Jun 23, 2020

ICSA for a two-day virtual summer conference

July 11-12. 2020

11:05 -11:50 / "The Neurobiology of Sexual Abuse: Flashbacks, Triggers and Healing" (Doni Whitsett)
The first part of this presentation presents a neurobiological understanding of flashbacks and triggers resulting from sexual abuse. The second part of the presentation offers suggestions for dealing with triggers, learning to manage them, and perhaps using them to facilitate healing.

11:05 -11:50 / "MIND FIXERS: The History of Mass Therapy With its Roots in Mind Dynamics Institute, Misuse of Zen Insights, and Hyping the Positive Thinking of New Thought Religion." (Joseph Kelly, Joseph Szimhart, Patrick Ryan)
The title for this presentation, “MIND FIXERS: The History of Mass Therapy With its Roots in Mind Dynamics Institute, Misuse of Zen Insights, and Hyping the Positive Thinking of New Thought Religion,” covers a vast arena for specialized workshops that range from one day to several weeks. Borrowing techniques from encounter group formats, military boot camp training, and the mindfulness movements these specialized groups operate as unregulated mass therapy businesses and are not licensed as mental health professions. The stated purpose of these “large group awareness trainings” is to increase self-realization and success in life. The outcomes, however, are problematic with some critics claiming that a form of “brainwashing” is taking place that emphasizes promotion of the workshops while any real-life gains are highly questionable. Some participants report psychological and social harm. The speakers will guide a discussion to address the criticisms.

12:00 - 12:50 / "Coercive Control and Persuasion in Relationships and Groups– Intersections and Understandings" (Rod Dubrow-Marshall; Linda Dubrow-Marshall, Carrie McManus, Andrea Silverstone)
This panel will examine contemporary understandings of coercive control in relationships and groups with practitioners from both sides of the Atlantic. The way in which the term ‘coercive control’ is now being used and applied in different jurisdictions will be discussed and how changes to the law are reflecting advances in our understanding of how coercive control works psychologically across contexts. It will also be explored how a heightened dialogue between practitioners and researchers across the fields of intimate partner violence and cults/sects and extremist groups is leading to enhanced appreciation of commonalities in the process of psychological indoctrination. Positive implications for prevention, exit and recovery and rehabilitation across these areas will also be discussed along with recommendations for policy makers.

12:00 - 12:50 PM / "Unification Church (Moonie) SGAs: The Future is Unwritten" (Lisa Kohn; Teddy Hose; Jen Kiaba)
A panel of Unification Church (Moonie) SGAs (Jen Kiaba, Teddy Hose, and Lisa Kohn) will discuss their different experiences of living in, leaving, and learning to thrive after being part of the Unification Church (the “Moonies”). The questions and discussions will focus on how the panelists experienced being part of the Unification Church, how they were able to leave the Church, how they still feel affected by their childhood in the Church, and how they have healed since leaving the Church.

1:00 - 1:50 PM / "Lived Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Former Cult Members – Counseling Implications" (Cyndi Matthews; Stevie Powers)
Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) individuals growing up in religious cults can face opposition to their sexual orientation. They may struggle with depression, anxiety, drug/alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, and suicidal ideation. Research by presenters will describe lived experiences of LGB individuals who grew up in religious cults. Best practices based on this research, APA & ACA Codes of Ethics, along with ASERVIC and ALGBTIC competencies will be presented.

1:00 - 1:50 PM / "How Female Former Cult Members Can Reclaim their Relationship with Knowledge and Self-Identity" (Jacqueline Johnson)
High-control and coercive groups work at stealing and silencing the thoughts and knowledge base, and subsequently, the voices, of its members. For females, this dynamic becomes more problematic when those female members are, or have been, part of a misogynous group that incorporates numerous ways of subjugating women. This presentation will outline the research of Belenky et al (1986), which examines the development of women’s self, voice, and mind. Belenky and her colleagues describe the cognitive and intellectual development in women in terms of five knowledge positions (ranging from silence to construction) through which women develop their identity. This presentation will examine ways that high-control, misogynous groups subjugate women, how this affects the epistemology of female cult members, her resulting relationship to knowledge, and the possible impairments to her ability to construct her own knowledge, develop her own identity, and find her own voice. Implications for therapists working with women are discussed in terms of helping former female cult members begin to develop their identity, find their voice, and construct their own knowledge.

