Dr. Marlene Winell, founder and director of, is the leading psychologist in religious trauma syndrome. The following resources are offered by Dr. Winell to assist you in your learning.

Leaving the Fold: Chapter 1

The Recovery Process

Breaking away from your faith has had an impact on your life, and probably a profound one. You may be feeling confused, guilty, empty, or bitter. You may be depressed about life or scared of the future. Perhaps you have trouble connecting with other people and life "in the world."

You are not alone in your experience. Many, many others have been through this and gone on to reconstruct their lives in meaningful and satisfying ways. While the experience of losing your religion is often painful and confusing at first, there is much to be learned and ultimately a profound maturity to be gained. This book can provide some assistance in your recovery by clarifying the issues involved, offering ideas for healing, and suggesting directions for further growth.

In general, leaving a cherished faith is much like the end of a marriage. The symptoms of separation are quite similar-grief, anger, guilt, depression, lowered self-esteem, and social isolation. But whereas help for divorced people is readily available, little if any assistance is available to help you to leave your religion. The familiar sources of church support are no longer there, and family members still in the fold may actually shun you. Secular friends and even therapists may not understand what you have been through. Part of the difficulty is the anxiety, the terror you may feel about having to go it alone. After having been born again, leaving your faith can feel like being lost again.

There are many issues to work through-thoughts and feelings to process, new friends to make, new beliefs to nurture, new ways to live. Because your religion took care of so much, defining and dictating reality in so many ways, you are now faced with largely reconstructing your life. Recovery begins with deciding to take that responsibility. This may seem overwhelming, but the benefits are indisputable. You get your life back on your terms. Indeed, the journey out can be thrilling as old fears and doubts give way to new and healthy possibilities

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant, educator, and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her background includes 28 years of experience in human services, in both community and academic settings.

She holds a doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University, and specializes in communications training for couples. She is the author of "Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion".

Her contact information:

  • (510) 292-0509