Charismatic religious sects and psychiatry: an overview

Am J Psychiatry. 1982 Dec;139(12):1539-48. doi: 10.1176/ajp.139.12.1539.


Phenomena associated with contemporary charismatic religious sects raise questions about the combined impact of group influence and intensely held beliefs on group members' psychological functioning. The author considers the stages of membership in these sects, with emphasis on psychiatric aspects of conversion, long-term membership, and leaving. He discusses options for psychiatric intervention, including psychotherapy, conservatorships, and deprogramming. Systems theory is used to provide a psychological model for the relationship between group influence in these sects and current conceptions of individual psychopathology and normal adaptation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Feedback
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Models, Psychological
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Systems Theory