[I've revised this November posting to include Stacy's new email address and relevant links. I feel it's good information in general and specifically for anyone in a position to help someone escaping from scientology's brand of mental manipulation. Stacy mentions the book, CAPTIVE HEARTS, CAPIVE MINDS, by Madeliene Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich; ISBN 0-89793-144-0, Hunter House, Inc. I read this book last month and I too believe that every former scientologist should read it.
I have just begun reading, RECOVERY FROM CULTS, edited by Michael D. Langone; ISBN 0-393-31321-2, American Family Foundation. So far I'm very impressed. Ishmael]
This is wonderful that you are willing to become involved in this. An organized effort to help people coming out of scientology is sorely needed. I will be happy to help in whatever way I can. Could you please post this for me on a.r.s. as I am unable to get a message to the newsgroup from gte.
On Mon, 16 Nov 1998 15:59:47 -0800 (PST), you wrote:
>I think that it's time to look at this subject again. It's very likely
>that the recent indictments against the FSO will result in some fallout in the
>form of staff and public leaving scientology orgs and missions across the country.
>Last week's media blitz over Lisa McPherson's death and the resulting
>indictments will be the first "hard" news that many staff and public have
>had about the case. It's likely that friends and family members of active
>scientologists will be contacting them with questions and concerns. These
>scientologists will not be well prepared to field those questions. If
>they take their concerns to their local ethics officer they'll likely find less
>than a friendly reception. Some staff and public will be labeled PTS because of
>their families' concerns and demands for answers, aggravated by the typical
>scientologist's inability to respond rationally to criticism.
>With this post, I am volunteering to coordinate the efforts of all those
>on ARS who wish to get involved. I'm not sure right now what might be needed
>but I have a few ideas: an exit counselor web site maybe, perhaps an exit
>counselor reference kit.
>My idea of an exit counselor is someone who is there to educate and
>inform an escapee from scientology and to get them to the point where they are
>willing to be an ex-scientologist and to begin the process of rebuilding their life.
My feeling is that an exit counselor should get a person to the point where they are willing to seek professional therapy with a counselor who is well-versed in scientology and its effects. Whenever I talk to a person coming out of scientology or who has been out of scientology for a long time but still has unresolved issues, I recommend that they go to Wellspring. For me there is a very clear boundary between talking to the person as fellow former scientologist and any kind of actual therapy. I qualify as a former scientologist. I don't qualify as a therapist.
The way I see it is that scientology's brand of amateur "pseudo-psychotherapy" has often already caused so much damage that you run the risk of exacerbating an already catastrophic psychological and emotional situation if you are not an experienced therapist. This is why I strongly, strongly, strongly recommend that people be referred to Wellspring, where well trained and experienced people can deal with the nightmare of the scientology experience with genuine caring and understanding AND -- most importantly, real results in terms of getting the person to be able to re-enter the real world.
>I have copied Stacy Brooks on this in the hope that she will be willing
>to share with us her experiences as an exit counselor. I am very willing (even
>anxious) to act in that capacity but I have a lot of questions about how best to
>go about it.
>Here are my questions:
>What approach/technique (if any) works best when dealing with a confused
>and frightened scientologist?
(Before I say anything, please be aware that my answers to your questions are my opinions only, because I am not a trained counselor or therapist so this is purely from my own experience with dealing with scientologists or ex-scientologists.)
First and foremost is to make sure they are in a very safe environment, no threatening people, no other dangers for them to have to worry about. Then just being willing to listen to the person without invalidation or evaluation is crucial. Just let the person talk. Don't be judgmental in any way. Just let them know you understand what they are saying and what they have been through, and that you are there for them no matter what.
