Noted psychologist and cult expert Paul Martin, 63, passed away after an 8-month battle with leukemia on August 14, 2009.
Dr. Martin (photo right) was the founder and director of the Wellspring Retreat in Albany, Ohio; the only licensed mental health facility exclusively devoted to the rehabilitation of former cult members in the United States.
Since its inception in 1986 Wellspring has helped more than 1,000 clients through its residential treatment program and countless others through educational outreach.
Dr. Martin was the son of Rev. Paul and Esther Martin both now deceased who served churches in Athens, Ohio. He is survived by his wife, Barbara of 42 years and his son, Timothy Paul, now a senior at Ohio University in Athens. Also surviving are his siblings: Miriam, of Olathe Kansas, Lois of Crossville Tennessee, and Stephen of Albany.
Paul and Barbara Martin worked together tenaciously and selflessly often struggling to make Wellspring a reality and keep it going.
The Martins devotion and dogged determination came from the special understanding and commitment they shared as former “cult” members themselves. Paul and Barbara were once actively involved in the Great Commission International, led by Jim McCotter.
One of Dr. Martin’s last clients said, “I knew…he was not feeling well, but he never complained nor missed a session. I can honestly say that the two weeks I spent at Wellspring changed my life.”
An early client noted, “I was fortunate to work with Paul. The world is a better place because of his contributions to helping former cult members recover from their traumas. He was a kind, devoted, caring, wise man, and I will always be grateful for his help during my time of need.”
The mother of one cult survivor that Wellspring served last summer said, “I just will never understand why such a wonderful healing man as Dr. Martin should have to be taken from us.”
Paul Martin received his BA and MA in Experimental Psychology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (1968-1971.) He also obtained an MA in Humanities from Western Kentucky University in 1977 and his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in Counseling in 1983.
Dr. Martin also did theology course-work at Princeton University and Nazarene Seminary.
Paul was the pastor at a campus church in Kansas City for 7 years. He was also instrumental in seeing that a freedom of religion case was pursued all the way to the Supreme Court, setting a legal precedent (Widmar vs. Vincent).
He worked as a college professor for 5 years at Geneva College in Pennsylvania. And also as a behavioral psychologist at Echoing Meadows in Athens for more than twenty years.
Paul Martin authored the book, “Cult-Proofing Your Kids,” published 15 scholarly articles, and presented over 60 workshops/seminars at a variety of professional conferences. He was often interviewed by local, national and international news media from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kansas City Star and CBS “48 Hours” to Tokyo Broadcasting.
He served as an expert witness in 29 court cases, offering testimony regarding the role of coercive persuasion commonly called “brainwashing” as a cause of behavioral changes. This included such hi-profile cases as the Muhammad/Malvo the so-called “DC sniper” trial and the prosecution of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, where he testified about recruitment practices.
Dr. Martin was the recipient of the John G. Clark Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Cultic Studies in 1993. In 2006 he received the Herbert L. Rosedale Award “in recognition of leadership in the effort to preserve and protect individual freedom.” Both awards were from the American Family Foundation, now known as the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA).
Chinese scholars that benefited from Paul Martin’s expertise offered their condolences to ICSA, where he once served as a board member. “Dr. Martin’s death is not only an imponderable loss to Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, but also to Cultic Studies in the world. We will miss his extraordinary knowledge and sagacity, his compassionate support of former cult members, and his warm contributions to the spiritual retrieval of human beings,” they said.
A client of Wellspring during its first five years remembered, “Paul was a 1-in-a-million kind of person. Totally himself all the time: honest, direct, intelligent and funny — but always with such never-ending compassion for cult survivors. I will forever reflect on him for the incredibly special contributions he made in his lifetime to this world. We are all so blessed to have known him. Rest in peace, Paul. We will always celebrate your life.”
Another Wellspring client simply said, “What he has left, those he has helped directly and indirectly will honor his name for a very long time.”
Despite all his accomplishments Paul was a humble man. His greatest love remained his wife and son.
Note: CultNews (Rick Ross) had a long-standing professional relationship with Paul and Barbara Martin that stretched back to the early beginnings of Wellspring. Paul had an infectious smile and a twinkle in his eye when he joked. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone, with the exception of cult leaders that hurt people.