About Dr. Lalich

About Dr. Lalich
Janja Lalich


Dr. Janja Lalich

Janja Lalich, Ph.D. is a researcher, author, and educator specializing in cults and extremist groups, with a particular focus on charismatic relationships, political and other social movements, ideology and social control, and issues of gender and sexuality. She has been a consultant to educational, mental health, business, media, and legal professionals, as well as having worked with current members, former members, and families of members of controversial groups.


A former Fulbright scholar, Dr. Lalich is Professor Emerita of Sociology at California State University, Chico, where in 2007 she was awarded the Professional Achievement Honor. Also, Dr. Lalich is the founder and director of the Center for Research on Influence and Control. She received a B.A. with Honors from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has a Master’s in Human Development and a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California.

Dr. Lalich has written and lectured extensively and is author, coauthor, or editor of numerous books, articles, and chapters. Her most recent book is Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships (Bay Tree Publishing, 2006), a fully-revised and expanded edition of her first book, Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, which has been the number-one book used by former cult members and their friends and families to better understand cult experiences and their consequences. Another of her recent publications is the critically acclaimed Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults (University of California Press, 2004), based on her research on the Heaven’s Gate cult, the group that committed collective suicide in 1997, and her own 10+ years’ experience in a political cult, the San Francisco-based Democratic Workers Party. Most importantly, this book puts forth Dr. Lalich’s “bounded choice” theory, which offers a new approach for understanding the dynamics of “self-sealed” groups and the true-believer phenomenon.

Other works by Dr. Lalich include being coauthor with clinical psychologist Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer of two books: “Crazy” Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? (Jossey-Bass, 1996) and Cults in Our Midst: The Hidden Menace in Our Everyday Lives (Jossey-Bass, 1995); and guest editor of Women Under the Influence: A Study of Women’s Lives in Totalist Groups (a special issue of the Cultic Studies Journal, 1997). Dr. Lalich is a member of the American Sociological Association, the Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Pacific Sociological Association. She serves on the Executive Advisory Board of the International Cultic Studies Association, as well as on the editorial board of its journal, the Cultic Studies Review. Dr. Lalich has appeared on numerous national and local television and radio news programs, such as Meet the Press, NPR’s Morning Edition and To the Best of Our Knowledge, and BBC radio’s Thinking Allowed, and she has been featured in or an adviser to numerous documentaries and programs on the cult phenomenon. She has been interviewed by print media across the nation and worldwide, as well as Internet programs, such as Psychjourney Book Club, Time/CNN Impact and Omni magazine’s LiveScience online.

Dr. Janja Lalich can be reached by email. Send correspondence to: PMB 905, 236 W. East Ave., Ste. A, Chico, CA 95926.