Family Counseling Program HAYAT

The Institute for the Study of Radical Movements (ISRM) has taken over the academic evaluation and theoretical development of Germany's first family counseling program for relatives of highly radicalized persons in the area of Islamic extremism and Jihadism called HAYAT ("Life"). The program started in 2011 and has since then also received a wide international focus due to the program's sucess in working in the periphery of Foreign Fighters. 

For an in depth introduction into the methodology and some statistics regarding the cases of Hayat you may take a look at this English article publised in 2013 by the JEX Journal for Deradicalization: Family Counselling as Prevention and Intervention Tool Against ‘Foreign Fighters’. The German ‘Hayat’ Program.


The Hayat program in international media:

The New York Times

Canadian National Post

Washington Post

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (additional)

The Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society

The Dutch Nieuwsuur

The London Sunday Times

The Christian Science Monitor


The Guardian

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Deutsche Welle (English)



Program Description

Hayat (Turkish and Arabic for “Life“) is a family counselling program for relatives of persons being involved in radical Islamic groups or on the path of a violent Jihadist radicalization, including those travelling to Syria and other civil war battlefields. Hayat was established in 2011 looking back at the experiences of the first German de-radicalization and disengagement program for highly radicalized neo-Nazis: EXIT-Germany. Introducing the first nationwide family counselling program for relatives of young right-wing extremists, EXIT-Germany developed a method to work with the parents and families of radicalized persons to eventually prevent, slow down and revert the radicalization process. Transferring this unique knowledge to the area of Islamic extremism, Hayat started to work in 2011, being available for parents, siblings, other relatives, teachers, employers, and anyone else who has a relationship with another person who might be on the path of a violent radicalization. In 2012 Hayat, together with the German Federal Office for Immigration and Refugee Affairs (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge BAMF), build a national counselling hotline. Taking calls from relatives and other concerned persons, the hotline will help with a first line assessment and then hand the person over to local non-governmental partners of which Hayat is one, responsible for the international highly security relevant cases. Of course anyone can contact Hayat directly via Email or telephone. During the first contact Hayat experts (former police officers, psychologists, experts in Islamic extremism) will give a situation analysis and risk assessment answering the most important question in the beginning: is the relative in danger of becoming violently radicalized? Or is it a harmless case of conversion to Islam? Once a clear picture and assessment has been made by the counsellor an individual counselling process and step by step plan will be designed bringing together everything necessary and possible to prevent further radicalization (if this applies) or stop and revert the process. Many parents of youngsters who are shortly before travelling to Syria, are already there or return call Hayat. Regarding these persons Hayat has three main goals: A) Do anything possible to make them voluntarily not wanting to travel to Syria. B) If they are in Syria: Stop fighting and return. C) The youngsters are supposed to return into a safe and controlled positive social environment.

Hayat has a nationwide network of partners on different levels including the police. Hayat sees itself as a bridge between family and all institutions relevant (e.g. police, courts, employers, schools, social services) and moderates between all sides with a comprehensive goal directed towards the concerned person.

For additional information or requests contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  


To download a program flyer click:

pdfhayat flyer.pdf 






Completed Research Projects


Study: “Radicalization Processes of Right-Wing Extremists”


In cooperation with the University of Hamburg
Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IFSH). completed in July 2011.



Author: Daniel Köhler


Content: In this qualitative pilot study we used a new methodological approach in right-wing extremism research to analyze individual patterns of right-wing extremist radicalization.
A series of open interviews with dropouts from the extreme right have been evaluated. The focus of the study was not on traditional biographical analysis, but on individual motivation patterns for entry, advancement and withdrawal. In the study, a novel model of radicalization was designed. This is the starting point for a large international comparative study with several international partners currently under preparation.


Workshop: "Right-wing argumentation patterns in the classroom"
In collaboration with the University of Göttingen


In a model experiment a workshop was performed with a seminar of future secondary school teachers in political education at the University of Göttingen. The workshop explained right-wing argumentation structures and discussed possible consequences and counter-strategies together with the students.


Interview study on the topic: "Images of Masculinity in the Far-Right Scene"
In collaboration with the State University of New York at Stony Brook, New York, USA. Completed in 2011


Interview Study about the development of political ideals in the German right-wing extremist movement on behalf of the University of Amsterdam and the research project SAFIRE of the European Union. Completed in February 2012.


Project "Pictures of Life"
In cooperation with the Technical University of Braunschweig and EXIT-Germany


During the research seminar: "Research with pictures - Photos of dropouts from the far right" Pictures taken by dropouts were evaluated on the basis of photo iconographic analysis. This science-practice transfer enabled a discussion of methodological approaches for the practical work of EXIT-Germany and the project is an example of the cooperation of scientific institutions with practical partners such as EXIT-Germany.


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