Hassan in 2019
|Occupation||Mental health counselor (specializing in destructive cults), author, lecturer|
|Subject||Psychology, mind control, cults|
Steven Alan Hassan (pronounced //) is an American mental health counselor who has written on the subject of mind control and how to help people who have been harmed by the experience. He has been helping people exit destructive cults since 1976. Hassan has appeared on the TV news programs 60 Minutes, Nightline, and Dateline, and is a published author and lecturer.
In 1999 Hassan developed what he describes as non-coercive methods to help members of cults to quit their groups. In 2012, Hassan introduced the BITE model which describes the methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control. In 2019, during the Trump administration, Hassan published The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control.
Hassan became a member of the Unification Church in the 1970s, at the age of 19, while studying at Queens College. In 1985, he received his master's degree in counseling psychology from Cambridge College. He went on to become a licensed mental health counselor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1991. In his first book, Combatting Cult Mind Control (1988), he described his recruitment as the result of the unethical use of powerful psychological influence techniques by members of the Church. He spent over two years recruiting and indoctrinating new members, as well as fundraising and campaigning. In 2020, Hassan received his PhD in Organizational Change and Development from Fielding Graduate University.
In 1979, following the Jonestown mass suicide and murders, Hassan founded a non-profit organization called "Ex-Moon Inc.". The organization consisted of over four hundred former members of the Unification Church. Hassan studied the thought reform theories of Robert Jay Lifton, and concluded that he was "able to see clearly that the Moon organization uses all eight" characteristics of thought reform as described by Lifton. Hassan also studied the work of Richard Bandler and John Grinder who developed neuro-linguistic programming, the works of Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Gregory Bateson. Hassan's study of such sources helped him to develop his theories on mind control, counseling and intervention.
Hassan has spoken out against involuntary deprogramming since 1980. In Combatting Cult Mind Control, he stated that "the non-coercive approach will not work in every case, it has proved to be the option most families prefer. Forcible intervention can be kept as a last resort if all other attempts fail."
In 1995, Michael Langone questioned Hassan's "humanistic counseling approach." Langone suggested that Hassan's intervention method "runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly" and "thereby manipulating the client."  More recently, President Steve Eichel noted that the ICSA Board of Directors has been supportive of Hassan's current (21st century) client-centered approach to counseling.
In August 2018, Hassan delivered a TEDx talk on technology and mind control at TEDxBeaconStreet Salon.
In his third book, Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs (2012), Hassan presents Lifton's and Singer's models alongside his own BITE model. Based on research and theory by those who studied brainwashing in Maoist China, as well as cognitive dissonance theory, Steven Hassan developed the BITE Model (Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control) to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people.
In 2015, The BITE Model and Mormon Control by Luna Lindsey was published and examines how certain LDS doctrines, culture, and policies fit Hassan's BITE Model.
In August 2020, Hassan was interviewed be O, The Oprah Magazine in an article The Warning Signs of a Dangerous Cult Can Sneak Up on You where he discussed the BITE Model in depth, stating that,
With mind control cults, there’s that hook...You think you’re going to improve your life, or save children—who wouldn’t want to save the children? And then, there’s incremental disclosure about what the group is actually about. They only tell you what you think you’re ready to swallow. So while you’re getting indoctrinated, your critical faculties are getting worn away.
The cult of Trump
Following the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol building by Trump loyalists, Hassan was interviewed regarding his book, The Cult of Trump, and asked to discuss the psychology of the people he describes as members of this cult, saying,
When I talk about the cult of Trump, I’m talking about a destructive authoritarian cult. This is defined by four overlapping components that I referred to as the BITE model of authoritarian control. The b of BITE stands for behavior control. Then the i is information control. Thought control is the t, and e is emotional control. My definition of an authoritarian cult is these four components are used to change the person into a mirror or a clone of the cult, that is dependent and obedient. As a mental health professional, we think of that as a dissociative disorder. Where the person’s real self is still there, it’s just suppressed. This new identity has taken over, and thought-stopping mechanisms and phobias are installed in the cult identity to keep it in control.
