by Jon Atack
Finding a Guide
A good therapist is someone who understands the mechanisms of coercion, manipulation and trauma.
The Right Therapist
If you are struggling with your recovery, you need to choose the right therapist. In a society that is overflowing with therapists, this should be easy, but it isn’t: many therapy systems are questionable, there are unqualified therapists in the field, and many qualified therapists are unfamiliar with the problems of undue influence. This is surprising, as there are millions of wounded escapees out here from both coercive groups and relationships.
In order to heal and thrive again, you must be able to trust, and yet your trust will have been violated by a predatory group or individual. The therapist should help you to regain trust in your own preferences and decisions.
No progress will be made if you do not feel comfortable with the therapist. It is important to agree upon goals for therapy at the outset and to monitor those goals as you progress. If you are not progressing, find another therapist.
It is also vital not to fall into an authority relationship with a therapist. A therapist should help you achieve authority over your own life and your decisions, rather than selling you a new worldview.
Therapy must be affordable: it should relieve stress, rather than causing it. Many cult groups bleed their members dry financially. In many places, free or subsidized therapy can be obtained through government and employer-sponsored programs.
A good therapist will understand that it is necessary to challenge the beliefs instilled by a cult or abusive partner. This may be best done outside the therapy session, with sympathetic others who are willing to listen. It is extremely important to find your own view, and take control of your own life.
Lalich and Tobias give excellent advice on choosing a therapist in “Take Back Your Life”. The book also gives a treatment framework for former members:
- An education program about mechanisms of influence and control typically used in cults, and the power of those persuasive efforts
- Counseling sessions focusing on adjustment difficulties in relationships, careers and so on
- Treatment of post-traumatic symptoms and complications
- Treatment of any pre-existing psychological or emotional difficulties
- Medication for symptomatic relief of anxiety or depression, if necessary
Madeleine Tobias has also contributed valuable guidelines for ex-members in “Recovery from Cults”.