Primal Therapy overview
Primal Therapy as developed by Dr. Arthur Janov.
The following is taken from Why You Get Sick - How You Get Well by Dr. Arthur Janov, and reviews some of the basic theory behind Primal Therapy.
“There is one neurosis, many manifestations and one cure — feeling.”
Repressed pain divides the self in two and each side wars with the other. One is the real self, loaded with needs and pain that are submerged; the other is the unreal self that attempts to deal with the outside world by trying to fulfill unmet needs with neurotic habits or behaviors such as obsessions or addictions. The split of the self is the essence of neurosis and neurosis can kill.
That pain is the result of needs and feelings that have gone unfulfilled in early life. Those early unmet needs create what I call Primal Pain. Coming close to death at birth or feeling unloved as a child are examples of such Pain. The Pain goes unfelt at the time because the body is not equipped to experience it fully and deal with it. When the Pain is too much, it is repressed and stored away. When enough unresolved Pain has occurred, you lose access to your feelings and become neurotic.
“The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.”
Primal Therapy is important in the field of psychology, for it means, ultimately, the end to so much suffering in human beings. Discovering a way to treat Pain means there is a way to stop the misery in which so many of us are mired every day of our lives. After two decades of research, after dealing with thousands of patients with every imaginable psychological and physical affliction, we have arrived at a precise, predictable therapy that reduces the amount of time one spends in treatment and eliminates all the wasted motion. It is a therapy that has been investigated by independent scientists and the findings are consistent. Primal Therapy is able to reduce or eliminate a host of physical and psychic ailments in a relatively short period of time with lasting results.
“Feeling Pain is the end of suffering.”
We have found ways to measure the ongoing presence and chronic effects of early trauma. We have observed time and again that even though it is not felt, the force of the memory remains in the system, reverberating on lower brain levels and moving against the body wherever it happens to be vulnerable. It shapes our interests, values, motivations and ideas. By reliving these traumas, patients can return back to early events and know with certainty how they formed adult behavior and symptoms.
“Repression is the hidden force behind illness"
We can see how buried memories constantly activate the system, putting pressure on vital organs and creating disruptions which can eventually result in serious illness. The problem for too many of us is that suddenly we find ourselves with afflictions or obsessions and have no idea how it all happened. We don’t know why we can’t sleep, why we can’t find a mate, why we are obsessed with this idea or that or why we don’t function as we want to, sexually. Primal Therapy can clarify these seeming mysteries.
It sometimes seems that everyone is suffering in their own way and few are aware of it. Television is riddled with ads for ibuprofen, aspirin, sleeping pills and other pain killers, implicitly acknowledging the Pain we are all in but without ever acknowledging it explicitly. Nothing dramatic happens but so many of us have developed this disease or that, from high blood pressure to allergies, colitis, anxiety attacks, asthma, circulation problems and heart palpitations (our history literally becomes palpable). So many ailments that seem inexplicable -- depression and phobias, ulcers and migraines -- may all stem from the same source. So might many of our personality quirks, our habits and behavior patterns, our drives and obsessions. One powerful piece of evidence for the fact of the same kinds of Pains being behind so many different afflictions and behavioral problems is that the same kinds of tranquilizers or pain killers are used to treat all of them.
In the fields of medicine and psychotherapy today doctors deal with symptoms. Just look at the DSM-IV, the psychiatric diagnostic and statistical manual, with page after page of every conceivable variation of neurosis. And in Washington, D.C., they have erected monuments to symptoms, a building for each one — drug abuse, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer and so on. Experts specialize in treating colitis, ulcers, migraines, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, anxiety, depression, marital problems, eating disorders, etc.; knowing more and more about narrower and narrower subjects. They add salt, take away salt, add thyroid, remove thyroid, speculate about the reasons for one’s allergies or unhappiness, analyze dreams and nearly always prescribe medication. They are trying to normalize the symptom instead of normalizing the person who has it; trying to normalize the manifestation instead of the system that makes it manifest.
