Steven Hassan bigraphy, stories - Critics

Steven Hassan : biography

1954 -

Steven Alan Hassan (born 1954) is a licensed]] mental health counselor. In 1978 Hassan was one of the first people to develop and do exit counseling, and is the author of three books on the subject of undue influence and destructive cults, and what he describes as their use of mind control, thought reform, and the psychology of influence in order to recruit and retain members.

Himself a former member of the Unification Church, after spending one year assisting with involuntary deprogrammings, he developed what he describes as his own non-coercive methods for helping members of alleged cults to leave their groups. He also developed therapeutic approaches for counseling former members in order to help them overcome the purported effects of cult membership.


Hassan's website "Freedom of Mind" contains what he describes as information on "cults and controversial groups" and on which he offers his counseling and consultation services.

On his website Hassan distinguishes between what he terms as destructive cults and benign cults. A destructive cult, according to Hassan, has a "pyramid-shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control." and "uses deception in recruiting new members." In contrast, benign cults are, according to Hassan, "any group of people who have a set of beliefs and rituals that are non-mainstream." The website further states that "as long as people are freely able to choose to join with full disclosure of the group's doctrine and practices and can choose to disaffiliate without fear or harassment, then it doesn't fall under the behavioral/ psychological destructive cult category."From the FAQ of Steven Hassan's website (retrieved August 2006)

The site contains a disclaimer that not every group listed is necessarily what Hassan calls a "destructive mind control cult" (Accessed Dec 2006) The fact that these groups appear on this list does not necessarily mean they are a destructive mind control cult. They appear because we have received inquiries and have established a file on the group. Many of the groups Hassan lists are not included in the Handbook of Cults and Sects in America. There is also considerable disagreement about what precisely constitutes a cult. Some cult critics and some academics use the term "cult" despite its definitional ambiguity, but many academics who study such groups prefer the term "New Religious Movement".

Hassan dedicates his website "to respect for human rights, spirituality, and consumer awareness." A declaration of support for "religious freedom and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights" appears at the bottom of every page.

Mind control

For details see: BITE model

Although he does not name it the "BITE model", in his first book Combatting Cult Mind Control Hassan describes the "four components of mind control as:Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, 1998, Ch. 4, ISBN 0-89281-243-5

  • Behavior control
  • Information control
  • Thought control
  • Emotional control

Twelve years later, in Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, he developed these same components into a mind-control model, "BITE", which stands for Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions. Hassan writes that cults recruit members through a three-step process which he refers to as "unfreezing," "changing," and "refreezing," respectively. This involves the use of an extensive array of various techniques, including systematic deception, behavior modification, withholding of information, and emotionally intense persuasion techniques (such as the induction of phobias), which he collectively terms mind control. Steven Hassan, FOM Press, 2000 (Accessed Jan 2007)

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