Combatting Cult Mind Control

Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults is a non-fiction work by Steven Hassan. The author describes theories of mind control and cults based on the research of Margaret Singer and Robert Lifton as well as the cognitive dissonance theory of Leon Festinger. The book was published by Park Street Press, in 1988.

Hassan is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is a former member of the Unification Church.


One is impressed by Hassan's candor in describing his experiences both within the Unification Church and after his departure from it, especially his work as an exit counselor. Beyond its value as an illuminating personal account, this book is an informative and practical guide to cult-related issues. It is recommended both to lay persons who wish to become better informed on this topic and to professionals in health-related fields, clergy, attorneys, judges, and others whose responsibilities bring them into contact with cults, their members, and the families whose lives are affected.|20px|20px|Louis Jolyon West, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry

The sociologist Eileen Barker, who has studied the Unification Church, has commented on the book. She expressed several concerns but nevertheless recommended the book. The book has been reviewed in the American Journal of Psychiatry, and in the The Lancet.

The book was well received by other authors on the subject, such as Dr. Margaret Singer, Rabbi James A. Rudin and conservative Rabbi and theologian Harold S. Kushner. Singer writes:

"...A major contribution...For the first time, a skilled and ethical exit counselor has spelled out the details of the complicated yet understandable process of helping free a human being from the bondage of mental manipulation.....Steve Hassan has written a 'how to do something about it' book."

The book, originally published in 1988, is still in print and, according to the author's website, it has been re-published in seven different languages.

Critical viewpoints

John B. Brown of the "Pagan Unity Campaign" has criticized a statement in the book (page 114) which says that "Forcible intervention can be kept as a last resort if all other attempts fail." Brown states that this indicates that Hassan might resort to a forcible intervention if all other attempts fail. However, it should be noted that the first sentence of the paragraph immediately preceding the sentence on page 114 that Brown refers to reads: 'I decided not to participate in forcible interventions, believing it was imperative to find another approach.' , which would seem to contradict Brown's interpretation of the sentence he quotes.

According to Douglas Cowan, in this book Hassan utilizes a language opposing "freedom" and "captivity", based on the conceptual framework of brainwashing and thought control, and the alleged abuses of civil liberities and human rights. He writes that these are the precipitating motivation for secular anticultists such as Hassan.

Irving Hexham, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, writes that Hassan's description of destructive cults (page 37), as "a group which violates the rights of its members and damages them through the abusive techniques of unethical mind control" is not helpful as he fails to describe how to decide if a group is a cult or not, what are "abusive techniques" and what is "mind control".

See also


Further reading

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