* * *
Delving deep into the unconscious has allowed us to clarify the basis of adult behavior. We have a good idea what lies in the unconscious and it doesn’t seem to be the mystical emporium so often described. We have learned in Primal Therapy that irrespective of whether the Pain is manifest in the body or in the mind, the person is not himself; there is a dislocation of function which is global. Both emotional and physical pain deform cells and cause alterations which show up in measurements of vital signs, brain function and chemistry, the immune system, hormones, peripheral blood flow and in a person’s behavior. Everything is askew. Primal Therapy works in reverse of the normal approach. Instead of working from symptoms to possible causes, we work from causes to symptoms. The focus is always deep. From this approach we have developed a more profound understanding of who we are and what drives us, our basic, hidden, unconscious motivations.
The Discovery of Primal Pain
"Some years ago, I heard something that was to change the course of my professional life and the lives of my patients. What I heard may change the nature of psychotherapy as it is now known --an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor during a therapy session. I can liken it only to what one might hear from a person about to be murdered. This book is about that scream and what it means in terms of unlocking the secrets of neurosis. The young man who emitted it will be called Danny Wilson, a twenty-two-year-old college student. He was not psychotic, nor was he what is termed hysteric; he was a poor student, withdrawn, sensitive, and quiet.
"I don't have to live my life in agony anymore. I can finally be myself - the real me - the one I should have been all along - and be happy with who I am." C.B., France
"During a lull in our group therapy session, he told us a story about a man named Ortiz who was currently doing an act on the London stage in which he paraded around in diapers drinking bottles of milk. Throughout his number, Ortiz is shouting, ‘Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!’ at the top of his lungs. At the end of his act he vomits. Plastic bags are passed out, and the audience is requested to follow suit.
"Danny's fascination with the act impelled me to try something elementary, but which previously had escaped my notice. I asked him to call out, "Mommy! Daddy!" Danny refused, saying that he couldn't see the sense in such a childish act, and frankly, neither could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writhing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic; "Mommy! Daddy!" came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches. He appeared to be in a coma or hypnotic state. The writhing gave way to small convulsions, and finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: "I made it! I don't know what, but I can feel"
"What happened to Danny baffled me for months. I had done standard insight therapy for seventeen years, both as a psychiatric social worker and as a psychologist. I was trained in a Freudian psychiatric clinic, as well as in a not-so-Freudian Veterans Administration department. For several years I had been on the staff of the psychiatric department of the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. At no time during that period had I witnessed anything comparable. Since I had taped the group session that night, I listened to the recording frequently over the next several months in an effort to understand what had happened. But to no avail.
"Before long I had a chance to learn more about it.
"A thirty-year-old man, whom I shall call Gary Hillard, was relating with great feeling how his parents had always criticized him, had never loved him, and had generally messed up his life. I urged him to call out for them; he demurred. He "knew" that they didn't love him, so what was the point? I asked him to indulge my whim. Halfheartedly, he started calling for Mommy and Daddy. Soon I noticed he was breathing faster and deeper. His calling turned into an involuntary act that led to writhing, near-convulsions, and finally to a scream.
"Both of us were shocked. What I had believed was an accident, an idiosyncratic reaction of one patient, had just been repeated in almost identical fashion.
"Afterward, when he quieted down, Gary was flooded with insights. He told me that his whole life seemed to have suddenly fallen into place. This ordinarily unsophisticated man began transforming himself in front of my eyes into what was virtually another human being. He became alert; his sensorium opened up; he seemed to understand himself.
"Because of the similarities of the two reactions, I began listening even more carefully to the tapes I had made of Danny's and Gary's sessions. I tried to analyze what common factors or techniques produced the reactions. Slowly some meaning began to emerge. Over the next months I tried various modifications and approaches in asking the patient to call for his parents. Each time there occurred the same dramatic results.
