Q: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about becoming a therapist and wants to specialize in helping victims of undue influence? How could they prepare themselves before going to an accredited school?
A: Thank you so much for your question.
It is important to note that when one does this sort of work, one also needs to learn how to help the family and friends of those who have been the victims of undue influence, as they have often been alarmed to see their loved one’s sudden behavioral and personality changes and have felt helpless to do anything about it.
Additionally, when people fall prey to anything or anyone, they often blame themselves for having been stupid, gullible, or weak, and likewise, those who care about these people have also felt that they should have known, they should have done more, and are angry and frustrated that they were unable to protect their loved one because they were kept in the dark. Through the process of education and therapy, you must help the victims and their loved ones understand that anyone can be manipulated, given the right set of circumstances or the right timing in their lives, and that it has nothing to do with overall intelligence or gullibility. Undue influence is a science – a well-oiled and well-crafted machine of manipulation. The only people who deserve blame are those who learn these techniques, deliberately using them on others without their knowledge or consent.
In order to learn about undue influence, manipulation, and emotional control techniques, I suggest:
1. Studying certain world leaders like Hitler and Mao Zedong and the techniques they used to control people en masse and change their entire world views.
2. Learning about the personality and relational styles of those with certain disorders like narcissism and psychopathology. Undue influence can occur within a larger group of people, but it can also occur within a group of two: when someone takes another person over, exerting total control and influence over them, then you have what we sometimes refer to as a ‘one-on-one’ cult. The way people with these personality disorders interact with their partners, stripping them of their power and even changing the way they feel about themselves, will mimic a cult leader with his or her followers.
3. Reading Robert Cialdini’s books “Influence” and “Pre-suasion“, Jon Atack’s book “Opening Minds: The Secret World of Undue Influence, Manipulation and Brainwashing“, Steven Hassan’s book “Freedom of Mind“, and Janja Lalich’s book “Take Back Your Life“.
4. Take courses in Human Psychology, Psychopathology, Social Psychology and Hypnosis, as they will all teach you about the power of the mind, the way people control others one-on-one or within larger groups, and the ideas of influence and emotional manipulation overall from different perspectives.
Good luck with your studies!
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