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The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), formerly the American Family Foundation, describes itself as an "interdisciplinary network of academicians, professionals, former group members, and families who study and educate the public about social-psychological influence and control, authoritarianism, and zealotry in cultic groups, alternative movements, and other environments."

The current executive director is psychologist Michael Langone. The ICSA currently provides education and assistance regarding groups they identify as cults. It publishes the journal Cultic Studies Review.


ICSA began in 1979 as the American Family Foundation (AFF). It was founded by Kay Barney, the retired Raytheon International Affairs Director,[1] whose daughter had become involved with the Unification Church. Barney wished to address the field professionally and scientifically and so founded AFF as a non-profit tax-exempt organisation for research and education.[2] It was directed by a Board of directors of which Barney was part.

Initially, nearly everybody who contacted AFF for help did so because he/she had a child involved in a group the parent was concerned about. AFF's role was to bring these parents into contact with helping professionals, increasing numbers of whom became interested in and/or involved with AFF as time passed.[3]

The AFF received funding from the Bodman and Achelis Foundations and the Scaife Family Foundation of Richard Mellon Scaife.[4] The Scaife Family Foundation has given over a half million dollars to the AFF.[5]

In 1980/81 AFF joined forces with John Gordon Clark, a Harvard psychiatrist who had undertaken research in the field of New Religious Movements, and his team, to which Michael Langone belonged.

In 2004, the organization took the name International Cultic Studies Association, "to better reflect the organization's focus and increasingly international and scholarly dimensions".[6]


Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., Executive Director of the ICSA, states that "A cult is a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leader, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community...Although many cult members eventually walk out on their own, many, if not most, who leave cults on their own are psychologically harmed, often in ways they do not understand. Some cult members never leave, and some of these are severely harmed. There is no way to predict who will leave, who won’t leave, or who will be harmed."[7]

Assistance and education

The ICSA offers assistance and education relating to such groups:

  • It offers assistance for "those who have been adversely affected by a cultic experience or who seek to help others or who are simply interested in the subject.[8] This assistance includes an information service for families, clergy, students, and professionals.
  • It offers "education" on the subject of cults.[9][10]
  • It publishes the online scholarly journal Cultic Studies Review [11]
  • It maintains an electronic library on the Internet with information on groups and issues regarding psychological manipulation and abuse. There is also an online archive offering abstracts of all articles of the Cultic Studies Review.
  • It conducts annual conferences for professionals and workshops for families, former members and mental health professionals.

Margaret Singer Award

In 2004, the International Cultic Studies Association created the Margaret Singer Award in her honor. Philip Elberg received the award in 2004 for "his work in advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence".[12] Arnold Markowitz received the award in 2006, for "26 Years of Helping Families and Ex-members".[13]

Executive staff and boards

Executive staff

Notable members of the International Cultic Studies Association include[14]:

Board of directors

Some of the previous notable board members of the AFF have included Dr. Louis Jolyon West and Margaret Singer.

Present notable people on the ICSA Board of Directors include:[15]


Executive advisory board

Notable members of the Executive Advisory Board of the ICSA include:[16]

See also


External links

Media/Press mention

fr:International Cultic Studies Association

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