Hassan also discussed deprogramming the cult members:
I would say that a lot of Trump’s supporters are very much looking at media from that biased sphere: Fox News, Breitbart News, etcetera. But I think that once that changes, only a small percentage will be going to the dark web or to other media outlets to absorb disinformation. I’m predicting that of the 74 million, in terms of the real hard-core mind-control cultist, I think we’re probably looking at 10 to 30 million. I do believe that people don’t like to be lied to and they don’t like to be exploited, that if we do a massive effort to reach out, connect, and educate folks, we can get the majority of people out of this, and hopefully inoculated from any other authoritarian cults that may come along.
Regarding the psychology of the former president, the cult's leader, Hassan said,
I would argue that cult leaders typically did not have a healthy childhood. They have what’s called an insecure attachment disorder. In Trump’s case, we know his father was an authoritarian who used to tell him and his brother things like, “you are a killer, you are a king, you are a killer, you are a king,” over and over again. He was raised in a Norman Vincent Peale’s church, where you’re told to believe something 100% and it will magically be delivered by God, and any doubts are viewed as bad. He was trained to do thought-stopping from his childhood, about any doubts, any negative thoughts. I will generalize and say most cult leaders that I’ve studied were in a cult themselves previously. It isn’t just that the average citizen looks at cult leaders and they go “con man” or “con artist,” as if they were just criminals and knew exactly what they were doing. Cult leaders are much more dangerous because they have a delusion. They have incorrect wiring operating in their brain for conscience and empathy and reality testing and respect for others, as well as respect for the rule of law.
Hassan is married and is a practicing Jew, having returned to the faith tradition of his childhood.
- Combatting Cult Mind Control, 1988. ISBN 0-89281-243-5 — reissued 1990 (ISBN 978-0-89281-311-7) and 2015 (Combating ..., ISBN 978-0967068824).
- Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, 2000. ISBN 0-9670688-0-0.
- Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, 2012. ISBN 978-0-9670688-1-7.
- The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control, October 2019. ISBN 9781982127336.
- "Data Mind Games". New York. July 29, 1996. p. 52.
- Chryssides, G.D. and B.E. Zeller. 2014. The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements: BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING.
- "Former Moonie Steven Hassan: My Fight Against Mind Control And Brainwashing". International Business Times UK. 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2019-09-25.
- Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, 1998, Ch. 1, ISBN 0-89281-243-5
- Biography of Steven Hassan, Freedom of Mind Center
- "Member Referral Search". asch.net. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
- "The International Society of Hypnosis". World News. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
- Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, 1998, Ch. 2, ISBN 0-89281-243-5
- Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, Ch. 2, Steven Hassan, FOM Press, 2000
- Mind Warrior. New Therapist 24, March/April 2003.
- Hassan, Steven (1988). Combatting Cult Mind Control. ISBN 0-89281-243-5, p. 114
- Langone, Michael D, ed. (1995). Recovery from cults : help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse (Norton paperback ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 9780393313215.
- Personal communication from Dr. Steve Eichel on 9/13/20.
- Lamoureux, Mack (August 11, 2017). "How Cults Use YouTube for Recruitment".
- "Business Entity Summary for Freedom of Mind Resource Center, Inc". corp.sec.state.ma.us. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
- Was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Brainwashed? Wall Street Journal Live Interview
- Radicalism and mind control NECN Interview
- Officials: Suspect claims they were self-radicalized on Internet CNN Erin Burnett OutFront Interview
- "Is Technology Controlling Your Mind?". TEDxBeaconStreet.
- Hassan, S. A.; Shah, M. J. (1 January 2019). "The anatomy of undue influence used by terrorist cults and traffickers to induce helplessness and trauma, so creating false identities". Ethics, Medicine and Public Health. 8: 97–107. doi:10.1016/j.jemep.2019.03.002.
- "Steven Hassan's BITE Model of Authoritarian Control". freedomofmind.com. Freedom of Mind. Archived from the original on 20 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
- "The BITE Model and Mormon Control". Amazon.com. Amazon.com. Archived from the original on 20 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
- Vincenty, Samantha (25 August 2020). "The Warning Signs of a Dangerous Cult Can Sneak Up on You". oprahmag.com. O, The Oprah Magazine. Archived from the original on 15 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
- Hagan, Joe (20 February 2021). "MAGA: "SO MANY GREAT, EDUCATED, FUNCTIONAL PEOPLE WERE BRAINWASHED": CAN TRUMP'S CULT OF FOLLOWERS BE DEPROGRAMMED?". vanityfair.com. Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 21 February 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
- "The Truth About Steven Hassan". Freedom Of Mind.