Steven Alan Hassan (pronounced //) is an American author, educator, PhD, and mental health counselor specializing in destructive cults. He has been described by media as "one of the world's foremost experts on mind control, cults and similar destructive organizations," though social scientists are divided on his work. He is a former member of the Unification Church, founded Ex-Moon Inc. in 1979, and in 1999 founded the Freedom of Mind Resource Center. He has written on the subject of mind control and how to help people who have been harmed by the experience.
|Born||1953/1954 (age 68–69)|
|Occupation||Mental health counselor, author, lecturer|
|Education||PhD M.A., M.Ed., LMHC|
|Alma mater||Queens College, City University of New York |
Fielding Graduate University
|Subject||Psychology, mind control, cults|
Hassan reported that, at age 19 while pursuing a poetry degree at Queens College, he was deceptively recruited into the Unification Church, and spent 27 months as a member. Hassan was involved in recruiting, fundraising, and political campaigning for the Unification Church. He also claimed to have risen to the rank of assistant director of the Church at their National Headquarters, and personally met with Sun Myung Moon during numerous leadership sessions.
During his time in the Unification Church, Hassan reported living in communal housing and sleeping less than four hours a night. Part of his duties included selling carnations on street corners in New York. In an interview, Hassan reported that he believed Richard Nixon was an archangel, and during the Watergate scandal, he and other members of the Unification Church were involved in prayer and fasting to "prove their loyalty to the president". He also reported surrendering his bank account to the Unification Church, and quitting college and his job to work for the church. Hassan reported that "he was ready to kill or die for" Sun Myung Moon.
In 1976, after working two full days without sleep and driving a van for fundraisers, Hassan became fatigued and fell asleep while driving which resulted in a serious automobile accident that required him to seek medical care; his parents hired counselors to work with him and convinced him to leave the organization through a process that Hassan called "deprogramming". Hassan later married his first wife but divorced in 1989, and she died in an accident in 1991. He returned to his Jewish faith tradition after leaving the Unification church; He is an active member of a temple in Brookline, Massachusetts. He married a second time and had a son born from the union.
Hassan is described as "one of the world's foremost experts on mind control, cults and similar destructive organizations" by Salon, and as a cult expert and mind control expert by numerous other media sources. In 1979, following the Jonestown mass suicide and murders, Hassan founded a non-profit organization called "Ex-Moon Inc.". The organization consisted of over four hundred former members of the Unification Church. Hassan studied the thought reform theories of Robert Jay Lifton, and concluded that he was "able to see clearly that the Moon organization uses all eight" characteristics of thought reform as described by Lifton. Hassan studied the work of Richard Bandler and John Grinder who developed neuro-linguistic programming, the works of Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Gregory Bateson, and used their works as a basis to develop his own theories on mind control, counseling, and intervention.
Hassan has been assisting people exit destructive cults since 1976. Hassan's methods have changed over time, and Hassan has been outspoken against involuntary deprogramming since 1980. 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." In 1995, Michael Langone questioned Hassan's "humanistic counseling approach." Langone suggested that Hassan's intervention method still "runs the risk of imposing clarity, however subtly" and "thereby manipulating the client."
Hassan graduated from Cambridge College in 1985 where he earned a Master’s degree in counseling psychology. Hassan studied hypnosis and is a member of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and the International Society of Hypnosis. Hassan is a member of the Program in Psychiatry and the Law, a Harvard think tank of forensic experts. He was an instructor in Psychiatry Grand Rounds at Harvard Medical School's Psychiatry Residency Training Program during October 2017, and was a teacher of 4th-year psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for 17 years. Hassan wrote his first book, Combatting Cult Mind Control in 1988, where he described his own recruitment as the result of the unethical use of powerful psychological influence techniques by members of the Church. Hassan's books have been described as "somewhere at the literary crossroads of memoir, self-help guide, and mind-control theory primer."
In 1999, Hassan founded the Freedom of Mind Resource Center. The center is registered as a domestic profit corporation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Hassan is president and treasurer. The Institute has investigated and published research on various groups including Hare Krishnas, Al Qaeda, and Opus Dei.
Hassan has spent several years developing and promoting the adoption of a model to evaluate cult and cult-like groups. In his third book, Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs (2012), Hassan presents Lifton's and Margaret Singer's models of evaluation alongside his own BITE model. Hassan received his doctorate from Fielding Graduate University and published a dissertation in January 2021. His dissertation focused on the Bite Model and was titled, "The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking and the Law". In it, Hassan explains that he developed the model in an effort to measure degrees of exploitative control or undue influence. The model is an attempt to evaluate behavior, information, thought and emotional controls. Describing the model, Hassan told reporters that "I talk about cults being on the continuum, from OK cults that are benign and where you have informed consent, to the unhealthy, destructive, authoritarian types."
Some mainline social scientists believe that Hassan's work lacks academic rigor and is used to fuel hysteria. American sociologists Anson D. Shupe and David G. Bromley are skeptical of the existence of brainwashing and mind control. Sociologists Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins state that Hassan's brainwashing theories have long been proven false.
Hassan has appeared on Nightline, 60 Minutes, CNN, Fox News, CBC News, and in many other media outlets as a commentator on cults. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Hassan was interviewed by some reporters to explain his view of the bombers' state of mind and how he believed mind control was involved. In August 2018, Hassan delivered a TEDx talk on technology and mind control at TEDxBeaconStreet Salon. In October 2020, Hassan delivered a TEDx MidAtlantic talk on Dismantling QAnon with David Troy, Jim Stewartson, and Desiree Kane. 
