Second-Generation Adult Former Cult Group Members’ Recovery Experiences: Implications for Counseling

  • Cynthia H. Matthews
  • Carmen F. Salazar


Cult survivors experience psychological challenges after leaving a cult, and reintegration into society can be a difficult process. Children who are born and raised in cults face additional challenges (e.g., effects of abuse and neglect, attachment disorders, and lack of education). Scant attention has been paid in the literature to the experiences and treatment needs of these second-generation cult survivors. In this study, the experiences of 15 second-generation adult former cult members were explored involving constructivist grounded theory and a social justice-focused inquiry. Findings hold promise for increasing counselors’ understanding of former cult members’ experiences, needs, and concerns, supporting competent counseling practice with this population.


High intensity faith groups Cult recovery Second-generation cult survivors Children in cults 


  1. Almendros, C., Carrobles, J., & Rodriguez-Carballeira, A. (2007). Former members’ perceptions of cult involvement. Cultic Studies Review, 6, 1–20.Google Scholar
  2. Aronoff, J., Lynn, S., & Malinoski, P. (2000). Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 91–111. doi: 10.1016/S0272-7358(98)00093-2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Black, N. (2009). Blood money: A grounded theory of corporate citizenship: Myanmar (Burma) as a case in point. (Doctoral Thesis, University of Waikato, New Zealand). Retrieved from
  4. Boeri, M. (2002). Women after the utopia: the gendered lives of former cult members. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 31, 323–360. doi: 10.1016/S0272-7358(98)00093-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boeri, M., & Boeri, N. (2009). Intergenerational memories of life in a cult: a life course analysis. Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 3, 79–90.Google Scholar
  6. Boeri, M., & Pressley, K. (2010). Creativity and cults from sociological and communication perspectives: the processes involved in the birth of a secret creative self. Cultic Studies Review, 9, 173–213.Google Scholar
  7. Burke, J. (2006). Antisocial personality disorder in cult leaders and induction of dependent personality disorder in cult members. Cultic Studies Review, 5, 390–410.Google Scholar
  8. Charmaz, K. (1983). The grounded theory method: An explication and interpretation. In R. M. Emerson (Ed.), Contemporary field research (pp. 109–126). Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  9. Charmaz, K. (2003). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 249–291). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Charmaz, K. (2008). Grounded theory in the 21st century: Applications for advancing social justice studies. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 203–241). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Coates, D. (2010). Post-involvement difficulties experienced by former members of charismatic groups. Journal of Religious Health, 49, 296–310. doi: 10.1007/s10943-009-9251-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crethar, H., Torres Rivera, E., & Nash, S. (2008). In search of common threads: linking multicultural, feminist, and social justice counseling paradigms. Journal of Counseling and Development, 86, 269–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dahlen, P. (1997). Working with women survivors of cults: an empowerment model for counselors. Cultic Studies Journal, 14, 145–154.Google Scholar
  14. Danley, C. (2004). Interpersonal factors which contributed to one’s ambivalence around leaving a cult. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65(02). (UMI No. 765410001).Google Scholar
  15. Enroth, R. (1992). Churches that abuse. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.Google Scholar
  16. Eppley, K. (2006). Defying insider-outsider categorization: One researcher’s fluid and complicated positioning on the insider-outsider continuum. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(3). Retrieved from
  17. Faulkner, M. (2009). Ritual of separation: an integrative guideline for helping clients from high-intensity faith groups. Cultic Studies Review, 8, 16–42.Google Scholar
  18. Frame, M. (2003). Integrating religion and spirituality into counseling: A comprehensive approach. Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole.Google Scholar
  19. Furnari, L. (2005). Born or raised in high-demand groups: developmental considerations. ICSA E-newsletter, 4(3). Retrieved from
  20. Glaser, B. (1965). The constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. Social Problems, 12, 436–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  22. Goldberg, W. (1993). Guidelines for support groups. In M. Langone (Ed.), Recovery from cults: Help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse (pp. 275–284). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  23. Goldberg, L. (2006). Raised in cultic groups: the impact on development of certain aspects of character. Cultic Studies Review, 5, 1–27.Google Scholar
  24. Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Hassan, S. (2000). Releasing the bonds: Empowering people to think for themselves. Somerville: Freedom of Mind Press.Google Scholar
  26. Jacobs, J. (1991). Gender and power in new religious movements: a feminist discourse on the scientific study of religion. Religion, 21, 345–356. doi: 10.1016/0048-721X(91)90037-Q.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lalich, J. (1997). Dominance and submission: the psychosexual exploitation of women in cults. Cultic Studies Journal, 14, 4–21.Google Scholar
  28. Lalich, J., & Tobias, M. (2006). Take back your life: Recovering from cults and abusive relationships. Berkeley: Bay Tree.Google Scholar
  29. Langone, M. (1993). Recovery from cults: Help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse. New York: American Family Foundation.Google Scholar
  30. Langone, M. (1994). Are “sound” theology and cultism mutually exclusive? Cult Observer, 11. Retrieved from
  31. Langone, M. (1996). Clinical update on cults. Psychiatric Times, 13(7). Retrieved from
  32. Langone, M. (2010). Prevalence. Retrieved from
  33. Lifton, R. (1961). Thought reform and the psychology of totalism: A study of “brainwashing” in China. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  34. Lottick, E. (2005). Prevalence of cults: A review of empirical research in the U.S.A. Retrieved from
  35. Martin, P. (1993a). Cult proofing your kids. New York: Zondervan Publishing.Google Scholar
  36. Martin, P. (1993b). Post-cult recovery: Assessment and rehabilitation. In M. D. Langone (Ed.), Recovery from cults (pp. 203–231). New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  37. McCabe, K., Goldberg, L., Langone, M., & DeVoe, K. (2007). A workshop for people born or raised in cultic groups. ICSA E-Newsletter, 6(1). Retrieved from
  38. McWhirter, E. (1994). Counseling for empowerment. Alexandria: American Counseling Association.Google Scholar
  39. Mertens, D. (2005). Research and evaluation in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  40. Moyers, J. (1994). Psychological issues of former fundamentalists. Cultic Studies Journal, 11, 189–199.Google Scholar
  41. Singer, M. (2003). Cults in our midst: The continuing fight against their hidden menace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  42. Singh, A. A., & Salazar, C. F. (2010). Six considerations for social justice group work. The Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 35, 308–319. doi: 10.1080/01933922.2010.492908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Spradley, J. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.Google Scholar
  44. Stein, A. (1997). Mothers in cults: the influence of cults on the relationship of mothers to their children. Cultic Studies Journal, 14, 40–57.Google Scholar
  45. Toporek, R., Lewis, J., & Crethar, H. (2009). Promoting systemic change through the ACA advocacy competencies. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87, 260–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wall, E. (2008). Stolen innocence. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  47. Zablocki, B. (1997). The blacklisting of a concept: the strange history of the brainwashing conjecture in the sociology of religion. Nova Religion: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 1, 96–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Special EducationTexas A&M University-CommerceCommerceUSA

Personalised recommendations