About

After twenty years of private practice as a licensed psychotherapist, Bonnie Zieman is recently retired. As both a therapist and a former, born-in Jehovah’s Witness, Bonnie has the skills, knowledge, education and experience which she uses to help survivors of coercive-control groups recover from mind-control, manipulation, deception and abuse. Bonnie is the author of the following books:

Education & Experience:  Bonnie has a Masters of Education degree (M.Ed.), a Graduate Diploma in Education & Training of Adults, and has completed extensive training in both Gestalt and Psychosynthesis therapies. She has also completed both levels of training in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) therapy and in Psychotraumatology and Crisis Intervention for Post-Traumatic Stress. Bonnie is a multi-disciplinary  psychotherapist using a variety of approaches, such as Existential, Humanist, Cognitive/Behavioral, Psychodynamic, and EMDR in her work with clients. Bonnie also brings this knowledge, training and experience to her writing about healing from the after-effects of being in and then leaving any high-control group.

34 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi Bonnie – I found your website very informative! I work for production company called Leftfield Entertainment and we are working on a compelling new docu-series looking to shine a light on the dangers of cults and organizations that encourage cult-like behavior. We’re looking for therapists, psychologists and counselors who have experience treating young adult survivors of these groups. I’d love to tell you more about the project and see if you might be interested yourself or know of people that might be interested. Feel free to contact me at molly(dot)tom(at)leftfieldpictures(dot)com. Thanks in advance! Best, Molly

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  2. Bonnie…I happened to stumble across your books on Amazon and ordered them. Anxious to get them tomorrow and start “healing”. Born and raised as a JW and disfellowshipped 6 years ago has made me a wreak. Divorced of a 18 yr marriage with 3 children. 2 daughters are baptized and have had nothing to do with me the past 6 yrs. I get my son every other week(per divorce), Judge gave ex custody of all 3 as the religion provided a more stable enviornment for the kids. It devasted me. All family and friends i’ve ever known..gone. Remarried a wonderful man last year. Things are great but the emotional effect leaving the religion has me a mess. Glad i found your books and am looking forward to the healing & moving forward process. Thanks again!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Tamara. You have really been put through a terrible ordeal by an organization that has no qualms about tearing families apart. While no book can eliminate the pain of being ostracized by your children, I feel confident that you will acquire tools that will help you manage the emotional challenges and pain you face. Wish you all the best!

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      • Dear Bonnie,

        I am a retired lawyer on Sweden,
        as well as a newly exit-JW.
        Despite having been of zelous member of the organisation for almost 40 years, half time as an high, I have made up my mind never ever to return.

        Besides the fact that your books on the subject of exiting cults is of major interest for ex-JWs as well as for psychoterapeuts, I do have some vital points to discuss with you.
        Therefore I would like to have a private contact with you. So please send med an email to confirm.
        Kind regards,
        Ingemar

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  3. I can not express enough gratitude for sharing your story. The largest residual effect of leaving the JW cult is isolation and a lack of belonging. When I left, the internet was in it’s developing stages, and I spent years re-building without a community to commiserate and heal with. When I discovered your books, I re-visited my trauma, hearing your story. You confirmed so many suspicions regarding illness, repression, emotional abuse, etc. that I always knew, but couldn’t put into certain terms. We need each other, and voices like yours, to heal. Thank you so much Bonnie.

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    • Margo – You are SO welcome. Warms my heart to hear that my books have affirmed what you already knew about the devastating effects of all the deception, betrayal and coercion we experienced in a cult. And, yes, it is wonderful to have access to an ever-growing, worldwide community of cult survivors. Thank you for this encouraging comment!

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  4. Bonnie,
    My wife and I just took placement of 3 foster siblings that we intend to adopt. All 3 were in separate foster homes. The 8 year old girl was in the home of a JW for approximately 1 year. She was instructed to ask us not to take away 3 JW books that were included with her possessions. We knew that it wasn’t the time to remove them. Are there are signs we should watch for? Would an 8 year old girl really see a difference between JW and church?

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    • Hi Richard,
      My guess is that, for now, she may have an emotional attachment to the books – but probably not to the contents (dogma) of the books. New people, including children, who attend the JW meetings are greeted with what is called “love-bombing” and she may have felt more acceptance and ‘love’ in that organization that she had ever experienced in her little life. I would not make a big issue about the books as you indicate you are already aware. I would just make sure she feels loved and accepted and forms a bond with you and your family which will ultimately take precedence over previous, briefly formed attachments and loyalties. As well, I would be careful about JWs trying to insinuate their way into her new life with you and your family. All the best to you and your growing family!

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  5. I’ve had many years of experience in a religious group colloquially known as the 2 X2s, the Friends or the Truth. I wondered if you’re familiar with the group? If so, how would you suggest helping a former member of this group?

    Please advise – many thanks,

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    • Hi Cory,
      No, I’m not familiar with the group. Since I know nothing about the person or the group or the circumstances, there is not much I can say here. I would recommend they read my book, “The Challenge to Heal After Leaving A High-Control Group”. There is a lot of good information in it.

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    • Tiffany – I’m sorry I am not acquainted with any psychologists in your area. You can still have a great result working with any experienced psychologist – especially if you share my new book, “Cracking the Cult Code for Therapists: What Every Cult Victim Wants Their Therapist to Know” with the psychologist.

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  6. Bonnie is this book Cracking the Cult Code for Therapist helpful for counselors working with clients who are still actively practicing as a Jehovah Witness?

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  7. I just read “Exiting the JW” today and I will use some of the tools mentioned to cope with my departure. I have been inactive over 10 years and basically stuck in a box. I struggle with depression and anxiety and I think this is one reason I have not been able complete weight loss program. I will start a diet and a few months into a program I am down in the dumps again. So, my brain just keeps going back to my bad experiences as a JW. So, I will be working hard on writing in a journal daily to minimize my bad thoughts to increase positivity and imagination. Thanks for your help.

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  8. My son died in 2014. Now that I’m out. I don’t know where to turn to to find where my son is. Sorry for the hard hit.

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  9. This has been one of the most challenging issues for every human that has ever lived on planet Earth. Many turn to religions to find the answer. But as you found out – to have “the answer” you have to submit to their controls. The existential realities of life are something each human must grapple with. We must all wrestle with mortality, loss, aloneness, meaninglessness, etc. This is how we grow and mature. There are no easy answers. There certainly is a part of your loved one that remains alive in your heart when you remember them. As for any other answers – each of us has to find our own. It is emotional work. In a cult, all the answers are provided and we don’t learn how to grapple with difficult issues. Now you are free to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.

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    • Thank you. I have 2 therapist. One that gives me my meds. She has a kider approach like you just did. My regular talk therapist is male. I have trouble connecting. I just realized that now. I suppose my male dominated world had come to an end. Where’s Gloria Steinem? LOL. Thanks again.

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  10. Hello, just discovered your web site. My adult son removed himself from my life for 18.5 years, my only child and he has one child my only grandchild. Until about a year ago I not seen my grandchild since the age of 2.5, now she is 22, my son 50 years old. My husband connected with my grandchild on FB and she had “no idea who I was or that I was existed”. A tough sentence that made my heart and soul bleed with pain. When all this started in 1999, I found a psychologist and a psychiatrist and spent many, many hours with them over the decision my son reached to keep me out of his and my grandchilds life. Now retired I can no longer afford thousands of dollars each month for mental health care. I am seeking a psychologist that has some experience with what I am experiencing. Now that they are extremely ever so slightly in my life again, I have all the old feelings of “why, who, what for”. I was raised Roman Catholic, my son as well. All this JW actions and deeds to me with my Catholic cap on my head screams “EVIL”. I live in Arizona. Any direction or referral to me for the Sedona, Arizona area would be gratefully appreciated.

