Venice family clinic announces services

The program, first of its kind in the U.S., is designed specifically for people who have left cults or other tightly controlled groups, often burdened by their previous acculturation to beliefs and behaviors foreign to mainstream society:

“It was a huge shock to me leaving, like stepping onto another planet.

“I grew up in a Bible based cult. I felt so claustrophobic in my group I felt that I had to leave. I thought that the group was right in their beliefs but I wasn’t good enough for the group. I also thought that I would die quite shortly after leaving the group because I had sinned against God by leaving. But still I left. I was one of 9 children and while not the oldest child I was the first in my family to leave and as with others who had also left the group, my whole family and everybody else in the cult stopped speaking to me when I left.

“I had real trouble shopping after I left. I remember finding it so hard to work out how to dress, how to decide which clothes to buy. I felt very alone and knew that no one understood where I had come from. I was frightened, young, very naive and faced with a culture which I had no experience of and which was completely alien to me.”

–“Joan[1]”

People who have left cults may be confused, frightened, and reluctant or unable to articulate the extent of their disorientation from and, sometimes, fear of mainstream culture. The new service, an innovation developed in cooperation with the International Cultic Studies Association and supervised by Dr. Doni Whitsett of the University of Southern California School of Social Work, postulates that people like Joan can benefit from specialized assistance based on an understanding of cultic characteristics and cult dynamics. While providing aid and referrals for clients’ practical needs like medical and mental health care, housing, education, and job training, the service will also help them recognize and cope with issues arising from their cultic experience.

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