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Steven Hassan

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Steve Hassan

Steven Alan Hassan is an anti-cult activist and director of the Center for Freedom of Mind. He served as an expert witness to the 1977-8 congressional inquiry that produced the United States Congressional Report on the Unification Church, and has appeared on 60 Minutes, Nightline, Dateline, Larry King Live, and The O'Reilly Factor.

Hassan has been involved in deprogramming activities but says that he has replaced this with a non-forcible intervention approach that he calls the "strategic interaction approach."

He holds a master's degree in counseling from Cambridge College, Cambridge, Massachusetts) and is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as a nationally certified counselor (NCC).

Contents

Background

Hassn was himself recruited into the Unification Church in the 1970s, at the age of 19, while studying at Queens College, and spent over two years recruiting and indoctrinating new members, as well as fundraising, campaigning, and personally meeting with Sun Myung Moon. [1] (http://freedomofmind.com/stevehassan/biography/) Hassan says that he "ultimately rose to the rank of Assistant Director of the Unification Church at National Headquarters."

After his leg was broken in a car accident, his parents contacted former members of the Unification Church who engaged in a deprogramming session with Hassan, and convinced him to leave the organization.

Following the Jonestown tragedy in 1979, Hassan founded a non-profit organization called "Ex-Moon Inc.," whose membership consisted of over 400 former members of the Unification Church.

His first book, Combatting Cult Mind Control (1990), has been widely praised by counselors, psychologists involved in the field of cult research, as well as former cult members and their friends and relatives.

Methodology

Hassan contends that cults recruit members through systematic deception, behavior modification, withholding of information, and emotionally intense persuasion techniques (such as the creation of phobias), which he collectively terms mind control. He calls such groups "destructive cults," a term that he defines by the methods used to recruit and retain members, not by the views the group espouses. He is opposed to the so-called deprogramming of cult members, and supports instead counseling them in order that they withdraw voluntarily from the organization.

Hassan writes:

My mind control model outlines many key elements that need to be controlled: Behavior, Information, Thoughts and Emotions (BITE). If these four components can be controlled, then an individual's identity can be systematically manipulated and changed. Destructive mind control takes the 'locus of control' away from an individual. The person is systematically deceived about the beliefs and practices of the person (or group) and manipulated throughout the recruitment process — unable to make informed choices and exert independent judgment. The person's identity is profoundly influenced through a set of social influence techniques and a "new identity" is created — programmed to be dependent on the leader or group ideology. The person can't think for him or herself, but believes otherwise." [2] (http://freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/faq/#1)

Criticism

Hassan says he spent a year assisting with deprogrammings before turning to less controversial methods. (See exit counseling.) However, lawyer Andy Bacus of the Unification Church says that Hassan has continued his deprogramming activities:

Steve Hassan ... is an ex-member of the Unification Church who was involuntarily deprogrammed. He has spent the last 15 years deprogramming other persons. Mr. Hassan has been most active recently in providing "exit counseling" to members of the Boston Church of Christ. In fact Hassan, who charges $1,000 per day for his services, has received tens of thousands of dollars from the parents of members of the Boston Church of Christ and other groups to provide "exit counseling" services. Like other "exit counselors", Hassan relies on the mind control theories of Margaret Singer to justify his actions. [3] (http://www.tparents.org/UNews/unws9401/IL-SEN.htm)

John Engler of the Barnabas Ministry — a faction of the International Churches of Christ, which has been accused of being a cult by sources other than Hassan — says that "Hassan admits to many many things he claims that cults do in recruiting people":

  • Dispensing of existence: referring to the subject as a "cult member" or cultist, and thus justifying inhuman and dishonest treatment for a "higher purpose;
  • Love bombing: making every effort to make him "feel loved."
  • Milieu control, indoctrination sessions: using a benign event to get the subject away from his normal environment for three consecutive days of sessions, with no opportunity for rebuttal or defense;
  • Emotional pressure to conform: family pressure, pressuring the subject to agree to a meeting without sufficient time for reflection;
  • Mystical manipulation/planned spontaneity: Hassan's counseling of the family includes discussing ways to communicate effectively with the cultist;
  • Unethical use of confession: seeking to manipulate any expressed concerns as reasons to terminate involvement;
  • Use of the "hot seat" to browbeat the subject into submission. [4] (http://www.barnabasministry.com/hassan5.htm)


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