Steven Hassan

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Steven Hassan
Steven Hassan 2012 Headshot.jpg
Steven Alan Hassan, M.Ed., L.M.H.C.
Born 1954 (age 60–61)
United States[where?]
Occupation Mental health counselor, specializing in cults,[1] Author
Nationality United States
Genre Non-fiction
Subject Psychology, cults
Spouse Misia Landau, Ph.D.

Steven Alan Hassan (born 1954) is an American licensed mental health counselor who has written extensively on the subject of cults.[2] He is the author of three books on the subject of 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.

Hassan is a former member of the Unification Church. He founded Ex-Moon Inc. in 1979[3] before assisting with involuntary deprogrammings in association with the Cult Awareness Network[4] developing in 1999 what he describes as his own non-coercive methods for helping members of alleged cults to leave their groups.


Hassan became a member of the Unification Church (aka Moonies) in the 1970s, at the age of 19, while studying at Queens College. He describes what he terms as his "recruitment" in his first book, Combatting Cult Mind Control, asserting that this recruitment was the result of the unethical use of powerful psychological influence techniques by members of the Church.[5] He subsequently spent over two years recruiting and indoctrinating new members, as well as performing fundraising and campaigning duties, and ultimately rose to the rank of Assistant Director of the Unification Church at its National Headquarters. In that capacity he met personally with Sun Myung Moon.[6]

Hassan has given an account of his leaving the Unification Church in his 1998 book Combatting Cult Mind Control and on his personal website.[7]


In 1979, following the Jonestown deaths, Hassan founded a non-profit organization called "Ex-Moon Inc.", whose membership consisted of over four hundred former members of the Unification Church.[6]

According to his biography, "During the 1977-78 Congressional Subcommittee Investigation into South Korean CIA activities in the United States, he consulted as an expert on the Moon organization and provided information and internal documents regarding Moon's desire to influence politics in his bid to 'take over the world.'"[6]

Around 1980, Hassan began investigating methods of persuasion, mind control and indoctrination. He first studied the thought reform theories of Robert Lifton, and was "able to see clearly that the Moon organization uses all eight" of the thought reform methods described by Lifton.[7]

He later attended a seminar on hypnosis with Richard Bandler, which was based on the work that he and transformational grammarian John Grinder had done in developing Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Hassan felt that this seminar gave him "a handle on techniques of mind control, and how to combat them." He spent "nearly two years studying NLP with everyone involved in its formulation and presentation." During this period, Hassan moved to Santa Cruz, California for an apprenticeship with Grinder. He became concerned about the marketing of NLP as a tool for "power enhancement", left his association with Grinder, and "began to study the works of Milton Erickson M.D., Virginia Satir, and Gregory Bateson, on which NLP is based." His studies gave him the basis for the development of his theories on mind control.[8]

Hassan continued to study hypnosis and is a member of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and The International Society of Hypnosis.[9]

In 1999, Hassan founded the Freedom of Mind Resource Center.[10] The centre is registered as a domestic profit corporation in the state of Massachusetts, and Hassan is president and treasurer.[11]

In Combatting Cult Mind Control Hassan describes his personal experiences with the Unification Church, as well as his theory of the four components of mind control. The sociologist Eileen Barker, who has studied the Unification Church, has commented on the book.[12] She expressed several concerns but nevertheless recommended the book. The book has been reviewed in the American Journal of Psychiatry,[13] and in the The Lancet,[14] and has been favorably reviewed by Philip Zimbardo[15] and Margaret Singer.[16]

In his second book, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000), Hassan presents what he terms "a much more refined method to help family and friends, called the Strategic Interaction Approach. This non-coercive, completely legal approach is far better than deprogramming, and even exit counseling".[17]

In his third and most recent book, Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs (2012), Hassan demonstrates how his approach has evolved over the last 13 years and offers a more extensive bibliography. In addition, Hassan presents Lifton's and Singer's models alongside his own BITE model. The book has garnered a favorable review from Jerome Siegel, PHD[18] who says: "Its weakness is repetitiveness, flatness, and some theorizing that might turn off professional readers. Nonetheless, I recommend it highly for its intended audience." It has also received positive feedback from other professionals.[19]

Hassan, who is Jewish and belongs to a Temple that teaches Kabbalah, states that the actions of the Kabbalah Centre have little in common with traditional or even responsible Jewish renewal Kabbalah teachers.[20] He describes himself as an "activist who fights to protect people's right to believe whatever they want to believe", and states that his work has the broad support of religious leaders from a variety of spiritual orientations.[21] He further states that "many unorthodox religions have expressed their gratitude to me for my books because it clearly shows them NOT to be a destructive cult."[22]