"I have come to regard that scream as the product of central and universal pains which reside in all neurotics. I call them Primal Pains because they are the original, early hurts upon which all later neurosis is built. It is my contention that these pains exist in every neurotic each minute of his later life, irrespective of the form of his neurosis. These pains often are not consciously felt because they are diffused throughout the entire system where they affect body organs, muscles, the blood and lymph system and, finally, the distorted way we behave.
"Primal Therapy is aimed at eradicating these pains. It is revolutionary because it involves overthrowing the neurotic system by a forceful upheaval. Nothing short of that will eliminate neurosis, in my opinion.
"If it weren't for Primal Therapy, I would be dead from drinking and smoking too much and driving too fast. Even if this had not killed me physically, I still would have been dead emotionally." A.N., USA
"Primal Theory is an outgrowth of my observations about why specific changes take place. Theory, I must emphasize, did not precede clinical experience. When I watched Danny and Gary writhing on the floor in the throes of Primal Pain, I had no idea what to call it. The theory has been expanded and deepened by the continuing reports of one patient after another who has been cured of neurosis. This book is an invitation to explore the revolution they began."
— from The Primal Scream by Dr. Arthur Janov
The following paragraphs cover Dr. Janov's theory of neurosis:
We all are creatures of need. We are born needing, and the vast majority of us die after a lifetime of struggle with many of our needs unfulfilled. These needs are not excessive--to be fed, kept warm and dry, to grow and develop at our own pace, to be held and caressed, and to be stimulated. These Primal needs are the central reality of the infant. The neurotic process begins when these needs go unmet for any length of time. A newborn does not know that he should be picked up when he cries or that he should not be weaned too early, but when his needs go unattended, he hurts.
At first the infant will do everything in his power to fulfill his needs. He will reach up to be held, cry when he is hungry, kick his legs, and thrash about to have his needs recognized. If his needs go unfulfilled for a length of time, if he is not held, changed or fed, he will suffer continuous pain either until he can do something to get his parents to satisfy him or until he shuts off the pain by shutting off his need. If his pain is drastic enough, death may intervene, as shown in studies of some institutional babies.
Since the infant cannot himself overcome the sensation of hunger (that is, he cannot go to the refrigerator) or find substitute affection, he must separate his sensations (hunger; wanting to be held) from consciousness.
This separation of oneself from one's needs and feelings is an instinctive maneuver in order to shut off excessive pain. We call it the split. The organism splits in order to protect its continuity. This does not mean that unfulfilled needs disappear, however. On the contrary, they continue throughout life exerting a force, channeling interests, and producing motivation toward the satisfaction of those needs. But because of their pain, the needs have been suppressed in the consciousness, and so the individual must pursue substitute gratifications. He must, in short, pursue the satisfaction of his needs symbolically. Because he was not allowed to express himself, he may be compelled to try to get others to listen and understand him later in life.
Not only are unattended needs that persist to the point of intolerability separated from consciousness, but their sensations become relocated to areas where greater control or relief can be provided. Thus, feelings can be relieved by urination (later by sex) or controlled by the suppression of deep breathing. The unfulfilled infant is learning how to disguise and change his needs into symbolic ones. As an adult he may not feel the need to suck his mother's breast owing to abrupt early weaning but will be an incessant smoker. His need to smoke is a symbolic need, and the essence of neurosis is the pursuit of symbolic satisfactions.
Neurosis is a symbolic behavior in defense against excessive psychobiologic pain. Neurosis is self-perpetuating because symbolic satisfactions cannot fulfill real needs. In order for real needs to be satisfied, they must be felt and experienced. Unfortunately, pain has caused those needs to be buried. When they are buried, the organism goes into a continuous state of emergency alert. That alert state is tension. It propels the infant, and later the adult, toward the satisfaction of need in any way possible. This emergency alert is necessary to ensure the infant's survival; if he were to give up hope of ever having his needs fulfilled, he might die. The organism continues to live at any cost, and that cost is usually neurosis--shutting down unmet bodily needs and feelings because the pain is too great to withstand.
