Second Generation Adult Former Cult Group Members' Recovery Experiences: Implications for Counseling

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)



Date of Award

Summer 2012


Former cult members suffer from a number of psychological difficulties once they leave their cult, such as depression, grief, loss, suicidal ideation, and anxiety. Reintegrating into society can be a difficult process for former cult members. Children who are born and raised in cults suffer from additional difficulties such as lack of education, lack of attachment and bonding to significant caregivers, and problems associated with former abuse and neglect. Scant attention has been paid in the literature to former members of cults who were born and raised in these groups. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to discover grounded theory through constructivist social justice inquiry the concerns of second generation adult former cult group members once they leave their cult. Data analysis resulted in a total of 12 themes. The first eight themes describe participants' experiences, the perceptions of these experiences, and the effects of these experiences while living in the cult, during the leaving process, and after leaving their respective cults. These themes included patriarchy and gender roles, decision making, obedience to authority, group and relationship support, relationship with parents, religiosity and spirituality, abuse, and outside influences. The final four are unifying themes that weave throughout all of the themes. These included sense of identity, emotional consequences, fear and courage, and the long process of change. These themes were taken into account and recommendations were made to give counselors an added understanding of former group members' needs and issues as they arise in counseling.


Carmen Salazar

Subject Categories

Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences