CounselIling for Ex Cult Members
I wanted to ask those of you who were born into the JWs and eventually left as an adult, whether any of you have had any counselling? I know from experience that being programmed by a cult since birth does not give us the social skills and knowledge to function and interact with people in the outside world as we were taught to avoid it.
Those of you that have had counselling, do you feel that it has helped you? Can a counsellor actually "de-program" your mind so that you can live a successful life?
I would appreciate some feedback here.
I never went to counseling but i im actually studying in university to become a councilor. So far i've noticed that those who still feel tied to it or guilty etc are those who still have some belief in the WT teachings.
By personal experience i found that learning as much as you can about their lies, cover ups and false teachings washes away any beliefs i once had. When they're gone the healing can begin.
I spent about 8 months with a therapist while I was still married. Most of my time there was spent trying to save my marriage, but some of it focused on assimilating into society and developing normal relationships with normal people and getting past feeling like an outsider or worrying about being seen as weird or whatever else.
It definitely helped - just the practice of talking to a "worldly" person (the therapist/counselor) can help.
First, if you're facing severe distress (thoughts of suicide or depression/anxiety that makes it difficult to function on a day-to-day basis) you should seek help right away - waiting will only make things worse and could be life threatening. You don't seem to fall into this, but I just wanted to put that disclaimer out there.
Assuming you're doing "ok" but just want help to move forward my advice would be to first make sure you've educated yourself on how the cult has controlled you and ways that it's influenced you that you might not realize. Books I'd recommend are freedom of mind or combating cult mind control (Steve Hassan - probably would be fine with one or the other), and EXiting the JW Cult: A Healing Handbook - this has a lot of helpful stuff that's very JW specific (written by a woman that became a therapist after leaving the cult). The reason I suggest doing this before you start seeing a therapist is because it can definitely save you a lot of time (and a therapist's time can be costly) because you'll be going in with a better understanding of how you've been affected and what you want to work on the most, and you'll be better able to articulate it to the therapist. Most therapists won't have much, if any, experience with cult victims, so you want to educate yourself so that you can educate them most efficiently. If you're already read up and have a strong understanding of how social pressure, emotional manipulation, and propaganda were used to control you, then you're on good footing to start working with a therapist that might not be as familiar with cult control mechanisms.
My next piece of advice is to make sure you find a therapist that you mesh well with. Any good therapist will tell you from the outset that they want you to feel free to move on and work with someone else if you don't feel it's a good match. Some might be a little resistant to your characterization of JWs as a cult due to the great care the cult has taken to maintain a good image to the world - be prepared for that. They'll probably come around after some discussion about why you categorize the JWs as a cult, but you'll need to be prepared to articulate it (which is another reason some self education is useful). If they put up too much of a fight (I haven't encountered this, but I've heard a few tales of therapists, especially religious ones, that are reluctant to accept that damage was done by the cult) then you move on. It's just like hiring someone for any job - they might be a great candidate but if they don't fit in the company culture or if personalities clash, they won't be as effective.
Lastly, you should know that 95% of the work of therapy takes place outside of the therapist's office. You're going to need to be ready to work on things yourself, and don't expect it to be super easy. It'll take work and commitment. Don't get discouraged if just talking to someone an hour a week doesn't lead to some major breakthrough. They'll help you with strategies to use, but the real benefit comes from going out into the world and trying them and learning from experience.
I wish you the best of luck in your cult recovery!
@ Disassociated Lady 2
I am in counseling. I have been for nearly a year. It has helped enormously.
At first my psychologist didn't quite understand, but as soon as I said the word 'cult' she understood then.
Talking to a professional and making sense of everything has been the most important step in me leaving the JWs. It's been hard though,I was a born in, too..and it was painful at times. So be patient. I went one step forward and ten back many times. At times I thought it just wasn't working but I stuck at it and in the end it did.
They don't tell you what to do...as One EyedJoe said, you have to work on things yourself and sometimes you feel discouraged, but keep going.I would say after almost a year, it's only in the last few weeks that I've felt a lot better, a lot calmer.
For me, going to counseling is one of the best things I've ever done.
Great advice from OneEyedJoe.
I went to extensive counseling, but I did not find a "cult expert." To make a long story short, I had unresolved issues concerning a suicide attempt that I thought didn't need addressing because "Jehovah" rescued me and gave me purpose in life and YADDA YADDA. So I got depressed when, more than 20 years later, that all turned out to be not true. My counselor aided me through my issues and we simultaneously (but mostly after dealing with the 1st issues) dealt with the JW's.
My point is, if a person leaves the JW's, they may have issues- their lifelong beliefs were a lie, they lost family and friends, they feel they wasted their life, etc. A good counselor will help you face your issues. If you are asking about counseling, you probably have issues. If you are distressed by your issues, get to a counselor. If you are not sure about the whole thing, read what OneEyedJoe suggested first.
By personal experience i found that learning as much as you can about their lies, cover ups and false teachings washes away any beliefs i once had. When they're gone the healing can begin. -- Pale.Emperor
My experience was as same as Pale Emperor. Learn a lot about the real true WT history, lies, cover ups, manipulations, their inhumane blood policies and I bet you wouldn't feel anything guilty thereafter. Also, do a lot of research about the Bible also, if you still believe its gods word.
You would end up as a free and happy person.
I go to counseling and have for many years. I mostly go to deal with my bipolar disorder but it has helped me with the loss of my family as well. I think I am pretty much deprogrammed from the JWs as I was really done with it all when I left. It has been challenging and I still am working on my self esteem-it's a slow process for me.
To Pale Emporer " So far i've noticed that those who still feel tied to it or guilty etc are those who still have some belief in the WT teachings."
This is not about still believing their teachings, it is more about the social skills that we were not taught and the biggest problem is JWs are taught to trust no one in the world which can be a huge problem.
When negative people out there in the big wide world discover you were raised as a JW they can also use it against you because they know you lack knowledge of the world and how communities work as we were not allowed to integrate into them.
Thank you for your comment One Eye Joe and the book recommendations, it was all very helpful and I will look into those publications. :-) x
Thank you for all your comments they have been helpful :-) x