Whatever is natural is a real need--to grow and develop at one's own pace, for example. This means, as a child, not being weaned too soon; not being forced to walk or talk too early; not being forced to catch a ball before one's neurological apparatus can do so comfortably. Neurotic needs are unnatural ones--they develop from the nonsatisfaction of real needs. We are not born in this world needing to hear praise, but when a child's real efforts are denigrated virtually from birth, when he is made to feel that nothing he can do will be good enough for him to be loved by his parents, he may develop a craving for praise. Similarly, the need to express oneself as a child can be suppressed, even by the lack of anyone listening. Such denial may turn into a need to talk incessantly.
A loved child is one whose natural needs are fulfilled. Love takes his pain away. An unloved child is the one who hurts because he is unfulfilled. A loved child has no need for praise because he has not been denigrated. He is valued for what he is, not for what he can do to satisfy his parents' needs. A loved child does not grow up into an adult with an insatiable craving for sex. He has been held and caressed by his parents and does not need to use sex to satisfy that early need. Real needs flow from inside out, not the reverse. The need to be held and caressed is part of the need to be stimulated. The skin is our largest sense organ and requires at least as much stimulation as other sense organs. Disastrous consequences can occur when there is insufficient stimulation early in life. Organ systems may begin to atrophy without stimulation; conversely, as Krech has shown [D. Krech, E. Bennett, M. Diamond, and M. Rosenzweig, "Chemical and Anatomical Plasticity of Brain," Science, Vol. 146 (October 30, 1964), pp. 610-19], with proper stimulation they may develop and grow. There must be constant mental and physical stimulation.
Unfulfilled needs supersede any other activity in the human until they are met. When needs are met, the child can feel. He can experience his body and his environment. When needs are not met, the child experiences only tension, which is feeling disconnected from consciousness. Without that necessary connection, the neurotic does not feel. Neurosis is the pathology of feeling.
Neurosis does not begin at the instant a child suppresses his first feeling, but we might say that the neurotic process does. The child shuts down in stages. Each suppression and denial of need turn the child off a bit more. But one day there occurs a critical shift in which the child is primarily turned off, in which he is more unreal than real, and at that critical point we may judge him to be neurotic. From that time on, he will operate on a system of dual selves; the unreal and real selves. The real self is the real needs and feelings of the organism. The unreal self is the cover of those feelings and becomes the facade required by neurotic parents in order to fulfill needs of their own. A parent who needs to feel respected because he has been humiliated constantly by his parents, may demand obsequious and respecting children who do not sass him or say anything negative. A babyish parent may demand that his child grow up too fast, do all the chores, and in reality become adult long before he is ready--so that the parent may continue to be the cared-for baby.
Demands for the child to be unreal are not often explicit. Nevertheless, parental need becomes the child's implicit command. The child is born into his parents' needs and begins struggling to fulfill them almost from the moment he is alive. He may be pushed to smile (to appear happy), to coo, to wave bye-bye, later to sit up and walk, still later to push himself so that his parents can have an advanced child. As the child develops, the requirements upon him become more complex. He will have to get A's, to be helpful and do his chores, to be quiet and undemanding, not to talk too much, to say bright things, to be athletic. What he will not do is be himself. The thousands of operations that go on between parents and children which deny the natural Primal needs of the child mean that the child will hurt. They mean that he cannot be what he is and be loved. Those deep hurts I call Primal Pains (or Pains). Primal Pains are the needs and feelings which are repressed or denied by consciousness. They hurt because they have not been allowed expression or fulfillment. These Pains all add up to: I am not loved and have no hope of love when I am really myself.
Each time a child is not held when he needs to be, each time he is shushed, ridiculed, ignored, or pushed beyond his limits, more weight will be added to his pool of hurts. This pool I call the Primal Pool. Each addition to his pool makes the child more unreal and neurotic.
