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Being in-between; exploring former cult members' experiences of an acculturation process using the cultural formulation interview (DSM-5)
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.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Professional Development.
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2023 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychiatry, E-ISSN 1664-0640, Vol. 14, article id 1142189Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objective: To explore the experiences of acculturation into secular Swedish society of former members of cults, with particular focus on mental health, needs and resources.

Design: Qualitative method using the Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI) from the DSM-5 as an interview guide. Analysis of participants’ experiences of acculturation through systematic text condensation.

Participants: Eleven Swedish former members of ideological or religion-based cults.

Setting: Swedish mainstream, secular society.

Results: Former cult members experience an ‘in-between time’ in the period after leaving the cult and find themselves in a confusing, chaotic state. They describe having lived in an honor culture where acts of violence were normalized. In the cult, they felt disconnected from themselves, and post-cult they try to regain access to their own values and feelings as well as create new bonds with family members and friends outside the cult. They find it hard to talk about their cult background and find relief in communicating with other former cult members. In their post-cult life, they eventually start seeing the world in a brighter, more hopeful way than before. However, they are also at risk of re-experiencing cult-related traumatic events and of new traumatic experiences within the post-cult acculturation process, and of persistent psychological distress.

Conclusion: Former cult members face a challenging acculturation process, having lost a functioning worldview upon leaving the cult but not yet gained another to take its place. While the in-between time is often transient, they may need support from the healthcare system, especially regarding mental health concerns, while establishing themselves into mainstream society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Frontiers Media S.A., 2023. Vol. 14, article id 1142189
Keywords [en]
acculturation, coersive control, consultation, cult, cultural formulation
National Category
Human Computer Interaction
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-215230DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1142189ISI: 001074809100001PubMedID: 37779627Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85172988375OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-215230DiVA, id: diva2:1805537
Available from: 2023-10-17 Created: 2023-10-17 Last updated: 2024-01-17Bibliographically approved
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, ArjaMartin, FahlströmSandlund, MikaelDeMarinis, Valerie

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