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How can I trust someone who lives in the darkness?: former cult members’ perceptions of consultations with healthcare professionals
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Professional Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8547-9035
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Professional Development.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Professional Development.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Professional Development.
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2022 (English)In: International journal of coercion, abuse, and manipulation, ISSN 2710-401X, Vol. 4Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Objective: This study explores former cult members’ perceptions of consultations with healthcare professionals for mental illness that they relate to their cult involvement. The study also aims to identify the needs, obstacles, and facilitating factors related to these consultations.

Design: Qualitative methods using semi-structured interviews that were analyzed using systematic text condensation.

Participants: Nineteen former cult members who had been in contact with Swedish healthcare professionals due to mental illness related to their cult involvement.

Results: Former cult members remain affected by cult belief systems, rules, and ideations even after leaving a cult. This leads to ambivalence and inner conflict for the former cult member in a healthcare consultation. Care providers are perceived as ignoring cult experiences and lacking knowledge of a cult’s impact on an individual.

Conclusions: To understand, help, and work with former cult members, healthcare professionals need to know about cults and the possible impacts of cult involvement. Person- and patient-centeredness in the form of non-judgmental attitudes, validation of experiences, and awareness of the psychosocial situation are important in consultations with these patients. More over, healthcare providers need to acknowledge cultural and existential aspects of a former cult member’s life, both in the present and from earlier experiences in the cult.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
International Cultic Studies Association , 2022. Vol. 4
Keywords [en]
cult, former cult member, consultation, healthcare, person-centered
National Category
Other Medical Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-204431DOI: 10.54208/1000/0004/003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-204431DiVA, id: diva2:1734025
Available from: 2023-02-04 Created: 2023-02-04 Last updated: 2024-01-09
In thesis
1. ”Att nästan inte få existera”: före detta sektmedlemmars erfarenheter – med fokus på psykisk hälsa och mötet med sjukvården
Open this publication in new window or tab >>”Att nästan inte få existera”: före detta sektmedlemmars erfarenheter – med fokus på psykisk hälsa och mötet med sjukvården
2023 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
“Almost not allowed to exist” : former cult members' experiences - with focus on mental health and the healthcare meeting
Abstract [en]

Background: The controlling culture of a cult can be harmful to its members. Living in and leaving a cult can be challenging, lead to mental illness and experience the need for support.

Aims: I - To explore former cult members' perceptions of consultations with healthcare professionals for mental illness that they relate to their cult involvement. The study also aims to identify the needs, obstacles, and facilitating factors related to these consultations. II - To explore the experiences of acculturation into secular Swedish society of former members of cults, with particular focus on mental health, needs and resources. III - To explore exposure to violence and coercive control in cults, and its consequences for mental health.

Design: A qualitative approach was used in all studies. Semi structured interviews (I, III) and the cultural formulation interview from DSM -5 (II) were used to collect data. Studies I and II were analyzed using qualitative content analysis with systematic text condensation. Study III was analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Participants: Adult former members of ideological or religion-based cults. Studies I and III include nineteen participants who had been in contact with Swedish healthcare professionals due to mental illness related to their cult involvement. Study II include eleven participants.

Results: Being a cult member involved constant exposure to threats and violence. The acculturation process after leaving the cult put them in an in-between state and it took time and effort to resettle in mainstream society. They struggled with a persisting coercive bond to the cult's ideals, shame, trauma, and mental health sequalae. In their consultations with healthcare professionals the former cult members remained affected by the cults rules and belief system. This made it harder for them to communicate their needs and accept care.

Conclusion: Former cult members face a complex acculturation process while they struggle in several aspects of life with mental health, shame, problems with trust and personal boundaries. To effectively understand and support former cult members, healthcare professionals must consider both the cultural and existential aspects of former cult members' lives, in addition to their mental health and persisting bond to the cult.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2023. p. 70
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 2268
Keywords
cult, former cult member, cultural formulation, mental health, coercive control, acculturation, sekt, före detta sektmedlem, sektavhopp, bemötande, psykisk hälsa, otillbörlig påverkan, kulturformulering, ackulturation
National Category
Psychiatry Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
professional development
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-217755 (URN)9789180702126 (ISBN)9789180702133 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-01-12, Bergasalen, Norrlands universitetsjukhus, Umeå, 09:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-12-21 Created: 2023-12-12 Last updated: 2023-12-14Bibliographically approved

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Hadding, CeciliaSemb, OlofLehti, ArjaFahlström, MartinSandlund, MikaelDeMarinis, Valerie

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