cULT Intervention & mEDIATION sERVICES
For Current and former cult members, their family members, and loved ones.
Cult Recovery starts with relationships
Leaving a cult environment is one step in a life-long journey.
Supporting relationships and careful intervention are foundational to cult recovery.
People Leave Cults offers education, intervention, and support for victims of coercion and their support network.
Understanding cult involvement and coercive control
A greater understanding of coercion and cultic practices supports recovery and intervention efforts. Cults and coercion strip individuals of their autonomy and make it challenging to leave.
People Leave Cults' mission is to provide education and empathy as supportive measures to those who want to help an individual build autonomy and independence.
Coercion can occur in many environments:
East, West, or beyond Earth - Religion is a key playground of cults and coercion.
A controlling group often has religious elements, and most ex-members can relate to the experience of a religious cult.
Family systems can be cult-like in nature, and coercive control can present in one-on-one relationships.
That said, family is often the best support group for ex cult members, and cult survivors often look to their loved ones for support. Understanding patterns of undue influence is beneficial no matter the situation.
Coercion in politics may not surprise you - can anything be done when someone is in the thick of it?
Mainstream society can be affected by undue influence in the political sphere, especially when people turn to groups who they believe have all the answers.
Like attracts like, and online communities are no different.
Online support groups are wonderful when healthy, but often need to be approach with the same care as any other entity that seeks to control members.
Not everyone has a belief system that helps them process online drift, and some who have left cults find themselves as victims of forms of online mind control.
Commercial operations have a long history of coercive practices - think MLMs and Large Group Awareness training (for starters).
Businesses can fit the criteria for a high control group, and critical thinking is key when considering one's involvement.
Even learned scholars act within systems, and not always healthy or coercion-free ones.
Psychological manipulation and abusive relationships are key elements of a destructive group, and no one is immune.
When PEOPLE leave, they need...
Support for an ex-cult member can be difficult to find, unclear of outcomes, and hard to afford.
Cult intervention has a storied history, but has moved on from its origins in the cult deprogramming movement. As awareness grows of cultic groups and their ability to harm, exit counseling has developed in a way that prioritizes the autonomy and well-being of the cult member. Even the word cult has changed meaning in the course of a few generations.
There are many models and approaches that exit counselors use when approaching interventions. PLC aims to be the antithesis of coercive practices used in the past while providing opportunity to the next generation of cult specialists.
The modern non-coercive model of cult intervention focuses on empowering clients and families to make the most informed decisions. It includes four key elements:
Follows an established Code of Ethics
Relies on a crafted team of trained intervention workers, licensed psychiatrists, and trauma aware therapists
Provides a sliding scale for accessibility despite economic hardship
Encompasses the perspectives and struggles of LGBTQIA2S+ individuals
PLC's current approach to addressing cult involvement is largely influenced by the mentorship of Patrick Ryan and Joseph Kelly, founders of Cult Mediation and lifelong veterans of the Cult Intervention movement. While there are many factors to this approach, this quote from their website encompasses the empathic approach that People Leave Cults seeks to carry on:
"OUR PHILOSOPHY IS TO HELP FAMILIES AND FRIENDS UNDERSTAND AND EFFECTIVELY RESPOND TO THE COMPLEXITY OF A LOVED ONE'S CULT INVOLVEMENT."
Thought reform consultation involves careful assessment and places a great deal of responsibility on a victim's family, friends, and support network. A team or individual cannot provide a "magic bullet" solution to cult involvement that makes things better.
While People Leave Cults consists of ethics-oriented professionals and a trained team, cult intervention is not medical advice.
We always encourage ex-cult members to look into finding mental health professionals who understand trauma, are aware of destructive groups, and who can assist with post cult recovery.
Who's Behind People Leave Cults?
Ashlen Hilliard is a cult intervention specialist helping families with loved ones in cultic or high-control groups or relationships and is the face behind People Leave Cults.
She completed her MSc in the Psychology of Coercive Control in early 2022 and conducted research on the relationship between reproductive coercion, psychologically abusive environments, and the extent of group identity in a sample of those who have left cultic groups.
Ashlen has previous experience working for multiple non-profit settings in the field of cult recovery. Most recently, this has included working as Director of Events for the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). During that time, she facilitated workshops, webinars, and conferences for those in touch with multiple aspects of the cult phenomenon including therapists, former members, legal professionals, media representatives, academics, and others. Previous to her work with ICSA, she also worked as a case manager in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the non-profit Holding Out Help, where she was involved in the front lines of helping individuals leaving diverse polygamist communities out West.
She currently enjoys living in Portland, Oregon where she is a volunteer co-organizer of the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education (SAFE) Meetup for those who have left or are considering leaving high-demand religious groups in the local community.