It can be a frightening experience if someone that you care about is considering joining a cult or is already involved in one. While your immediate reaction might be to panic or react aggressively, anything other than a carefully planned response can send your loved one running into the arms of the cult members. Thankfully, there is a method that can help them avoid making one of the biggest mistakes of their lives.

The First Stage: Suspicion

Don't jump to any conclusions about the group. You need to make careful observations and ask as many questions as possible before you can be sure that there is true cult activity. Research what you can online, and ask local law enforcement or religious organizations what they might know about the group.

Avoid being confrontational. Until you have solid evidence, don't speak against the group or its leader. Do not try to prohibit your loved one from interacting with them. Show them as much love and support as possible, and do not judge or criticize.

True Warning Signs

The following is a list of red flags that can signify cult involvement. It may not be a good idea to stage an intervention unless you see several of these signs.

You should be worried if your loved one:

-Seems to abandon individual interests or personal goals in exchange for the group agenda. He seems to stay very busy with the group and forgets about activities outside of the group.

-Is very quick to jump to the defense of the group or its leader when they are questioned or criticized. They justify any and all actions of the cult or its leader. Calls any questioning judgmental.

-Detaches himself from anyone not interested in the cult. They become isolated until they only associate with the group members and show a general distrust for non-group members (including family and friends).

-Shows a sudden change in personality, especially a loss of a sense of humor or a loss of spontaneity. They begin to act just like the other group members (including body language and vocabulary).

-Shows a change in his spending habits. They seem to be investing money in the group and it seems that the group is telling them how to use their money.

-Loses the ability to think for himself. They depend on the group for answers, without critical thought or reasoning.

-Sees ex-group members as exiles, negative influences, or evil. Contact with them is practically forbidden.

According to cult expert Rick Ross, harmful groups will exhibit many of these signs:

-Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

-A complete lack of tolerance for critical questioning.

-A lack of "meaningful financial disclosure." The use of money is never revealed in detail.

-Irrational fears regarding the outside world. Suspicions of imminent catastrophe or evil conspiracies as well as persecution.

-Illegitimate media records and/or accusations of abuse by cult leaders.

-The group claims that former members left without cause and were wrong for leaving.

-The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, and no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

-Members struggle to become "good enough" for the group or the leader.

After Research and Observation Comes Intervention

Once evidence proves that there is a dangerous group encroaching upon a loved one, it is time to act. In Part II of this article, Intervention: What to do if a Loved One has Joined a Cult, you can learn how to stage an actual intervention that could save your loved one from being completely consumed with the cult.