When is a “support” group not a good thing – when it reinforces a dangerous belief

A support group for alien abductees is meeting in the U.K. to provide mutual support for each other. Not only do they have a troublesome relationship with a society that might call them “crazy”, but they may be causing more harm to each other even with good intentions. Doubtful News contacted a volunteer who helps UFO claimants in the U.S. about the harm such “support” groups can have and what are better alternatives.

‘We just want respect’: Inside Britain’s first ‘support group’ for UFO victims.

People who have befriended aliens, had hybrid alien children, and developed eerie powers of prophecy after taking rides on alien spacecraft are among the star speakers who will take the stage at Britain’s only “support group” for those who claim to have met aliens.

More than 1,000 shy ‘contactees’ will meet at AMMACH in Hastings, on the 31st May, including people whose abductions made headline news, and a man who claims to have predicted 9/11 after a “close encounter” with an alien entity.

This article is a bit strange. What should we think about people who claim to have abduction experiences? Is there anything that can help them even if we don’t believe their story literally? As the piece suggests, a group of experiencers will have a tendency to simply reinforce each others’ belief. That’s not a positive step. The initial smart step for any abduction experiencer is to get their primary care provider involved as a matter of safety and to make sure this is not a medication or health issue.

Kitty Mervine, who, along with a group of volunteer therapists, has worked with alien abduction experiencers in the US for over 8 years believes such groups can be dangerous for the abduction experiencer. (In the US, the term chosen by those that believe they have had an alien abduction is “Abduction experiencer”). She told Doubtful News, “Many of those that believe they have been abducted by aliens can be helped by a quick check-in with their personal physician. The first thing anyone thinking they have been abducted by aliens needs to do is go over their list of medications. Medications with the side effect of “lucid dreaming” are especially guilty of creating a false sense of abduction. These include many of the newer sleep medications. Also there are many illnesses, some serious and some not, that need to be ruled out.”

She knows many people that have benefited greatly from therapy and medical intervention. “Imagine living with the belief that you have been abducted by aliens, imagine this happens to you multiple times. The trauma and fear can result in a person suffering from many of the same symptoms as PTSD. These people need to work closely with the medical field, not other believers. It’s a matter of not only safety, making sure you do not have a tumor or other serious illness, but also finding a way to make sure this does not take over your life.”

Very few alien experiencers are actually lying for attention, she finds. “Many people contact me because they are afraid of being considered ‘crazy” or are afraid of being ‘committed’ to a mental institution,” Kitty explains. “I always assure them that the medical professionals I have worked with would never make fun of anyone reporting such an experience; helping them is a priority. People are not locked up for simply claiming to be abducted by aliens.”

Kitty also has observed that alien abduction experiencers may be prime targets for exploitation by those that will look for “implants”, and by therapists without proper credentials that simply exploit the abduction experiencer for profit. “Even if most people continue their belief in alien abduction,” she says, “they feel much better” when they have support of trained therapists. But it’s important to seek QUALIFIED help.

Can we prove these persons have not been abducted by aliens? No. But regardless what happened to them, the person would be better helped treating the trauma of such an experience, than attending a group that simply reinforces their fears and terror.


Kitty Mervine runs Yankeeskeptic and can be contacted at fairlytold@gmail.com

  22 comments for “When is a “support” group not a good thing – when it reinforces a dangerous belief

  1. Kitty
    April 25, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Thanks Sharon for highlighting a problem with almost all paranormal beliefs. If you hang around others that have the same belief, it goes from paranormal to normal. Much like belonging to a religion, having a supportive group makes it even harder to break away from a mistaken belief. Almost all abduction experiencers are truly nice people, but are often very protective of their abduction experience. Much like seeing Nessie or a UFO, while partly terrifying there is also something special about being chosen to be abducted. An abductee has to make the choice to accept the reality, accept his brain was fooled, and that they are just like everyone else. That can be very hard to do indeed. Often the best one gets is “I was abducted by aliens, but they don’t do it anymore.” (that’s a win).

  2. terry the censor
    April 25, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Support groups for AA is a terrible idea. Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs were self-anointed group therapists, though their agenda was to prove an alien presence, and they had no therapeutic training whatsoever (one was a painter, the other a historian).

    The book “Abduction Enigma” by Randle, Estes and Cone, discusses the dangers of group therapy for AA claimaints, especially as done by amateurs (Hopkins and Jacobs get scorched in the book). The authors were otherwise pro-UFO but highly skeptical of abductions (a UFO investigator, a UFO doc maker, and a psychologist). Their warnings agreed with those of Loftus and Ketcham In “The Myth of Repressed Memory.”

  3. Brian
    April 25, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I have seen what could only be described as an alien craft. Too damned close to be mistaken as a plane, and the thing hovered to boot. And then, the pilot turned on the cabin light. My then g/f flatly pointed out ‘oh, look. An alien.’ We had NO trauma, fear, or anything else bad. Hell, even the dog didn’t care. It hovered over us for something like 5 minutes, lit up the road, itself, and the trees. It suddenly disappeared. I was grinning from ear to ear for days. I made a 3d model of the pilot, too. Scaly snake like skin, cone head (think Peruvian skulls with the deformed heads), well built, muscular body (chest up).

    Wife isn’t prone to delusions, hallucinations, etc. She makes Spock look like an emotional train wreck sometimes. I am hard to convince of much… I got out of Christianity some time back. This experience was anything but traumatic. I was hollering about us needing time to pack, for crying out loud!

    Take my story for what you will. Notice I don’t have special knowledge, a message for humanity, or try to telepathically hail aliens. I am not ‘special’, ‘chosen’, etc. I just feel like the luckiest son of a buck for seeing something THAT cool.

    I think these people let their imagination and fears carry them off. I have read stories of people who simply see a light a the sky, and their wheels come off. I can’t explain the abductees stories of being examined and having samples taken, either. I’m not sure we were abducted. If we were, I was probably foaming at the mouth so much to get the hell off this rock, they dumped me back out and ran for the hills. 😀

  4. Indrid Cole
    April 25, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    I had an older brother that was always a little troubled, and later in life had to take anti-psychotic meds. to keep him under control. His passion was hunting raccoons in the Florida everglades at night with specially trained dogs that track and tree the coons for the hunter to shoot. When they finally tree the coon the tone of their bark changes and alerts the hunter to come to their location.
    Anyway, I told you all that to tell you this. A few years after his sudden death at age 44, I was at my 25th high school reunion, standing at the bar talking to a couple old friends when one of them asked me how my brother was doing. They used to hunt together once in awhile, and when I told him he had died he seemed surprisingly devastated to hear about it. After a couple of minutes staring down at his drink he looked me right in the eyes and said, ” I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told another person before in my life.” He then told me how they were sitting in the truck in the middle of the glades one night at about 2 a.m. just listening to the dogs run, when all of a sudden an incredibly bright light shined down from above onto the truck. He said there was no sound whatsoever and that it was so bright you couldn’t look up at it, meanwhile my brother just started laughing hysterically. He said it scared the living s–t out of him and he dove out onto the ground and rolled up under the truck for protection. The next thing he knew, he woke up with the sun shining and they were both sitting normally in the cab of the truck with the dogs all resting in the back.
    This guy had tears in his eyes while telling me the story, and he said he has never been the same since that night. This took place many, many years ago before alien abduction was ever even talked about much and I had never paid any attention at all to anything out of the ordinary like that before. It totally caught me off guard because one minute we’re standing their drinking with the band playing, and then next thing you know I’m watching my friend have a breakdown in the middle of the party. That’s probably what sparked my interest in the paranormal and it could be the answer to my brother’s problems, as it seemed that he had been through it all before.

  5. mud
    April 26, 2014 at 12:47 AM

    Support groups, without someone with real expertice in a position to moderate the group, can actually do more harm than good. My spouse suffered from a chronic illness. She joined an online support group but instead of helping one another cope with the condition, they seem to just to create more symptoms for one another. These new symptoms had no real connection to the illness but the members all assumed they did. My spouse was in a downward spiral so I contacted her doctor and asked about her prognosis. I also asked him about all her ‘new’ symptoms. That’s how I found out about the damage being done by her support group.

  6. Robert Moore
    April 26, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Why not produce these reputed hybrid children for scientific assessment – if proven that would end the marginalised status of abductee claimants and bring such issues out of the shadows and into the world of everyday reality. Would both prove the reality of sentient alien life and UFOs at the same time.

    But, no, this never seems to happen. Yet, if such a degree of objective evidence exists, it would be so easy to prove sceptics wrong on this…

  7. M-K
    April 26, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Much the same happened in the 1990s, with the “satanic panic” and recovered memory movement. People who went to counselors who diagnosed them as being victims of childhood sexual abuse, and directed many to support groups, which reinforced these beliefs. Many who originally went in with complaints of depression, anxiety and eating disorders, (and no memories of abuse) ended up believing that they had multiple personalities and had endured horrific abuse at the hands of satanist cults. Support groups seemed to play a significant role in creating and reinforcing these confabulated memories.

  8. justin
    April 26, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    For arguments sake, lets say some people do get “abducted”. If there were a supposed intelligent extraterrestrial species visiting the earth, then its not so far fetched. Take humans for example. We go out and capture animals of other species all the time for study. Often we release them back. If a another species could make it here from even the closest solar system they would be sufficiently more intelligent then ourselves to look upon us the same as we look at like monkeys, or even apes in the wild. If some type of beings were visiting our planet and have not let themselves be known to humans then most likely they are just scientific observers doing research. Its not beyond the realm of possibility. With our understanding of the universe it seems incredibly unlikely, but it may not be. But I do agree that most are mistaken and need real help from a professional. Thanks y’all

  9. Steve Chaput
    April 26, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    I feel sympathy for those folks who have a sincere belief that they have been ‘abducted’ by aliens. I used to laugh at the whole thing, until a friend of several years “confessed” that she believed she had been abducted possibly several times. As partial evidence she pointed out a small scar on her leg that her parents could not recall her receiving as a child. She also believed she had several experiences of ‘lost time’ where she did not remember hours that had past.

    She was a very, talented artist and computer tech, but did suffer from some other personality disorders. As the only person that she had told about her experiences I never knew how to respond. I do know that she was seeing a therapist at the time, but naturally didn’t not press her to reveal her abductions to him. I now feel that I failed her in some way, but have lost touch with her for over a decade and have no idea if she is still a believer.

  10. Lagaya1
    April 29, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    I agree with you, Robert. Humans aren’t close enough genetically to hybridize with most, if any, current earth animals. How they would hybridize with alien lifeforms is unimaginable.

  11. Ray
    April 29, 2014 at 1:44 AM

    If??? Is this your idea of sound reasoning? You begin with “If there were a supposed intelligent extraterrestrial species visiting the earth…” and then you argue that everything that follows makes sense given the initial “if”. So how about justifying your “if” and THEN proceeding with the rest?

    How about this: IF there’s a giant butt in the sky that sometimes blocks out the Sun, then we have an explanation for why it gets dark at night! You just have to accept the “if” and then everything else falls into place!

  12. Ray
    April 29, 2014 at 1:56 AM

    How would one distinguish this story from a dream? After all, your brother apparently never told this tale to you so he might well have played no role in it. He might well have had no idea that his buddy had the dream at all. Isn’t a dream much more reasonable as an explanation – especially given that everything was normal when he woke up?

    Imagine if every story that people told about aliens, cryptids, ghosts, vampires, etc. were true. The world would be awash with monsters! Yet the vast majority of people never manage to see them. Doesn’t that say something to you?

  13. justin
    April 30, 2014 at 2:51 AM

    People tend to find the answers they want to find. If you believe there are extraterrestrials visiting earth, then all the evidence you find will “to you” support your initial belief. Its the same for people who believe extraterrestrials couldn’t possibly be visiting earth. Odds are there is life outside of our planet. The odds are actually pretty good that there are some species that have been around long enough to developed sufficient technology to make it here. Now, is there evidence for this? Not so far. Do I personally believe this? No. But, being a rational, open minded person I can’t just off handedly discount the possibility. I like do like the emotion based response though. That’s always the first step twords being rational 😉

  14. spot
    May 5, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Two or more people being abducted and having the same repressed memories of it come out during hypnosis is not uncommon. It is the main reason I think there is something to these stories. Not to forget that when people are abducted, they are also missing from their normal environment. Is his sleep paralysis or ambien?

  15. spot
    May 5, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    The last thing abductees want is another person to tell them they had a dream or are out of it. That explains why they feel better when they comfort eachother in support groups. What this article is telling you is that abductees are going straight to support groups, avoiding primary care at all costs. That is simply not true. People who feel having been abducted will first seek out medical and psychiatric reasons before realizing that they are not imagining it and only then will they turn to ufology and support groups.

  16. spot
    May 5, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    The authors were otherwise pro-UFO but highly skeptical of abductions.

    So these people who dont believe it to be possible that aliens abduct people somehow know much more about a phenomenon they dont even believe in than Jacobs and Hopkins, who while not being professionally trained therapists, definitely helped abductees more than any skeptic could.

    How does a surgeon operate if he believes it cannot be done?

  17. May 5, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    There is no good evidence for their claims. An application of skepticism means you look at the evidence. I don’t see documentation that they went missing. They perhaps were just unaccounted for (if at all). You are assuming too much. Typically when these cases are looked into in detail, they fall apart. The facts are not what the person assumes they are.

  18. May 5, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    And you know this how? Anecdotes are not OK. Provide references.

  19. Ray
    May 7, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    But the story says that they didn’t have the same experience so why do you say that they had the same repressed memories? Worse, the brother never related this story so you have to depend on the testimony of only one person. In fact, there’s nothing to refer to as a “common experience” at all. There’s only one story here.

  20. Ray
    May 7, 2014 at 1:22 AM

    How do you know this?

  21. justin
    May 7, 2014 at 2:32 AM

    The emotion? Or the people finding the evidence they wana find? I’ll answer both good sir. As for the emotion, your punctuation, although much better and accurate than mine I’m sure, reminded me of the many emotion based responding text messages I’ve got from one or two or thirty women in the past. Just to be clear, Im not calling you a women, trying to insult you or even to argue. Its just kindof obvious by the way your comment is worded and punctuated that it was an emotional response. It happens. We’re all people. Emotions dictate our lives. Whether we want them to or not. Its inescapable at this point. The second you can find referencez and data on different studies. There is even a word for it. But I’m just an okie, so I don’t know and don’t really wana know at the moment.

  22. Ray
    May 8, 2014 at 12:53 AM

    Let me clarify that my post was misplaced. I was intending to ask that question of ‘Spot’, who claimed, “People who feel having been abducted will first seek out medical and psychiatric reasons before realizing that they are not imagining it and only then will they turn to ufology and support groups.” My post ended up in the wrong place.

    But having said that I have to note how strange was your response to me. Not only did you make no sense but you’ve clearly attempted to psychoanalyze me based upon a simple question, “How do you know this?” Why does my asking that question derive such an emotional response from you? And what punctuation are you referring to? The question mark? Does a question mark actually confuse you so much? How could one respond so emotionally and irrationally to a question mark?

    In closing, not only was your attempt at psychoanalysis embarrassingly wrong, but you never managed to answer the question, anyway.

    P.S. I think you’re just upset because I took you to task in an earlier response.

Comments are closed.