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    • I’m sorry to hear all you have endured. You may find some help in the growing field called “parental alienation”. Google that term to discover resources that could prove helpful. As well, when searching for a therapist ask them if they have any experience dealing with parental alienation and/or ostracism. Check out my new book “SHUNNED: A Survival Guide” for easy ways to calm and soothe your inevitable emotional reactions to being cut out of your children and grandchildren’s’ lives.

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  11. Here’s this website, but …Where is your office phone number? How does one connect with you? I have been told by many ex-JW community leaders that I have a compelling story and have been invited to be on TV. I was wondering if you would be interested in helping me write the story together. It would take someone like you that was in the JW’s and understands child sexual abuse and extreme undue influence.
    MT

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    • MT – As this site and my books clearly state, I am retired. I purposely do not provide my phone number because I cannot possibly meet the innumerable requests of people from all around the globe and would not have a life if I had to respond to them all. I have poured hours (years!) of my life and energy into writing six books to help with recovery from high-control situations trusting that that would be the best way to contribute to the recovery of thousands of people exiting cults. All professional therapists (even those who do some work when retired) charge for consultations – unless they make a choice in a particular circumstance to volunteer their time or to work pro bono – but that is the therapists choice and generally the exception not the rule. I wish you the very best in all your endeavors.

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  12. Just ‘re read the excellent shunned as an ex elder of over 20 years who has not seen his three daughters in over 5 years or his grandson ( ever ) it’s unfortunately all to familiar
    I read Doctor Richard carlsonns book on stop thinking and start living and found it to be to be an invaluable resource and just wo dered if you could recommend something in a similiar vein
    May I also express my thanks and keep up this most priceless work kind regards Garry

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    • So good to hear you are free Garry. So sorry, however, to hear you are shunned by your children. Thank you for your kind words. Books I love related to moving away from the suffering thinking can cause are: “The Untethered Soul: A Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael A. Singer, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. You can also check out books by Elizabeth Lesser and Pema Chodron. Wishing you all the best …

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  13. Dear Bonnie,
    I’m also a survivor of leaving and on to a life of acceptance and unconditional love. I’ve done a lot of research on the human brain, our sociology, healing and so forth, so I do not feel lost within myself. However, through trying to understand why these groups exist and function, I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around a logical conclusion. What is the benefit of running such an organization? Some say the top echelons have access to the money, but I don’t see that somehow–comfort, yes, wealth, no; and it’s not like there are that many at the top who would be secreting away some retirement home somewhere anyway. I just don’t think it’s money exploitation. If not, then why continue with it all? What is the point of leading people down such a path? Because they have to be part of that path too. Yes, I know some actually believe it, but I know many do not. I would appreciate your experienced opinion. Thank you, BB

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    • Thank you for your comment and question BlueBell. I’m sure the members of the governing body and those who work directly under them in JW dot org were, at one time, true believers themselves. However, with all they know now and all the dissembling they have done to survive, it is hard to imagine that they truly believe in their prophecies, timelines, edicts etc. What keeps them going imho is the seduction of power over 8,000,000 people. Having millions believe you are the spokespersons for God Almighty must be hard to resist for certain narcissistic personalities. Then there are the perks of not having to find yourself at loose ends having to find a way to support oneself in the style to which they have become accustomed, etc. etc. Each will have their own unique motivations and rationales, but I do believe that power to interpret, manage, direct, accept, reject, etc. is the prime motivator.

