APn 03/24 0139 Satanism Treatment Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserv

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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 from Satanism. "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 all things." "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 rate. "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 families." 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 Dale Trahan. "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 program. "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 said. 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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