Recovery and Growth After Spiritual Abuse
The DialogCentre UK is a non-denominational Christian organization serving people regardless of their religious orientation. We offer assistance to the members and ex-members of abusive religious, political and philosophical groups, and to their family and friends.
We sometimes use the term “extremist authoritarian sects” in the DialogCentre UK to describe groups that can have a detrimental effect on those they recruit, because it focuses on their significant characteristics. These characteristics create three identifiable tendencies.
- Extremism: the tendency to reduce all situations to simple black-and-white decisions that reinforce the “rightness” of the group’s leader and the “wrongness” of dissent. As a part of this, an abusive group presents its teaching in a context which suggests that questions = unbelief and unbelief = sin. This can be used stifle questions and drive members towards unconditional and unreasoning commitment. It also can produce intolerance of others, especially outsiders.
- Authoritarianism: the tendency by members to depend solely upon the leader(s) for the data by which decisions are made and convictions are arrived at. Initially this may be encouraged subtly by holding up as examples members who never question the leader(s), but in some groups authoritarianism is enforced by condemnations of “selfishness”, “rebelliousness”, “individualism”, “independent thinking”, and the like. Hand in hand with this is the manipulative practice of withholding information which new recruits need in order to decide intelligently about the nature and extent of their involvement in the group.
- Sectarianism: the tendency of abusive groups to isolate members from a wide variety of people whom the leadership may stigmatize as “unspiritual”, “demonic”, “suppressive”, “karmi”, “left-brained”, “Piscean”, “systemite”, “religious bigot”, “satanic”, and similarly dismissive terms. Side-by-side with using negative language about outsiders (including family and friends unless they are supportive of the group), they will use grandiose language about themselves, such as “God’s SAS”, “the True Family”, “gods”, “light-bearers”, “Initiates” and other exalted terms.
Although authoritarian groups initially derive their activities from their doctrines, these three tendencies focus on how such groups treat their members as the key to recognizing abusive groups, not on the beliefs themselves. This allows us to address the harmful elements of an abusive group, whether religious or secular in nature, without being distracted by religious debate.
For some, the result of these tendencies and of the techniques associated with them can be a combination of harmful effects that touch every area of the lives of members and ex-members as well as their families and friends.
Serving those in need
The needs of our enquirers range from simply obtaining answers to their questions and discussing personal concerns to advising families and providing specialized help for more serious problems. The most frequent requests for help we receive divide into the following categories:
- Situations in which the member of an abusive sect is in conflict with family or friends outside the sect, where the parties in the conflict want help to re-establish communications and reach an understanding;
- Situations in which the member of an abusive group is concerned about some aspect of the commitment required by the group, or where the member wants to discuss his or her experiences in the group with an informed outsider;
- Situations in which an ex-member of an abusive group wants help with problems arising from the time spent in the group, or arising from their decision or attempt to leave the group;
- Situations in which the family or friends of a member or ex-member of an abusive group requests help with attempting to re-establish communications with a member.
We also aim to inform the general public who request help in understanding the nature and effects of totalitarian sects in our society. We provide information to individuals and give presentations, seminars and workshops to interested groups.
The DialogCentre UK offers a safe and informative approach to dialogue between members or ex-members of authoritarian groups and their families and friends. It also provides information, understanding and support for those adjusting to life after involvement with abusive groups in the aftermath of their decision to leave.
We combine research, dialogue, counselling and skills-training to mediate and reconcile within the family, to inform about relevant issues, to relieve distress or trauma, and to rehabilitate those who have been harmed, according to the needs of the individuals. Our service also may include referring clients to medical or psychiatric experts or others, where that is required.
What the DialogCentre does not do
Particularly with reference to members and ex-members, it is relevant to emphasize four things that the DialogCentre UK does not do. First, we do not aim automatically to remove anyone from the group they have joined, although they may choose to leave in the course of events. Second, we do not seek to proselytize anyone into any faith or persuasion or organization. Third, we do not participate in any proceedings unless all the participants are taking part voluntarily. Finally, we do not charge clients for our help.
Since some sects teach their members to suspect or fear outsiders, these four points are set out in order to reassure those who come to us that we are working for their well-being, not in pursuit of some hidden agenda.
Working for the Future
The DialogCentre UK lays special emphasis on the rehabilitation and other aftercare needed by those who have chosen to leave the abusive group of which they were members, without losing sight of the needs of those who are not ready to take that step, or of the families and friends. Within our limitations, we aim to serve those who have been affected by the abuses they have experienced in an extremist authoritarian sect.
If you would like to discuss further how the DialogCentre UK might be of some service to you, please write to us or call us.