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  14. Hi Bonnie,
    I am in an unique situation. I have never been and never will be a JW (“just wacked”) as I like to call it. However my husband was born and raised in to this terrible, sickening, and controlled environment. He silently exited about 6 years ago. With that being said, his parents are still very active. They didn’t shun him or his sister for silently leaving. Meaning they never confronted their parents about not being a part of it. They simply just don’t talk about it in a negative way. They try to keep the peace with their parents. My husband’s mom is completely obsessed with it. A little back ground. His mom was raised as a catholic and his dad was raised as a baptist. They became JW’s in there late 40’s when they had their daughter who was 1 and then had my husband 3 years later . My husband knew nothing other than the cult life. My husband is now 44 and doesn’t go (only on the memorial), because his parents guilt him in to it. He doesn’t believe and he hasn’t since he was a kid. He knew things didn’t make sense. He didn’t tell me he was an ex JW until we had been dating for a year and I started questioning why I couldn’t be around “ his friends” or family. He was trying to silently exit but he didn’t want me to know. Yes, I know I should have probably ran at that point but I had known him for 8 years casually so we were friends. I had no idea, because he was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know. He would even duck in the car when he was young so the neighbor kids wouldn’t see him being forced to go to the hall on a school night for hours. So after all of this, my issue is he rides the fence to please his parents because honestly he is still being controlled by them! He is so scared to live his life freely and it absolutely breaks me! It has affected who I am because I feel I have to hide who I am in fear of it affecting him negatively with his parents and other JW’s. His mom constantly says things to me, trying to push me into it. Making me watch videos, sending me pamphlets, going as far as reading “the talk” in a car ride where she knows I can’t escape ( having tears streaming down my face). I struggle with this because my husband doesn’t want to upset her so he sits in silence knowing it is affecting me. It’s like a loyalty thing and I love his parents but they still have control over him and it is causing so much heartache and pain for me. Not knowing where I fit in anymore. I was in a badly controlled relationship for many years and when I got out. I never imaged I would be sucked in to an even bigger controlled situation in an entirely different way. I don’t know if a book will help explain any of this or if counseling would help. I just don’t know, but what I do know is I can’t keep feeling trapped in a religion I never have been or will be a part of but yet I am! Confusing and so frustrating. I have spent years researching and asking a million questions. I absolutely am sick about it and how it has and still does affect my husband and now me. He says he doesn’t want to be a part of it, yet he is still very much committed to pleasing his parents. I will use this as an example. They are taught to only congregate together, not with us worldly people. I live in Oklahoma so say a tornado came through and wiped out some houses. The JW’s would only help their people! They would walk right by worldly people and help their own. This is how I feel at times in my life. His loyalty is still being controlled because that is all he has ever known.

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    • I thought I already replied and posted a comment, but it has not appeared. So here goes again: I am very sorry for what you are experiencing. It must feel dreadful to realize that to be with the man you love you will be governed by his fears and even by his parents dogma. Since you cannot control or change your husband nor his parents, this becomes your problem (as you realize). You have to assess your values/priorities. If love comes before all you will probably stay with your husband and put up with the issue. If freedom from control and freedom to live your life fully is your top value/priority then you may have to consider leaving the relationship. Perhaps therapy could help you sort out your priorities, explain your angst to your husband, build the strength you need to stand up to /him/them, or leave. Perhaps therapy for your husband would help him to realize how fear-based he is, how to manage his fears, how to challenge the beliefs that drive his fears, and how to build the ego-strength to stand up for himself and for you. I wish you the best. Bonnie

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  15. I am a therapist myself and came upon your website while helping to look for a therapist in the sth Florida area for my wonderful daughter-in-law who was disfellowshipped from JW soon after revealing to her family that she was in a relationship my son. (She hid it from her family for many years in dread of losing her mother, which did happen.) She and my son are are happily married, but she is still suffering from the trauma. I am so very thankful for the wealth of information on your site that I will pass along to her, your responsiveness to posts and your books (which I will purchase for her). Thank you so much for leaving a legacy that we can still access while you enjoy your retirement! (And if you know any therapists in the sth Fl area or that do virtual, I’m all ears!)

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    • Thank you for your comment and kind words, Sheila. It has to be a challenge for families who embrace an ex-JW into their fold to discover all they still endure because of their former affiliation. I do not know of any therapists in South Fla. but since your DIL is considering working virtually it probably does not matter where the therapist lives. I can recommend one (ex-JW herself) based in Wisconsin: Emily Boettcher who can be reached at Emilyboettcher@icloud.com. Wish you all, all the best, Bonnie.

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