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Steven Hassan PhD

Last name
Hassan PhD

Steven Hassan PhD., MEd. LMHC, NCC (pronounced HASS-en), is an expert on Undue Influence, brainwashing and unethical hypnosis and author of the best-selling book, Combating Cult Mind Control.

He is a licensed mental health professional, cult expert and undue influence expert with professional experience in the United States and abroad including coaching, consulting, speaking, media appearances, activism, writing, researching, teaching, intervention and recovery services, and expert consulting and witness work to assist individuals and families with problems related to undue influence.

 His expertise includes undue influence in cases of destructive one-on-one relationships, families, parental alienation, mini-cults, religious cults, therapy and self-improvement groups, professional abuse, institutional abuse, corporations, multi-level marketing, political groups, human trafficking, hate and violent extremism, and other situations. He writes and speaks out about the importance of viewing terrorist groups as destructive cults. 

 He has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence. With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence by controlling groups and individuals. Steve understands the subject from a unique perspective as both a former cult member who was deprogrammed in 1976 and as a clinical professional who has devoted his life to helping others.

Steven is the Founding Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a coaching, consulting, and training organization dedicated to supporting individuals to have the freedom to think clearly and to freely consider how they want to live their lives. Steven pioneered the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal intervention alternative for families to help cult members. The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult. He is also the creator of the BITE and Influence Continuum models for the assessment of controlling individuals and groups.  

He is the author of several books, book chapters, a peer-reviewed journal article, other articles and blogs. His books are Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults (1988, 1990, 2015, 2018), Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (2000) and Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults & Beliefs (2012, 2013). The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control (2019) is his new book with Simon and Schuster. Steven is a translated author with translated books available in 9 languages. 

He is also the co-developer of Ending the Game, a non-coercive curriculum designed to educate and empower sex trafficking victims to leave pimps and traffickers. 

Steven received his doctorate from Fielding University and did quantitative research on the factors of control that characterize undue influence. His faculty supervisor is Dr. Judy Stevens-Long. Steve Hassan is an active member of The Program in Psychiatry and the Law (PIPATL), a think tank at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Michael Commons, a PIPATL member and research director for the DARE Association, invited Steven to create a DARE division, Freedom from Undue Influence, in order to help facilitate this research. 

Steven’s work has received praise from academic luminaries such as Robert Jay Lifton, Philip Zimbardo, Robert Cialdini, Anthony Pratkanis as well as clinical experts such as Daniel Brown, Judith Herman, Mary McCarthy and others. 

For decades he has shared his knowledge with Boston area graduate school students. Since 2018, he has been a teacher of an elective course for 4th year psychiatry students at the Harvard Longwood Residency Training Program. In 2017, he was the presenter of a Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Grand Rounds: Undue Influence: An Introduction to Destructive Cults, Mind Control, Brainwashing and Deprogramming. In 2016, he was the presenter of a Psychiatry Grand Rounds at Boston University School of Medicine. Since 2016, he has been an Instructor at Trial Advocacy Expert Witness Workshops at Harvard Law School. In 2003, he was the presenter of a Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Grand Rounds. Since 1999, he has been an invited presenter in the course Spirituality, Religion and Psychiatry in the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program. 

Steven travels the United States and abroad to present plenary talks, training workshops and seminars for mental health professionals, educators, state and federal programs, and law enforcement officers, as well as for families of cult members. He has also presented a TEDxBeaconStreet talk.

He is frequently interviewed and cited in popular and academic media. Instructors have used his work as part of their course materials. He has appeared on innumerable television, radio, documentary, and podcast shows. Newspapers, magazines and other media all over the world have sought his expertise. 

Steven is an active advocate for updates to the legal system’s understanding and assessment of undue influence. 

Member of ISH


Selected Publications


Hassan, Steven (2019) The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hassan, Steven (2018) Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults Newton, Massachusetts: Freedom of Mind Press.  