In October 2019, The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control, was published, which represents a broadening of Hassan's focus from New religious movements into application of his approach into political culture  Hassan stated that he hoped the book would lessen political division. Hassan has been criticized and accused of sensationalism and self-promotion for applying his cult diagnosis framework to politics. "Mainstream social scientists are divided on Hassan and his fellow cult-busters, with many sociologists of religion believing that what they do is nothing more than stoke hysteria, reminiscent of the witch hunts of the colonial era."
- Combatting Cult Mind Control, 1988. ISBN 0-89281-243-5 — reissued 1990 (ISBN 978-0-89281-311-7) and 2015 (Combating ..., ISBN 978-0967068824).
- Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, 2000. ISBN 0-9670688-0-0.
- Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, 2012. ISBN 978-0-9670688-1-7.
- The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control, October 2019. ISBN 9781982127336.
- Allen, Rachel (June 1, 2021). "The Man Who Wants to Free Trump Supporters From "Mind Control"". Slate.
- "Steven Hassan". Retrieved August 12, 2021.
- "Steven A Hassan PhD: About". Psychology Today. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
- "Is The Royal Family A Cult? This Expert Thinks So". Bustle. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
- "Data Mind Games". New York. July 29, 1996. p. 52.
- Devenga, Chauncey (March 25, 2021). "QAnon and the Trump cult: Expert Steven Hassan on whether they can be saved". Salon.
- Elton, Catherine (September 1, 2007). "The Other Side of Enlightenment". Boston Magazine. Archived from the original on August 23, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
Mainstream social scientists are divided on Hassan and his fellow cult-busters, with many sociologists of religion believing that what they do is nothing more than stoke hysteria, reminiscent of the witch hunts of the colonial era...
- Zablocki, Benjamin; Robbins, Thomas (2001). Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field. Canada: University of Toronto Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-8020-8188-9.
Their report, which was overlooked for many years, refutes the effectiveness of all efforts to brainwash anyone - especially through inducing altered states of consciousness, the modus operandi that anticultists say new religions favour (e.g., Hassan 1988; Singer 1995).
- "Former Moonie Steven Hassan: My Fight Against Mind Control And Brainwashing". International Business Times UK. September 3, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
- Advisors, South Florida Web. "Freedom of Mind by Dr. Steven Hassan". Freedom of Mind Resource Center.
- "The Truth About Steven Hassan". Freedom Of Mind.
- Pennington, Juliet (December 17, 2020). "Author and cult expert talks Fiji, diving, and future grand plans". Retrieved August 22, 2021.
- Allen, Rachel (June 1, 2021). "The Man Who Wants to Free Trump Supporters From "Mind Control"". Slate. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
- "Steven Hassan, M.Ed., LMHC, NCC, Cult Expert". Apologetics Index. March 8, 2019. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
- "The International Society of Hypnosis". World News. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Biography of Steven Hassan, Freedom of Mind Center
- Elton, Catherine (September 1, 2007). "The Other Side of Enlightenment". Boston Magazine. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
- "New book says there is a 'cult of Trump'". CNN. November 24, 2019.
- Grabish, Austin (January 17, 2021). "Church fighting pandemic restrictions is cult-like, former worshippers, expert allege". CBC.
- Tucker, Jill (January 17, 2021). "Experts see cult-like behavior in Trump's most extreme followers. Breaking them free may not be easy". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Cult expert to CNN: 'All of America needs deprogramming' after Trump years". Fox News. January 9, 2021. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
- Steven Hassan (1998). Combatting Cult Mind Control. p. Ch. 2. ISBN 0-89281-243-5.
- Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, Ch. 2, Steven Hassan, FOM Press, 2000
- "About The Author". Simon and Schuster. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
- Mind Warrior. New Therapist 24, March/April 2003.
- Hassan, Steven (1988). Combatting Cult Mind Control. p. 114. ISBN 0-89281-243-5.
- Langone, Michael D, ed. (1995). Recovery from cults : help for victims of psychological and spiritual abuse (Norton paperback ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 9780393313215.
- "Member Referral Search". asch.net. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- "Is Technology Controlling Your Mind?". TEDxBeaconStreet.
- Steven Hassan (October 13, 2019). "Take It From a Former Moonie: Trump Is a Cult Leader". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
- Hassan, Steven (1998). Combatting Cult Mind Control. p. Ch. 1. ISBN 0-89281-243-5.
- Lamoureux, Mack (August 11, 2017). "How Cults Use YouTube for Recruitment".
- "Business Entity Summary for Freedom of Mind Resource Center, Inc". corp.sec.state.ma.us. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
- Hassan, S. A.; Shah, M. J. (January 1, 2019). "The anatomy of undue influence used by terrorist cults and traffickers to induce helplessness and trauma, so creating false identities". Ethics, Medicine and Public Health. 8: 97–107. doi:10.1016/j.jemep.2019.03.002.
- "The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking and the Law - ProQuest". www.proquest.com.
- Was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Brainwashed? Wall Street Journal Live Interview
- Radicalism and mind control NECN Interview
- Officials: Suspect claims they were self-radicalized on Internet CNN Erin Burnett OutFront Interview
- "TEDxMidAtlantic — Dismantling QAnon" – via www.youtube.com.
- Fisher, Marc. "Review | The Republican Party is in thrall to Trump. Does that make him a cult leader?". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 11, 2021.