1 of 6: The Mom-Dad Dyad

"It's the single most impactful thing that ever happened in my life. You always have to say the birth of your child was the biggest impact. But I never would have had a child if it hadn't been for the seminars!"   Listen to Good Cult ad-free, with bonus content, at KastMedia.com/KastPlus Listen to Good Cult ad-free on Amazon Music   Thank you to our sponsors: BetterHelp: Get 10% off at Betterhelp.com/GOODCULT See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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River Donaghey grew up in a cult. Or at least that’s what some people called it. His parents called it a “personal-growth seminar group.” Its leader called it “one big happy family.” But there was a dark side to the world River grew up in. One he never heard about as a kid.  In the 1970s and 80s, a self-help company called Lifespring took America by storm. Hundreds of thousands of people walked out of Lifespring as true believers, convinced that the seminars had the power to change the world. But dozens of trainees claimed that after taking a seminar, they had a psychotic break. Some spent months in the hospital. Others attempted suicide. And at least four people died.  River spent the past year digging into the bizarre, untold story of Lifespring and its controversial leader: a convicted felon turned New Age guru named John Hanley. What he uncovered made him question everything he thought he knew about his childhood. And about the seminars that are still changing lives—and ruining them—to this day.