Hassan, Steven (2012, 2013) Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs, Newton, Massachusetts: Freedom of Mind Press

Hassan, Steven (2000) Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves  Somerville, Massachusetts: Freedom of Mind Press. This book has also been published in Chinse, Persian, Polish, and Russian. 

Hassan, Steven  A. (1988,1990). Combatting Cult Mind Control. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press. This book has also been published in French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Slovak, Spanish, and Russian.

Book Chapters

Forthcoming: Hassan, S.; Caven-Atack, J. and Shah, M. (2020). Fringe Actor Terrorism: Societal Influence and Social Media Impact on Violence. In J. Holzer, P. Recupero, P. Gill, and A. Dew. (Ed.), LONE-ACTOR TERRORISM: An Integrated Framework. Oxford University Press USA. 

Hassan, S., and Caven-Atack, J. (2020). Antisemitism in Cult and Hate Groups. In H. S. Moffic, J. Peteet, A Hankir, and M. V. Seeman. (Ed.), ANTI-SEMITISM AND PSYCHIATRY: Recognition, Prevention, and Interventions. Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Hankir, A., and Hassan, S. (2019). Psychological Determinants and Social Influences of Violent Extremism. In S. Moffic, M.D., J. Peteet, M.D., A. Hankir, M.D., and R. Awaad, M.D. (Ed.), ISLAMOPHOBIA AND PSYCHIATRY: Recognition, Prevention, and Treatment. Springer Publishers.

Hassan, Steven. (1994). Chapter 6: Strategic Intervention Therapy. In Shupe, A. & Bromley, D. (Ed.), Anti-cult Movements in Cross-cultural Perspective. New York: Garland

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Hassan, S.A. and Shah, M.J. (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 (2019) 8, 97-107. Elsevier Masson SAS.  

Other Articles

Hassan, Steven (10/13/19). Take It From a Former Moonie: Trump Is a Cult Leader: It might seem an outrageous proposition to compare Donald Trump to a murderous cult leader. And yet there are alarming parallels. The Daily Beast. Available online at

Hassan, Steven (2017) Brainwashing Young People into Violent Extremist Cults, Freedom from Fear magazine of The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (  

Hassan, Steven (1999) Spiritual Responsibility: Cult Awareness  March/April issue of New Age Journal

Hassan, Steven and Surya Das (1996)  Spiritual Responsibility: Avoiding Abuses and Pitfalls Along the Spiritual Path (1996) booklet


Co-developer of Ending the Game with Rachel Thomas, Carissa Phelps and D’Lita Miller–an intervention curriculum for women who have been sex trafficked to understand pimp/ trafficker mind control

Hassan, Steven A. (1984). Exit-Counseling: Working to Undo the Shackles of Cult Mind Control. Reprinted in Cults and Consequences (1988). Los Angeles: Los Angeles Jewish Federation.



Media: interviews, podcast guest appearances, presentations


Email Address
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617 396 4638
Presentations/ teachings

Hypnosis related videos:

International Society of Hypnosis 2012 Bremen, Germany FOM & Strategic Interactive Approach (2:50:51)

International Society of Hypnosis panel on manipulation and self-trance 2012 (2:40:02)

Judith Herman’s Victims of Violence Trauma Seminar Department of Psychiatry: Laura and Steven Hassan 1/16/14 Part1(58:02) 

Part2: Judith Herman’s Victims of Violence Trauma Seminar Department of Psychiatry: Former Client Laura and Steve Hassan 1/16/14 (57:27) [Laura has given permission for mental health professionals to view the unblurred version of her talk. Please contact FOM office for link and password]

Scheflin/Hassan International Cultic Studies Association conference – legal issues of brainwashing and undue influence – July 2012 (1:30:16)


Hypnosis related blogs:

Hypnosis, Guided Meditation, Deep Visualizations–Consumers Beware!

Unethical Use of Covert Hypnosis to Rape