach toward Christian organizations and missionaries (example), while others — including Steve Hassan — make an effort to understand, work with, and respect people of different faiths.
- Some so-called ‘cult experts’ aren’t involved in counseling at all. Rather, they publish research findings that often read like PR materials for the ‘New Religious Movements’ they supposedly studied. They tend to dismiss the testimonies of ex-members. Those experts are often referred to as cult apologists.
Apologetics Index recommends a number of organizations and inviduals involved in cult counseling. We have also published guidelines for selecting a cult expert/counselor.
Steve Hassan, who is a cult expert recommended by Apologetics Index, describes his theological perspective as follows:
With both deprogramming and exit-counseling, content reigns supreme. This approach can have hidden dangers. The ideological or spiritual perspective of the deprogrammer or exit-counselor could be anything from atheist, to agnostic, to orthodox Christian or Jew. I urge you to scrutinize the beliefs and affiliations of people who offer to rescue your loved one from a destructive cult. Many of these people will seek to impose their own ideological perspective. The ethical approach is to avoid imposing any ideological or theological viewpoint on a mind control subject.
The SIA allows for a spiritual orientation, but does not promote a rigid ideological viewpoint. I personally am Jewish and belong to Temple Beth Zion led by Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, co-author with William Novak, of The Big Book of Jewish Humor (Harper Collins, 1981 which promotes an inclusive approach to spirituality. The Temple’s web site is www.templebethzion.org. My starting point with a client is always the individual’s and family’s spiritual “roots”, if any. If the person is Catholic, I encourage them to rediscover their roots at the appropriate time. Likewise, if they are Protestant, Buddhist, or anything else, I would do the same. At the beginning of every Strategic Interaction, I have family members and friends fill out Background Information Forms. Often, I find that the cult member had a strong spiritual orientation before they were recruited into a religious cult. I encourage family and friends to support their loved one’s full recovery — spiritual as well as psychological.
– Source: Strategic Interaction Approach FAQ
- The book describes the Strategic Interaction Approach (SIA) [later renamed to Strategic Interactive Approach] Hassan has developed to help loved ones rescue cult mind control victims. Unlike the stressful and media sensationalized “deprogramming“, this non-coercive approach is an effective and legal alternative for families to help cult members. The Strategic Interaction Approach utilizes family, friends and the Internet and teaches them how to strategically influence the individual involved in the group. ↩
- Ms Rudin is a cult expert. She has written widely about cults and psychological manipulation, appeared at conferences and panel discussions, and lectured on these topics throughout the U.S. and in Canada and Poland. In her work with the International Cultic Studies Association between 1987 and 1997, she directed the International Cult Education Program. Profile ↩
- Published by the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) ↩