As the assaults on the real system mount, they begin to crush the real person. One day an event will take place which, though not necessarily traumatic in itself--giving the child to a baby sitter for the hundredth time - will shift the balance between real and unreal and render the child neurotic. That event I call the major Primal Scene. It is a time in the young child's life when all the past humiliations, negations, and deprivations accumulate into an inchoate realization: "There is no hope of being loved for what I am." It is then that the child defends himself against that catastrophic realization by becoming split from his feelings, and slips quietly into neurosis. The realization is not a conscious one. Rather, the child begins acting around his parents, and then elsewhere, in the manner expected by them. He says their words and does their thing. He acts unreal--i.e., not in accord with the reality of his own needs and desires. In a short time the neurotic behavior becomes automatic.
Neurosis involves being split, disconnected from one's feelings. The more assaults on the child by the parents, the deeper the chasm between real and unreal. He begins to speak and move in prescribed ways, not to touch his body in proscribed areas (not to feel himself literally), not to be exuberant or sad, and so on. The split, however, is necessary in a fragile child. It is the reflexive (i.e., automatic) way the organism maintains its sanity. Neurosis, then, is the defense against catastrophic reality in order to protect the development and psychophysical integrity of the organism.
Neurosis involves being what one is not in order to get what doesn't exist. If love existed, the child would be what he is, for that is love-letting someone be what he or she is. Thus, nothing wildly traumatic need happen in order to produce neurosis. It can stem from forcing a child to punctuate every sentence with "please" and "thank you," to prove how refined the parents are. It can also come from not allowing the child to complain when he is unhappy or to cry. Parents may rush in to quell sobs because of their anxiety. They may not permit anger--"nice girls don't throw tantrums; nice boys don't talk back"--to prove how respected the parents are; neurosis may also arise from making a child perform, such as asking him to recite poems at a party or solve abstract problems. Whatever form it takes, the child gets the idea of what is required of him quite soon. Perform, or else. Be what they want, or else--no love, or what passes for love: approval, a smile, a wink. Eventually the act comes to dominate the child's life, which is passed in performing rituals and mouthing incantations in the service of his parents' requirements.
It is the terrible hopelessness of never being loved that causes the split. The child must deny the realization that his needs will never be filled no matter what he does. He cannot live knowing that he is despised or that no one is really interested in him. It is intolerable for him to know that there is no way to make his father less critical or his mother kind. The only way he has of defending himself is by developing substitute needs, which are neurotic.
Let us take the example of a child who is being continually denigrated by his parents. In the schoolroom he may chatter incessantly (and have the teacher come down hard on him); in the schoolyard he may brag nonstop (and alienate the other children). Later in life he may have an uncontrollable craving for and loudly demand something as patently symbolic (to the onlooker) as the "best table in the house" in an expensive restaurant.
Getting the table cannot undo the "need" he has to feel important. Otherwise, why repeat his performance every time he eats out? Split off from an authentic unconscious need (to be recognized as a worthwhile human being), he derives the "meaning" of his existence from being greeted by name by various maitre d'hotel in fancy restaurants.
Children are born, then, with real biological needs * which, for one reason or another, their parents do not fulfill. It may be that some mothers and fathers simply do not recognize the needs of their child or that those parents, out of a desire not to make any mistakes, follow the advice of some august authority in child rearing and pick up their child by the clock, feed him by a timetable an airline would envy, wean him according to a flow chart, and toilet train him as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, I do not believe that either ignorance or methodological zeal accounts for the bumper crops of neurosis our species has been producing since history began. The major reason I have found that children become neurotic is that their parents are too busy struggling with unmet infantile needs of their own.
Thus a woman may become pregnant in order to be babied-which is what she has actually needed to be all her life. As long as she is the center of attention, she is relatively happy. Once delivered of her child, she may become acutely depressed. Being pregnant would serve her need and have nothing to do with producing a new human being on this earth. The child may even suffer for being born and depriving his mother of the one time in her life when she could make others care. Since she is not ready for motherhood, her milk may dry up, leaving her newborn with the same raft of early deprivations which she herself may have suffered. In this way the sins of the parents are visited on the children in a seemingly never-ending cycle.
