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Deconstructing 'brainwashing' within cults as an aid to counselling psychologists

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With the approach of the new millennium there was increased activity within many of the new cultic movements. Many of these organizations promise a future paradise on earth, and can be identified as millenarian cults. Others predicted the end of the world with the focus for this event being the new millennium, the beginning of which is mutable, some claiming it for the year 2000 others the year 2001. The date for the end of the world can by quite idiosyncratic. It was, for instance, believed by the Movement for the Restoration of the Twelve Commandments to be due in March 2000, when over 1000 members of this particular Ugandan cult lost their lives, many through strangulation. The death toll was a stark demonstration of what appears to be some form of extreme control exercised within such groups. It has been estimated that there are between 500 and 800 different cults active in the United Kingdom with membership ranging from under ten people to thousands. This activity indicates that counselling psychologists need to be aware of the problem of the psychological damage with which some members or ex-members of cults continue to present and of the techniques of control practised within the cult and the effect that these techniques have on members. These types of techniques and the resultant negative psychological consequences are the focus of this paper. This paper aims to begin to educate counselling psychologists in the techniques used within cults which effect social control. It intends to equip counselling psychologists to work with a group of clients, that they will meet on an increasing basis as the new millennium, whatever date is allocated to it, approaches and passes. That is if heaven on earth or the earth's destruction does not materialize.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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