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Exit counseling is a type of intervention targeted toward individuals who are involved with a cult. It is also known as strategic intervention therapy, thought reform consultation, or simply, cult intervention. This type of intervention is used to counsel families of cult members as well as cult members themselves. It is usually aimed at trying to get a cult member to see the truth, repairing family relations, and integrating individuals back into society, if necessary.
Many times, family members who are worried about their loved ones being involved with a possible cult are the first ones to initiate exit counseling. Members who have been kicked out of, or walked away from, a cult may also look into exit counseling. The majority of individuals who participate begin this counseling voluntarily, meaning that they are not forced or coerced in any way.
Family members who inquire about exit counseling will usually have initial meetings with an exit counselor. This counselor will usually prepare the family for the subsequent counseling sessions that may take place. They will also provide background information on cults in general and possibly the specific cult in question.
After the initial meetings, it is often the family's job to convince the cult member to meet with the counselor. It is important that the cult member enters exit counseling willingly. He should not be forced, coerced, or tricked. Many experts agree that forcing him will often cause him not to trust people who are not involved with the cult, or who he thinks of as outsiders.
During the exit counseling sessions, an individual is also allowed to leave or take a break whenever he wants. Regardless of how erroneous they may seem to other people, his opinions are always respected as well. Counselors may try to educate the cult member on his specific cult, cults in general, or mind control tactics. In some cases, former cult members may even be brought in to speak with him. Based on the information provided to them, most cult members will then make a decision on whether to stay involved with the group or leave.
If individuals choose to stay involved with the cult after exit counseling sessions, they are free to do so. Counselors will then work with the family members, teaching them the best ways to communicate with their loved one. For example, they must learn to be caring and non-judgmental. Otherwise, their loved one may feel even more alienated and decide against turning to his family for help if he ever decides to leave the cult.
Deciding to leave can be one of the hardest decisions for a cult member to make. He may have problems adjusting to life outside of the cult. Some specific problems can include feelings of guilt or depression, problems making decisions, paranoia, or anxiety. Exit counseling can help these types of individuals learn or relearn how to live outside of a cult.
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