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Support Group for AK's

Therapist Mary Jo Cysewski is beginning a monthly support group on June 18, 2006, in Southern California for people born or raised in a high-demand group. She has sent out the following email invitation.



I have received numerous requests to provide a support group for people who were born and raised in a closed, high demand, group or cult (also known as 2nd generation ex-members). In response, I will begin facilitating a support group beginning on June 18th, 2006. The group will meet for two hours in the afternoon of the third Sunday of the month at my office in Santa Monica, CA. The fee will be $20 per person; however, I am able to provide a sliding scale for hardship situations. There is ample free parking available in the building.

In her article, "Born or Raised in High-Demand Groups: Developmental Considerations” published in the International Cultic Studies Association E-Newsletter, V. 4, No. 3, (08/2005), Leona Furnari, LCSW adapts Martin’s (1993) stages of recovery following cultic experiences to the experiences of children born and raised in closed, high demand, groups noting that there is no “pre-cult identity” to go back to. The stages of recovery become:

Evaluation of the experiences - often in tandem with finding a support network, including any former members and/or extended family who have been on the outside; education on cults/mind control; therapy; reading; journaling...

Reconciliation/Adaptation, Conciliation – moving slowly, taking small steps; explore redefining of terms; set small goals, tend to personal health; discover personal strengths...

Integration – occurs over time

The support group is a vital element in the forming of new ideas about who we are and how we operate in our lives. By interaction and interchange with others with whom we share a common experience, we can see that our problems and concerns are not unique. In fact, they are often shared by others who may have developed ways of dealing with them that can be beneficial to us, and visa versa. Support groups also are a place for the development of new ideas and solutions to problems.

The support group will be limited to a maximum of 10 participants. Please contact me by June 14th if you would like to participate on June 18th. Also, please feel free to forward this note along to anyone you feel would benefit from participation in the support group.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm regards,

Mary Jo

Born & Raised Support Group
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
3rd Sunday of the month
Mary Jo Cysewski, MA, LMFT
License #MFC 37891
P.O. Box 6366
Beverly Hills, CA 90212


Here is a bit of email correspondence with Mary Jo that further describes the nature of her 2nd Gen group:

Hello Mary Jo--

Thank you for inviting our 2nd generation members to this support group. I haven't been able to contact many yet. Unfortunately our own 3 adult kids are out of the area or unable to attend. But here is a sample response I got from someone:

"While I'm sure a support group like the one Mary Jo offers is helpful for some, I have found that one-on-one therapy has been most beneficial for me.... I have come to a place where I have done all the "re-hashing" I need to do. At this point, going back and re-visiting the pain would only hinder my forward progress."

I think that this is a common perception among us--that support groups are for re-hashing. I have never been part of one, but I would think that a support group for 2nd gen's would probably focus more on issues than re-hashing specific past events, and would cover current life challenges, like identity, social paranoia, self-confidence, etc. Would you care to comment on this?


Hi Margaret,

Thanks for your reply. You are correct, the support group for 2nd generation ex-members would be focusing more on current issues that have developed as a result of the limitations, trauma, etc. from being raised in a cult/high demand group. There will be some structure and some specific topics, but also time to talk about whatever the participants need to talk about that day. As a therapist with awareness of the cult/high demand group issues, as well as, standard clinical training regarding relationships, I am able to facilitate a more in-depth and focused conversation when appropriate.

I also agree with your responder... support groups are for support and, as such, are a good place to discover what personal experiences or issues would be better dealt with in individual therapy. However, "re-hashing" is an important step in a process of healing, in that it allows the participant to begin to express, in a safe and supportive environment, his or her feelings about a painful and traumatic experience. This actually helps the person to more clearly distinguish themselves from the group and begin to reclaim who they really are. [Editor's emphases]

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