The attempt of the child to please his parents I call the struggle. The struggle begins first with parents and later generalizes to the world. It spreads beyond the family because the person carries his deprived needs with him wherever he goes, and those needs must be acted out. He will seek out parent substitutes with whom he will play.
Many parents make the mistake of not picking up their child sufficiently out of fear of "spoiling" him. By ignoring him, this is precisely what they do, and later they will be swamped by the child's insatiable demands for symbolic substitutes--until the day they crack down on him. The consequences of that are both inevitable and dreadful.
Out of his neurotic drama, he will make almost anyone (including his children) into parental figures who will fill his needs. If a father was suppressed verbally and was never allowed to say much, his children are going to be listeners. They, in turn, having to listen so much, will have suppressed needs for someone to hear them; it may well be their own children.
The locus of struggle shifts from real need to neurotic need, from body to mind, because mental needs occur when basic needs are denied. But mental needs are not real needs. Indeed, there are no purely psychological needs. Psychological needs are neurotic needs because they do not serve the real requirements of the organism. The man in the restaurant, for example, who must have the best table in order to feel important is acting on a need which developed because he was unloved, because his real efforts in life were either ignored or suppressed. He may have a need to be recognized by name by the maitre d' because early in life he was referred only to by category-"son." This means he was dehumanized by his parents and is trying to get a human response symbolically through others. Being treated as a unique human being by his parents would obviate this so-called need to feel important. What the neurotic does is put new labels (the need to feel important) on old unconscious needs (to be loved and valued). In time he may come to believe that these labels are real feelings and that their pursuit is necessary.
The fascination of seeing our names in lights or on the printed page is but one indication of the deep deprivation in many of us of individual recognition. Those achievements, no matter how real, serve as a symbolic quest for parental love. Pleasing an audience becomes the struggle.
Struggle is what keeps a child from feeling his hopelessness. It lies in overwork, in slaving for high grades, in being the performer. Struggle is the neurotic's hope of being loved. Instead of being himself, he struggles to become another version of 'himself. Sooner or later the child comes to believe that this version is the real him. The "act" is no longer voluntary and conscious; it is automatic and unconscious. It is neurotic.
— from The Primal Scream by Dr. Arthur Janov
What is Proper Primal Therapy as Defined by Dr. Janov?
Over the years, Dr. Arthur Janov has defined the best conditions to provide proper Primal Therapy. Because Dr. Janov continues to do research into the scientific bases behind Primal Therapy and theory, over time we are continually deepening our understanding and refining our techniques. This section reviews the conditions that we presently understand — through our cumulative experience — to comprise proper Primal Therapy.
Therapist Training and Qualities
Obviously, the most important element to become a Primal Therapist is to have been trained in Dr. Janov’s training program, under his and Dr. France Janov's supervision and constant input. Dr. Janov keeps on researching the various fields relevant to Primal Therapy. His research fuels new understanding on theoretical and clinical levels, new techniques and a constantly improved understanding of the process of Primal Therapy.
Our training program spans over about 5 years during which the trainees learn about the Primal theory, as well as other psychological theories. It includes courses in brain structures, neurology, various medication, etc. The clinical training in Primal Therapy is very intensive, allowing the trainees to increase their knowledge and their practice. Not all the applicants to the training program are accepted, nor do they all finish. The Primal Center sometimes dismisses the prospective therapist for one reason or another, but mostly because he/she does not conform to our criteria for becoming a Primal Therapist.
Some of these criteria involve specifically:
Having had enough Primal Therapy to have good access to feelings. Being committed to feeling when necessary and regularly.
Having the necessary integrity and honesty to recognize their errors and accept their mistakes.
No smoking, no drinking or taking drugs.
Having a genuine desire to help others.
Having an advanced understanding of the Primal Theory.
Having sensitivity for clinical practice and sharp skills.
