ESAMA started operation in 1976 as an organization of volunteers under the name Alberta Cult Education. They had no official status until 1985 when they became a registered charitable society known as the Edmonton Society Against Mind Abuse 1985 (ESAMA).
The initial founder was a mother whose son fell victim to a high demand/cultic group. She was instrumental in the growth of the society until her retirement in 2011. The original board included: a social worker, nurse, lawyer, research clerk and a business man. Their stated purpose was to promote public awareness about organizations that act to exploit individuals through mind abuse – subversion and control of members’ personalities and behaviors. Awareness was and continues to be spread through all forms of public education, such as workshops, seminars, one-on-one counseling, group work, and through the operation of a 24-hour information/intake line.
ESAMA continued with the dedication of volunteers who devoted countless hours of their own time to helping get the society started. The society didn’t have an office; meetings were held out of a member’s home. Volunteers provided coverage for the 24/7 phone line.
In 1994, ESAMA held a 3 day conference in Red Deer called “Cults: A Mental Health Issue. The society co-sponsored the conference with the Red Deer Regional Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. Funding for the conference was met through donations, as well as volunteered time from various speakers.
In 1996, a follow up conference was held in Red Deer with the same topic as was used at the 1994 conference with a focus on recovery, as well as a half-day workshop on “Cults in the Workplace.” Funding for the conference was through Alberta Mental Health and the Alberta Wild Rose Foundation.
In 1999, a two-day conference was held in Edmonton: “Cults-Families in Crisis. The Need is NOW”. Funding assistance was through donation and speakers volunteering their time.
In 2000, ESAMA made a societies application to AlCB to raise funds to hire staff and carry on the work of the society. They were approved.
In 2002, ESAMA held their first casino. Casinos have occurred every two years and are currently the major source of funding for operations of the society.
In 2003, the society established their first official office in the industrial area of Edmonton.
- “Understanding Cults: Violence of Innocence“ International Conference was held in Edmonton. The conference was sponsored by the University of Alberta, the International Cultic Studies Association (known at that time as the American Family Foundation) and ESAMA. Presenters and participants from around the world got together to share research, experiences and strategies. This conference marked the first time that an international conference of this magnitude was held in Canada.
- The society was approached by ITV to do a program on “Marketing Cults in Edmonton”. A live program was presented and taped for mass distribution to 527 high schools and colleges within Alberta as part of the CALM (Career & Life Management) curriculum for the next four years. Funding for the video was through the Better Business Bureau.
In 2011, the office was moved to a more central location so that the ESAMA’S increased involvement with community agencies, clients, and groups could be increased through ease of access.
Today, ESAMA has two part-time outreach workers who are providing services to Edmonton and other areas. Three groups meetings are being held on a regular basis: a group for parents whose children are involved in high demand/cultic groups, and ex-members group, and a group for women who have left situations of mind control/co-dependency and whose continued vulnerability leads them into similar relationships.
ESAMA’S focus continues to be on the education of groups such as professionals, students, and youth through community workshops, one-on-one help, support groups, and through the operation of a 24 hour information/intake line.
The majority of ESAMA’s referrals are self-referrals, from the community or other professionals.