Other Organisations Offering Support
Inform aims to help enquirers by providing reliable, accurate and up-to-date information about religious movements. Inform staff members have extensive training in social research, with specialist knowledge of new and alternative religious movements and how such movements operate in society.
Inform has built up an international network of other specialists and experts to draw on in order to help enquirers, whose requests may be for information, sympathy and practical advice, medical, legal, educational, and/or therapeutic input. We can refer enquirers to other organisations, experts, therapists and counsellors who may be able to offer further support. Additionally, Inform can put relatives and former members in touch with other relatives or former members of the same or similar groups, so that they can share experiences and offer each other mutual support. Inform will only facilitate contact between individuals with the consent of all concerned and, where appropriate, we can help set up anonymous situations to enable contact between individuals who do not want to reveal their identity.
Below are some examples of English-language organisations that offer support for those who have left or are thinking of leaving religious movements, and/or the relatives and friends of converts. Inform does not endorse the centres and individuals mentioned below; we can, however, provide more information about them, explain what they offer and what constitutes their underlying philosophy. Please feel free to contact Inform with your questions and/or if you want to know about further options.
The International Cultic Studies Association is based in the USA, but has an international membership. It consists of a network of experts, professionals, counsellors and former members who aim to raise awareness of the issue of ‘cults’ and religious movements and offer help to people who have been harmed by the movements. It also organises conferences, workshops, support groups, and more. ICSA also organises meetings and workshops that function as Self-Help groups (see section below).
RETIRN (Re-Entry Therapy, Information & Referral Network) is a specialist counselling body founded by some members of the ICSA board. It has offices in both the USA and the UK, and offers various forms of consultation, counselling and support. Other members of ICSA offer ‘thought reform consultation’, or exit counselling - neither of which involve involuntary or illegal interventions. Thought reform consultation focuses on family mediation and reconciliation rather than urging the individual to leave a particular movement which is the central aim of exit counselling. ICSA thought reform consultants abide by a set of ethical standards and can be contacted through the ICSA website.
Diocesan advisors, chaplains (including university chaplains) and other clergy are an integral part of Inform’s network. Inform can direct enquirers to their local pastoral support network, and/or help chaplains by providing them with any factual information they might need when offering pastoral care.
Residential Support / Retreats
There are two residential retreats or ‘half-way homes’ in the USA for people experiencing difficulties with leaving or having left a religious movement.
Wellspring (Ohio) Wellspring claims to be the world’s only fully accredited residential counselling centre specialising in ‘the treatment of individuals who have suffered in abusive religious groups, organizations, and cults’. It offers relatively short-term residential support and care (typically two weeks). Although Wellspring offers Christian counselling, and most of the staff members are Christians, the centre claims to work from a secular mental health perspective as well. It welcomes clients from all faith backgrounds.
Meadow Haven (Massachusetts) Meadow Haven offers more long-term support and care (several months). It states that it exists to provide a refuge for former members of ‘high control, destructive groups’ to rest, heal, and grow. This is reflected in the longer treatment or recovery time offered to clients. Meadow Haven allows its clients the time and space to recover (typically only a small percentage of the time is spent on active counselling). Like Wellspring, Meadow Haven is run by Christians but welcomes clients of all faiths.
Inform is not a counselling organisation and does not have the kind of expertise necessary to be able to recommend and/or endorse particular counsellors. Inform can, however, put enquirers in touch with the counsellors it has on its network who have experience in dealing with issues surrounding religion, conversion, leaving religious communities, etc.
Counselling and therapy are not fully regulated, but professional bodies to have codes of ethics and self-regulation measures. We do recommend that counsellors are members of an established and reputed professional organisation such as the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
We suggest enquirers exploring private counselling request an initial meeting or telephone conversation and ask a number of pertinent questions (including clarification of the counsellor's fees) to make sure they feel comfortable with the counsellor before proceeding further.
Occasionally people who have been involved in a religious movement report that their counsellor does not really understand the issues they are grappling with. In such cases, Inform can help by providing the counsellor with information that may help them to understand more about particular religious beliefs, practices and group dynamics.
There is a large variety of Self-Help groups for former members of religious movements. The majority of these Self-Help groups have been founded by and/or are run by those who have themselves left a religious movement (and/or are relatives affected by someone who has joined one) with the aim of helping others who have gone through similar experiences. Some Self-Help groups include lobbying among their practices, and publish criticisms of particular religious movements for their actions and/or for religious (theological) or moral reasons.
There are some Self-Help groups geared specifically towards helping people who have been born and/or raised in movements that are referred to as ‘high demand organisations’.
Keep in Touch (KIT) began as a round-robin newsletter for former members of The Bruderhof to keep in touch with one another. Many were shunned by the organisation and cut off from family and friends still inside the movement, hence ‘keeping in touch’ with other former members proved very popular. Subsequently, the newsletter developed into the Peregrine Foundation, an organisation that maintained a discussion forum, publishing house, organised meetings and reunions, and offered further assistance to those who had recently left The Bruderhof.
The Safe Passage Foundation (SPF) developed partly out of the now defunct website ‘Moving on’ – which was one of the first sites by and for former second-generation members of The Family International, formerly called the Children of God. One of the founding missions of the SPF is to assist second-generation former members in making the transition from life inside a ‘high demand organisation’ to life in ‘mainstream’ society. Although based in the United States, where it is registered as a charity, it has an international network and board of directors.
The founding of the Safe Passage Foundation was followed by RISE International in the UK - also founded by former second-generation members of The Family International. These two organisations have now merged. RISE International works both to protect young people currently within ‘high demand organisations’ and to advise those who have left such groups and ‘wish to pursue justice for crimes committed against them’.
Many former members of other religious groups have created websites and/or discussion forums in order to spread information and offer support for others who plan to leave or have already left religious groups. These sites can be useful in that they offer information from an insider’s perspective, and frequently provide forums where people can post anonymously and communicate with former members about issues regarding the emotional and logistical difficulties involved in leaving a movement. There are countless such sites, and more appear almost on a weekly basis. Some examples are:
Starting out in Mainstream America Many people who leave 'high demand organisations struggle to adjust to 'mainstream society'. ICSA offers an online book to help orient those preparing to enter mainstream American society.
http://www.xfamily.org (former members of The Family International, formerly called the Children of God)
http://peebs.net/ (former members of the Exclusive Brethren)
http://www.exmormon.org (former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as Mormons)
http://www.ses-forums.org/ (discussion board for those who attended schools run by the School of Economic Science)
http://www.faithfreedom.org/index.htm (former Muslims)
http://leavescientology.blogspot.com/ (former Scientologists)
http://www.brahmakumaris.info (former Brahma Kumaris)
http://new.exchristian.net/ (former Christians)
http://www.exjw-reunited.co.uk/index.htm (former Jehovah’s Witnesses)