In a research paper presented at the 2000 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference, Anson Shupe, professor of Sociology at Indiana/Purdue University, and Susan E. Darnell, manager of a credit union, state Hassan had participated two involuntary deprogrammings in 1976 and 1977.[23][24] One involving Arthur Roselle who claims that Hassan kidnapped, hit, and forcibly detained him. Hassan acknowledges that he "was involved with the Roselle deprogramming attempt in 1976. But...was never involved in violence of any kind."[25]

Hassan states that he spent one year assisting with deprogrammings before turning to less controversial methods (see exit counseling).[22] Hassan has spoken out against involuntary deprogramming since 1980,[9][22][26] stating, "I did not and do not like the deprogramming method and stopped doing them in 1977!”[25] 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."[27] Concerned that ministers in Japan [were] encouraged to perform forcible deprogramming because of [his] first book," Hassan wrote a letter[28] to Reverend Seishi Kojima stating, "I oppose aggressive, illegal methods."

After the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, Steven was brought in by the media to explain the bombers' mind state and how mind control was involved.[29][30][31]

Personal life[edit]

Hassan married psychologist and counselor Aureet Bar-Yam in 1981. Bar-Yam died at age of 33 after falling through ice while trying to save the family dog.[32][33][34][35] Hassan has since married Harvard Medical School senior science writer Misia Landau. The couple lives in the Newton, Massachusetts area where Hassan's Freedom of the Mind Resource Center is located.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Data Mind Games". New York Magazine (New York Media Holdings). July 29, 1996. p. 52. 
  2. ^ "Steven Hassan Verification - Psychology Today". 
  3. ^ Chryssides, G.D. and B.E. Zeller. 2014. The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements: BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING.
  4. ^ (notarized) Declaration of John M. Sweeney, Jr. on deprogramming and the Citizens Freedom Foundation. Maricopa County, Arizona. March 17, 1992.
  5. ^ Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, 1998, Ch. 1, ISBN 0-89281-243-5
  6. ^ a b c Biography of Steven Hassan, Freedom of Mind Center
  7. ^ a b Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, 1998, Ch. 2, ISBN 0-89281-243-5
  8. ^ Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, Ch. 2, Steven Hassan, FOM Press, 2000
  9. ^ a b [1][dead link] These organizations require that their members have professional credentials and make sure they have proper training and operate within ethical guidelines. I have been teaching workshops for both organizations for many years and find their members are able to quickly understand cult mind control due to their training
  10. ^ "Freedom of Mind". 
  11. ^ Freedom of Mind Resource Center, Inc., Summary Screen
  12. ^ Church Times (UK) 23 November 1990 p. 13
  13. ^ American Journal of Psychiatry 147:7 July 1990[dead link]
  14. ^ Review of Books The Lancet, Peter Tyrer, June 24th 1989[dead link]
  15. ^ Praise For Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves[dead link]
  16. ^ What People Are Saying About Combatting Cult Mind Control[dead link]
  17. ^ [2][dead link]
  18. ^ "Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs". Psych 
  19. ^ "Freedom of Mind". 
  21. ^ What Religious Leaders Are Saying About Combatting Cult Mind Control[dead link]
  22. ^ a b c Refuting the Disinformation Attacks Put Forth by Destructive Cults and their Agents Accessed Dec 2006[dead link]
  23. ^ CAN, We Hardly Knew Ye: Sex, Drugs, Deprogrammers’ Kickbacks, and Corporate Crime in the (old) Cult Awareness Network, by Anson Shupe, Susan E. Darnell, presented at the 2000 SSSR meeting in Houston, Texas, October 21.
  24. ^ moreorless. "CESNUR - Shupe's Study of CAN - Document 33". 
  25. ^ a b Freedom of Mind Center[dead link]
  26. ^ Mind Warrior. New Therapist 24, March/April 2003.
  27. ^ Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, 1998, ISBN 0-89281-243-5, p. 114
  28. ^
  29. ^ Was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Brainwashed? Wall Street Journal Live Interview
  30. ^ Radicalism and mind control NECN Interview
  31. ^ Officials: Suspect claims they were self-radicalized on Internet CNN Erin Burnett OutFront Interview
  32. ^ Zitner, A. (1992, Jan 12). A year later, quest for a legacy of safer ice. Boston Globe (Pre-1997 Fulltext)
  33. ^ Canellos, Peter S (January 10, 1991). "Victim's Family Wants to Know What Stalled Lincoln Pond Rescue". The Boston Globe. 
  34. ^ "Aureet Bar-Yam 1957-1991". 
  35. ^ "Aureet Bar-Yam". Bar-Yam Family. 2011. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 

External links[edit]