I would have to say that in my experience that has been the most important aspect of all -- to let the person know that you are there unconditionally, that there is nothing they are going to tell you that is going to cause you to abandon them. Scientology is so much the opposite -- people are judged so harshly and callously simply by the nature of the philosophy (that any emotion below 2.0, such as grief or anger, is psychotic, for example) that it is very difficult for a person to feel that it is safe to let down their guard and just be themselves. It's so ingrained in a scientologist to be "uptone" all the time that scientologists are virtually incapable of being honest about their emotions until they have addressed that conditioning. A scientologist is used to being viewed as "downstat" and "out-ethics" if they show any negative emotions. I think it's very important to realize that the one thing a scientologist hasn't had for a long time has been a true friend --someone who actually cares about them. Before they can even begin the journey out of the scientology mind set they have to know that there is someone they can talk to. I don't know if any trained exit counselors reading this will disagree with me here. As I said, I'm speaking purely from my own experience, but this includes people who have been in for less than a year all the way to dealing with someone like Jesse when he and I first reconnected this past summer. And it was also true for me after I got out. It was extremely difficult for me to trust anyone, or to be willing to talk to anyone about my experience.
>What materials (written, audio/video) are best to use to inform and educate?
I would have to go through my stuff to decide what should go in a standard pack of materials. I would say for sure the LA Times series (1991 I think?), the Time magazine article from May 1991, also Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, which I think is the best book for someone just coming out. This isn't a full answer. I'd need to spend some time digging.
>What book(s) should I read before I attempt to do an exit counseling?
Definitely Captive Hearts, Captive Minds. Also Margaret Singer's book, Cults in our Midst. But I don't recommend that you consider that you are preparing to become an exit counselor. Prepare to educate and be understanding and get the person to the point where they are willing to get professional help. If you could get a person to that point you would have performed a wonderful service for them.
>Are there certain subjects that need to be avoided at first?
This really depends on the person, I guess. I have found that finding out the truth of what goes on at the highest levels of scientology is the most important information for the person to have. Deciding how one feels about the "tech" is an entire subject of its own and I think to jump right into the tech is a mistake, no matter how you may feel about it personally. The fact is that a person has a right to believe whatever they want to. I think they also have a right to know that they are involved in an organization that is using totalitarian tactics to keep its adherents from finding out its true nature. I think they have a right to know about negative experiences people have had inside scientology. They have a right to know the other side of the story, the side scientology will never tell them. Then they can make an informed decision about what they want to do.
>Is an ex-scientologist at an advantage or a disadvantage (by virtue of
>their experiences) as an exit counselor?
For the purposes of imparting information and understanding what a person is going through who is just getting out, I think being a former scientologist is helpful. For actual therapy I don't think it matters. I had a counselor at Wellspring named Ron Burks who was never in scientology but has such a depth of understanding of abuse and the cult experience in general, and has also studied scientology so extensively, that I felt he was more helpful to me in healing my own damage than anyone else I've ever worked with. But again, I think this is because of his formal training as a counselor combined with his particular field of expertise, which includes extensive knowledge about scientology. I personally would not work with an untrained counselor, ex-scientologist or not.
>Should the escapee's family be a part of the initial discussions or
>should it be a one-on-one approach at first?
I think that depends upon the family. If there is a good relationship and the scientologist feels close to the family members, then it can be good. If the relationship with the family members is contentious or judgmental or anything else like that, it might be that the negative attitudes of the family members contributed to the person getting into scientology in the first place so it might be counter-productive to have them present. I've seen it both ways.
>If the escapee needs professional help, how is that best accomplished?
I guess I've already answered this for the most part, but it bears repeating so I'll say it again. If you can get a person to the point where they are willing to get help from a professional therapist, you have done a very great service. I think anyone who gets out of scientology needs professional help, honestly. The problem with most former scientologists (myself included) is that they don't want anyone else invading the privacy of their mind after the psychological abuse of scientology's brand of so-called "counseling." Lack of trust is a huge barrier to getting professional help. My personal feeing is that my biggest responsibility is to persuade the person that it is safe -- and that it would be useful -- to seek help from a professional. The reason I push Wellspring so strongly is that I personally know they can be trusted because I underwent therapy there myself and found the experience to be extremely beneficial.
I did a report on my experience at Wellspring which may be on a web site somewhere [http://www.offlines.org/wellspring.txt]. If anyone knows where it can be found perhaps they could post the site. I hope this is helpful. As always, I would be more than happy to talk to people by private email [firstname.lastname@example.org] or by phone about any of the things I've discussed here. My number is 206-463-6809. Please feel free to call. I'll help in whatever way I can.