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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 "cults". It publishes the journal Cultic Studies Review.


ICSA began in 1979 as the American Family Foundation (AFF). It was founded by Kay Barney, whose daughter had become involved with the Unification Church. In contrast to many other contemporary groups concerned with cults, Barney wanted to address the field professionally and scientifically and so founded AFF as a non-profit tax-exempt organisation for research and education.[1] 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.[2]

The AFF received funding from the Bodman and Achelis Foundations and the Scaife Family Foundation of Richard Mellon Scaife.[3] The Scaife Family Foundation, has given over a half million dollars to the AFF[4].

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.

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

In 2004, the organization took the name International Cultic Studies Association, "to better reflect the organization's focus and increasingly international and scholarly dimensions"[5].

The Apologetics Study Review describes the ICSA as "the world's largest secular cult information organization."[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 inclues 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, Esq. received the award in 2004 for "his work in advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence"[12]. Arnold Markowitz, M.S.W. received the award in 2006, for "26 Years of Helping Families and Ex-members"[13].

Executive staff and boards

Executive staff

Key staff members of the International Cultic Studies Association[14]:

  • Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., executive director
  • Patrick L. Ryan, Webmaster
  • Robert Schecter, Ph.D., news editor

Board of directors

International Cultic Studies Association's Board of Directors[15] :

  • Philip Elberg, Esq.
  • Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D.
  • Philip Elberg, Esq.
  • Carol Giambalvo
  • Lorna Goldberg, M.S.W.
  • Rosanne Henry, M.A., L.P.C.
  • Alan Scheflin, J.D., LL.M.

Executive advisory board

Executive Advisory Board of the International Cultic Studies Association[16]:

  • Carmen Almendros
  • Jose Antonio Carrobles, Ph.D.
  • Dianne Casoni, Ph.D.
  • Linda J. Dubrow-Marshall, Ph.D.
  • Rod Dubrow-Marshall, Ph.D.
  • Steve Eichel, Ph.D.
  • Jorge Erdely Graham, Ph.D.
  • William Goldberg, M.S.W.
  • Josep Jansa, M.D.

  • Stephen A. Kent, Ph.D.
  • Dave Kleiner
  • Mike Kropveld
  • Janja Lalich, Ph.D.
  • Ron Loomis
  • Arnold Markowitz, C.S.W.
  • F. G. Vaughn Marshall, Esq.
  • Doni Whitsett, Ph.D.


  1. History of the American Family Foundation Cultic Studies Review 1/1, 2002
  2. ICSA E-Newsletter
  3. Sourcewatch. Center for Media and Democracy:'American Family Foundation
  4. American Family Foundation Media Transparency Profile
  5. Cultic Studies: Information about Cults and Psychological Manipulation, Cultic Studies Journal, Web site. retrieved 1/4/07.
  6. About ICSA, The Apologetics Index
  7. Cults Questions and Answers Langone, Michael, 1988
  8. Assistance Cultic Studies: Information about Cults and Psychological Manipulation
  9. Study Guides (Collections Index)
  10. Study Guide: Cults 101 - Getting Started
  11. Cultic Studies Review
  12. Psychological Manipulation, Cultic Groups, and Other Alternative Movements, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, July 14-16, 2005.
  13. Margaret Singer Award – 26 Years of Helping Families and Ex-members: Lessons from the JBFCS Cult Hot-Line and Clinic, Arnold Markowitz, M.S.W., 2006 Conference, Denver, Colorado. International Cultic Studies Association.
  14. Staff, International Cultic Studies Association, 2006.
  15. ICSA Board of Directors, International Cultic Studies Association, 2006
  16. ICSA Executive Advisory Board, International Cultic Studies Association, 2006.

External links

Media/Press mention
fr:American Family Fondation
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