Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Posts tagged ‘exit counseling’

What is a Cult Intervention Specialist?

The anonymous smear campaign is now attempting to malign me for stating, in a paper I wrote 15 years ago on the use of mind control in Scientology, that I was a “cult intervention specialist”. At that time, that was the way I described myself although I have not done any interventions since 2002. The cyber smear campaigners are attempting to distort this and maligning me as a “professional cultist” when that is not what is meant by the term at all. They think they are making some astonishing revelation in posting a copy of this paper when in fact, I am the one who made this paper available for anyone to read. When I said I do not consider myself a cult intervention specialist that is accurate because I no longer do these interventions, due to the demands of my new career direction.

A cult intervention specialist, also sometimes referred to as a cult exit counselor, is someone who works with families who have a loved on involved in a destructive cult and arranges for an intervention. This is not forcible deprogramming. No force whatsoever is involved and the cult-involved person is free to leave at any time.

These interventions are in some ways very similar to those done on people with drug and alcohol abuse problems. What typically happens is that family and friends of the cult involved person arrange for a meeting with the cult-involved loved one and the cult intervention specialist. In that meeting, the family and friends express their love and concern regarding changes they have noticed in the person since becoming involved in the group. Where it differs from drug and alcohol interventions is that instead of asking the person to go to a drug treatment center, a request is made that the person sit down with their family, friends and the counselor and examine some information that they may not been exposed to. The intervention usually lasts for around three days. Participation is never forced and entirely voluntary, meaning that the person is free to walk out of the intervention and return to their group at any time they decide to. What typically happens is that informational video tapes and documents are shown and discussions about the group occur. At the end of the intervention, the person either decides to leave the group, return to the group, or take some additional time to think about whether they want to stay or leave.

I have never tried to hide the fact that I did this nor am I in any way ashamed that I did this, as I did help a number of people who have thanked me for helping them break free from a destructive cult. What I objected to is the misportrayal of a 15 year old paper as if it were a correct label for what I actually do now when it is not, since I have not done such interventions since 2002. I did only one such intervention in 2002 and one in 2001, but most of the interventions I did were in the 1990s and late 80s. My career took a different turn and when I decided to focus more of my attention on my practice and later my education, scholarly work and teaching. My schedule no longer allowed me the flexibility to be able to take off to do these interventions, as I have moved onto other things in my career.

It is also worth noting that these days, this kind of intervention is being done less and less, as internet usage has become more common and widespread and many recent defectors from cults have reported that they accessed information about their group on the internet. They managed to do this, even when they were involved in the cult. Even though some cults try to block this information from their members, most people find it possible to get away for a few hours and go to a public library or some other location with free internet access. The information that used to be available only via exit counselors is now widely available online and although the dynamics of the family interaction, of course, are not involved this has still been enough to get many people to leave. This is the case, in spite of all the efforts many of the cults have gone to, to attempt to smear critics, threaten them with lawsuits and even in some cases sue critics in an attempt to silence them. Ultimately, however, it is very difficult to silence any particular message on the internet because even if one critic is silenced, if the information is true, others come forward who may be in other countries out of the jurisdiction of the cult. For example, with Scientology, the early critics had a very hard time, but ultimately the information got onto the internet and has remained accessible.

Sometimes, of course, the more traditional family-style intervention is still done, but I don’t do those any longer for the reasons I stated.

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