2:00 - 2:50 PM / "Raised in a Cult: Psychological and Social Adjustment of Second- and Third-Generation Former Cult Members" (Sofia Klufas)
Former cult members often find themselves struggling to re-integrate into mainstream society and typically describe long periods of recovery post-exit. The current study aimed to qualitatively explore the experiences of individuals raised in cults (1) during, (2) in the process of leaving, and (3) post-cult involvement in order to understand how cultic influences might impact their ability to socially and psychologically adjust to life outside of the cult upon defection. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 8 participants from across North America and Europe who self-identify as second- and/or third-generation former cult members. Responses were qualitatively analyzed for totalistic patterns of influence which may dissuade members from leaving the group or simply deviating from its norms. Participants reported a wide range of emotional responses and psychological difficulties which they perceived to be the result of their cultic upbringing including but not limited to hyper-arousal, anxiety, doctrine-related fears, feelings of isolation, depression, anger/outbursts and suicidal tendencies. Identity reconstruction and social adjustment challenges such as relationship loss due to shunning, difficulty connecting with others, language differences were also reported by participants. Raised-in cult members are a distinct population from converted cult members as they have been exposed to cultic influence throughout the course of their developmental period. While the experiences of these two groups are comparable in many ways, previous research has demonstrated that raised-in cult members are at higher risk for social and psychological difficulties (Furnari, 2005).

2:00 - 2:50 PM / "What does awe have to do with it?" (Yuval Laor)
What is awe? What role does awe play in cult recruitment? And what brings about awe experiences? The talk will discuss these and other topics related to this strange emotion and the effects it can have on us.

3:00 - 3:50 PM / "Nxivm: the Reinventive Path to Success?"(Susan Raine, Stephen Kent)
In this session I discuss the multi-level cultic organization, NXIVM. I propose that NXIVM operated as, what Susie Scott (2011) calls, a reinventive institution—that is, an organization that people enter into voluntarily, because they promise to help people transform or reinvent themselves through personal and professional growth, self-actualization, self-improvement, and success. The group’s founder and leader, Keith Raniere offered members these outcomes via the Stripe Path—a hierarchal system of courses that were supposed to empower people as they worked towards personal growth and world peace. Scott stresses, however, that reinventive institutions incorporate structures of power and are far from benign. This dynamic is evident in NXIVM, which offered to empower its members but ultimately ended up disempowering many of them—especially its most committed female followers. I follow up this discussion by addressing how Raniere had groomed many of these most dedicated women for sexual abuse and exploitation. Grant Sinnamon’s (2017) research on adult grooming and Janja Lalich’s (1997) work on the psychosexual exploitation of women in cults provide extremely useful insights for understanding Raniere’s behaviour.

3:00 - 3:50 PM / "What Do I Tell People? Empowered Ways that Cult Survivors and their Families Can Tell their Stories. Cults, Recovery and Podcasts." (Rachel Bernstein)
Nearly all my clients and podcast guests have experienced fear when thinking about telling people about their cult-related experiences. Many live in isolation because of this, and at times it's for good reason. When they've tried to share their stories, they've been responded to with insulting judgment and condescension, with confusion and disbelief, or with inappropriately voyouristic interest and invasive follow-up questions. Learn how to take control of that conversation and present your story in an educational and empowered way so you don't have to live in fear of these moments and remain silent and alone.
This two-day event will include a variety of presentations, panels, and workshops for former members of cultic groups, families and friends, professionals, and researchers.

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