Book Review - Recovery from Abusive Groups

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1993, Volume 10, Number 2, pages 223-225. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - Recovery from Abusive Groups. 

Wendy Ford. American Family Foundation, Bonita Springs, FL, 1993, 106 pages, paperback.

Author Wendy Ford has straightforwardly and thoughtfully presented her understanding of recovery issues from a personal perspective of having participated in an abusive group and from a well-studied psychological and sociological perspective. Her articulation is concise, yet encompasses a range of emotions and perceptions regarding the seemingly never-ending adjustment process to postcult life.

Throughout the pages of the book, the author's honesty and insight concerning difficult and complex issues are apparent, together with the evidence of her personal travels along the road of recovery and renewal. This is a handbook for every former member and their families who choose to be informed about mind control and therefore aid in combatting the growing problem of psychological abuse by destructive cults. This open and challenging review of the recovery process helps the reader begin to address some very complex and emotionally loaded issues. It is a road map for those of us who need to reintegrate our lives after the trauma of separation from such an intense experience and the realization of having been subjected to such an extensive level of deceit.

Ms. Ford clearly allows for the perspective of the individual survivor as well as the family. Her approach to the recovery process gives attention to the systems one is connected to: the family and our culture. She boldly addresses the challenges ex-cult members face in evaluating the cultic experience and learning about the world around them. Her tools for reality checking and for developing critical thinking skills help deal with several residual effects experienced by those who had a mind- control experience. The author also addresses the varying emotions former members will confront and learn about in a whole new way as free human beings.

In this book the former member is given permission to heal and recover from what is properly referred to as a trauma. The recovery process from high-demand abusive groups is multifaceted and contains the seed for renewal, if former members are patient and compassionate with themselves. Each page has hope peaking through; this book speaks to former members' need to know that there is life after what they once thought was the "truth."

In addition, Ms. Ford addresses the needs and struggles of the victim's family and loved ones. In the process of recovering from trauma, the former member is challenged to review every life connection. Much attention is focused on family of origin and the strengths and weaknesses that impacted the cult member's coping strategies and initial vulnerability to the cult. Having the family members' support and willingness to discuss family issues can be helpful in assisting the entire family to regain an equilibrium. This handbook also offers practical suggestions in facilitating both personal and familial healing.

As stated on page 1, recovery takes time, discipline, and courage. The road to renewal and reintegration takes many forms, but persistence is the main ingredient. Recovery from Abusive Groups speaks directly to those hurting and confused, and gives assurance, direction, and insight regarding a wide spectrum of life issues that former members are challenged to confront. This book is refreshing and inspiring, and expresses the strength and wisdom of one who has survived and thrived. By including thorough and thought-provoking study questions and a bibliography that has personally inspired and assisted her throughout her journey, Ms. Ford has remained true to her constant reminder to "Do your homework!"

My recommendation comes with the true bias of a friend who has been fortunate to know Wendy since a year after I left the same group she was in. She had been out three years when we were introduced and one of the most valuable lessons we have learned together is this: Recovery and renewal from an abusive group cannot happen in isolation. Her book brings the reader into the footsteps of her life, as she considers and discusses the many aspects of recovering from the abuse and trauma of a destructive cult group. The reader is able to sigh, cry, and smile at the straightforwardness and courage of the author's presentation.

Former members and families are fortunate to have such a workable and informative handbook which addresses this complex issue of cults and recovery from the residual effects of mind control. Each day I become more and more convinced that our misfortune can truly be turned around and reconfigured to work in our favor. I invite you to discover this from Wendy Ford's courageous book.

Lee Anne Pellegrini, M.S.W. Intern

Boston University

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, 1993