APn 03/24 0139 Satanism Treatment Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserv
APn 03/24 0139 Satanism Treatment Copyright, 1990. The
Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By CHARLES J. GANS
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO (AP) -- At his parents' home, Mike painted his
room black, decorated it with black candles and an altar,
and put up obituaries and Satanic symbols on the walls.
He began driving recklessly, drinking heavily,
experimenting with marijuana and threatening his parents.
That's when Mike ended up in one of the nation's first
treatment programs aimed at weaning disturbed teen-agers
"At the time, Satanism seemed to have, for Mike, a lot of
answers that he couldn't find elsewhere," said Michael
Weiss, a psychologist who specializes in treating
adolescents. "It gave him the sense that he could control
"Now that he can find other ways to feel good and have
some sense of purpose ... he seems increasingly willing to
put aside any Satanic influence," said Weiss, of Hartgrove
Hospital on Chicago's North Side.
"He successfully went through the in-patient program and
at this point is continuing in treatment on an outpatient
basis with individual therapy and also some family therapy.
To date no major crises and no return to any satanic
involvement, that we're aware of at least."
Mike -- not his real name -- is among about a half dozen
youths, ranging from ages 14 to 17, who've received
treatment or are undergoing therapy at Hartgrove's Center
for the Treatment of Ritualistic Deviance.
The center, attached to the hospital's adolescent unit,
began receiving patients in October. The in-patient program
lasts four to eight weeks, and involves individual as well
as group therapy.
Most patients are admitted voluntarily based on referrals
from mental health workers, police and parents.
Weiss said it's still too early to determine the success
"We didn't know what to expect ... but I'm pleased with
the way things are right now," he said. "We're certainly
finding that we can work with these kids and their
A similar program exists at Denver's Bethesda PsychHealth
System. And Hartgrove has received inquiries from hospitals
in Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin interested in starting
their own Satanism treatment programs, said social worker
"I definitely see the problem as growing," said Trahan,
who's been researching satanic beliefs for three years and
was contracted to set up Hartgrove's center.
"The factors that seem to be adding to a growth of the
occult don't seem to be going away -- a breakdown in family,
an abandonment of traditional values, resistance towards
traditional religious beliefs, and an increasing number of
youths who feel both alienated and powerless over their
lives and future," Trahan said.
"So many kids are feeling like they're ... not going to
get their needs met using traditional means so they're
looking for alternatives ... and there are many destructive
alternatives" such as street gangs, neo-Nazi groups, drugs
and Satanism, Trahan said.
There has been a marked increase in the number of young
people involved in Satanism, said Cynthia Kisser, executive
director of the Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network, a
non-profit organization that has 30 volunteer chapters
around the country.
Two years ago, the network got only one or two calls a
month regarding Satanism. Now, there are as many as 300 a
month, Ms. Kisser said.
Weiss cautions that just because parents find that a
teen-ager is into heavy metal music or wearing Satanic
symbols, it doesn't mean he's a candidate for Hartgrove's
"Kids are admitted because they are having emotional or
behavioral problems ... coupled with involvement in occult
and Satanic beliefs," he said.
Some warning signs include a sudden drop in school
grades, withdrawal from the family, increasing drug or
alcohol use and increasingly aggressive behavior, Trahan
Satanic beliefs often can make traditional treatment
approaches unsuccessful because a teen-ager can use the
occult as a defensive mechanism, Weiss said.
Trahan said staff members are advised not to react with
shock or fear to Satanic beliefs because this would only
encourage the patient to believe in the power of the occult.
About 35 to 40 hospital staff members -- psychiatrists
and psychologists, physical and recreational therapists,
social workers, teachers and nurses -- are involved in the
program and have received special training.
Trahan said the program doesn't have anything in common
with deprogramming -- the radical therapy used to break some
youths away from cults that use psychological manipulation
to gain members.
"We help them identify constructive alternatives. That's
not brainwashing," Trahan said.
Said Weiss: "Our overall goal is to have a kid walk out
of here who is going to be able to adapt to the world and
live a reasonable, safe and sane life."
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