Home / Podcasts / Recovering from Religious Abuse – Reasons for Hope With Dr. Patrick Knapp

Recovering from Religious Abuse – Reasons for Hope With Dr. Patrick Knapp

May 17, 2023

Dr. Patrick Knapp, the founder of Becoming Free, a program designed to help individuals recover from unique harmful religious or spiritual experiences, is here to discuss his experience in an abusive religious group. Dr. Knapp provides hope to those who have shared that experience and to the families of cult members. In addition, he discusses the definition of a cult, why a person becomes involved, and the steps needed to heal. Don’t miss this informative discussion on today’s Beyond the Balance Sheet episode.


  • [02:11] Dr. Knapp defines a religious cult and describes why people are attracted to them.
  • [06:12] Dr. Knapp tells his story of being in a religiously abusive organization.
  • [10:29] Why do people leave or want to leave these abusive organizations?
  • [12:33] Dr. Knapp explains the healing journey for a person leaving the group.
  • [15:23] Do people leaving these groups still want to be connected to the Bible and where they can go for help?
  • [18:08] What advice do you give a family member? Dr. Knapp shares some of the organizations where support is available.


  • It is a slow progression to be manipulated by a cult leader. Often, a person becomes brainwashed.
  • There is hope for a person coming out of a cult. They need to know it’s not their fault, and they need encouragement and hope.
  • Not all cults are like Jonestown. But, unfortunately, people are so susceptible to them because they seem welcoming and can appear to be a good thing.


Beyond the Balance Sheet Website 

Becoming Free Website 


Patrick J. Knapp, Ph.D., Pat’s initial interest in cult recovery stems from his own involvement in a Bible-based group (1970-1984). His M.A. thesis (Fall 2000) was titled: “The Place of Mind-Control in the Cult Recovery Process.” He completed 98 semester hours of doctoral studies in Marriage and Family Counseling (Professional Track), at Gordon-Conwell in Charlotte, NC, with an emphasis on family systems and attachment theory, and completed his doctorate (Ph.D.) at Graduate Theological Foundation (GTF). His doctoral thesis was titled: “A Survey of Religious Abuse and Recovery.” 

He contributed a book chapter on developing support groups from a faith-based perspective for those affected by religiously abusive environments, available under the title: Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working with former members and Families (2017). His first complete book was Understanding Religious Abuse and Recovery: Discovering essential principles for Hope and Healing (2021). Most recently, he co-authored (with his wife, Heidi, CLC) the book chapter “Marital Damage and Recovery Following Religious Abuse” in Wounded Faith: Understanding and Healing from spiritual abuse (2022). 

He and Heidi are professional life-recovery coaches and educators primarily working with those affected by religious or spiritual abuse. They can be reached at becomingfree.org@gmail.com 


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