Talking to and dealing with cult members:
Guidance for friends and family
The following information is intended as a quick reference guide. You know your friend or family member best so be cautious applying any general advice you read and adapt this appropriately to the situation and temperament of the person you are communicating with. ALWAYS seek the advice of emergency services if you suspect there is a serious crime being committed or somebody is at risk of serious harm.
It can be very distressing to see somebody you care about entangled in a cult group. Below, you will find some brief notes on how to communicate with and support a cult member. This is only general and basic advice and may not work in every case but could be a good starting point.
The first thing to do is research the group and develop an understanding of the following elements. These can be used to plant ‘seeds of doubt.’
The philosophy of the cult
The mind control methods of the cult
The corrupt practices associated with the cult
‘By entering into discussion on subjects related to these topics, the hope is to raise an issue that the cult member is not programmed to deal with. This issue is one that would bring a doubt or question to the mind of the cult member.' The person communicating with the cult member can then encourage them to discuss the subject in depth.
The goal of the person communicating with the cult member is ‘not to win the argument, or prove that you are right, but in-stead to help the cult member re-evaluate the group and [their] association with it. (‘Cults: A practical guide’ by Ian Howarth, p25-29)
‘A curious yet concerned posture is the most effective stance anyone can take in relating to the cult member. It is relatively easy to elicit rapport and trust when you are genuinely curious, because all you are doing is asking questions in a non-judgemental way. Because you care about the person, you want to know everything that is important to them' (‘Combating Cult Mind Control’ by Steve Hassan, p241).
Communicating with a cult member
(‘Cults: A practical guide’ by Ian Howarth, p25)
Do try to keep in regular contact via email or telephone, even if there is little response.
Do express sincere love for the cult member at every available opportunity.
Do keep a diary of comments, attitudes and events associated with his/her life in the cult.
Do always welcome back the cult member into the family home no matter what is said.
Do keep copies of all written correspondence from you and the cult member.
Do record all names, addresses and phone numbers of people linked with the cult.
Do try and bite your tongue if the cult member makes unkind comments.
Do read all the recommended books related to cults, mind control and the specific cult.
Do seek help from organisations specialising in counter-cult work.
Do not rush into adopting a potential solution before carefully researching the cult problem.
Do not say, “you are in a cult, you are brainwashed.”
Do not give money to the member of the group.
Do not give away original cult documents to anyone, provide copies only.
Do not feel guilty. This is not a problem caused by families.
Do not act in an angry or hostile manner towards the cult member.
Do not feel alone. It happens to thousands of families every year.
Do not underestimate the control the cult has over each member.
Do not antagonise the cult member by ridiculing his/her ‘beliefs.’
Do not be judgemental or confrontational towards the cult member.
Do not antagonise any of the cult’s leadership or other members.
Do not be persuaded to hire a cult ‘specialist’ without verifying his/her qualifications.
Do not give up hope of success, no matter how long it takes.
Do not neglect yourself or other family members.