At the Primal Center all therapists are still involved in clinical supervision and theoretical discussions led by Dr. Arthur Janov and Dr. France Janov. The training and supervision never stop.
Primal therapists have to feel their own feelings regularly so that their own feelings will not color their relationships with, nor their perceptions of, patients.
Honesty and integrity are essential so that they will accept being challenged, confronted or questioned in any way by their patients. For example, a therapist who cannot accept being criticized may use his/her “power” to not accept valid criticism and put the problem back onto the patient.
Therapists cannot be afraid of anger, they have to be able to take their patient’s anger at them without being triggered. It is easy to use feelings to manipulate people and it is totally unacceptable in Primal Therapy.
We do not recommend that anybody practice Primal Therapy on their own. We feel it is important to have the feedback of other Primal Therapists, to point out mistakes or misperceptions and to be able to discuss a case or an intervention, etc. There is also a definite need for a co-therapist who sees the patient starting on the second week of individual therapy. Having a second “primary therapist” allows the patient to have another therapist should the main one not be available. Furthermore, having a number of Primal Therapists working together gives a patient the possibility of choosing a different therapist than the one assigned in the first place. It can happen that a patient gets heavily symbolized on a therapist and is unable to break the symbolization. This situation can result in an endless struggle with the therapist and the therapy. It is then good to be able to switch therapists, if only momentarily. During the course of their therapy, patients can find out they work better with one or the other for various reasons, or that they suddenly need specifically a male or a female therapist, a soft or a strong person, etc.
We do encourage our patients to not be dependent on any therapist. The aim of the process is to give patients access to their past and painful feelings so that they can leave the formal therapeutic setting and be able to feel on their own. Primal Therapy is a tool that we wish our patients to be able to use whenever they are triggered so that they can resolve their past feelings through present triggers, and get back to their lives, be independent of us – fairly quickly - and still benefit from the Primal process towards wellness.
Vital Sign Measurements
Vital signs are taken before and after each session to make sure there has been an integrated, resolved Primal. Vital sign measurements help us predict the course of the therapy, or monitor what kind of progress has been made or not made. We are able to match psychological events to physiologic changes in the patient as the therapy progresses. Measuring vital signs is the best control and the best protection against abreaction, i.e., the discharge of energy from a feeling without connection.
"Everyone reading this should know that Primal Theory and Primal Therapy has been refined, and just as important, it has matured. The result is profound change not just in thinking and behavior but in the very physiology of one's body." D.S., USA
Participation in group is essential. Some of our patients attend group only after the 3 weeks of individual therapy; others begin group during their second week of individual therapy. There are two groups per week, which are essential for the following reasons:
Patients realize that they are not alone with their pain, that everybody is in the same situation. We all hurt.
Seeing how other patients get to their feelings helps them summon up the courage to do the same.
They learn from others how to get to feelings, for patients can trigger each other's feelings, which is very helpful. One patient may frighten another and allow the patient to get to deep feelings of fear.
Patients confront each other, and express themselves in a safe environment that they could not do otherwise. No matter what the act-out is, in group, there is never any judgement and it is all controlled by a therapist.
Please know that not all patients are ready for group. It is up to the clinic staff to decide when a patient should attend.
The Primal Center offers an emergency service. There is always a therapist on call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, should someone need it. We feel it is important that patients can have access to a therapist anytime if necessary.
Patients in Staff Meeting
Whenever we need to discuss some aspect of their therapy with our patients, we call them into staff meeting, have our say, and above all let them discuss how they feel about their progress in therapy. We meet as equals, not as the elite telling the patients how to live. Before the patient comes to the staff meeting, there is a general discussion on the case among the staff members so that everyone is familiar with the patient and what his or her problem might be.
Because some of our patients have not had much experience functioning well in their lives, we have created a “mentoring group” which provides help to the patient for dealing with the outside world. Not only can patients address practical matters but also they are helped with their feelings, attached to their difficulties.
Treatment at Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center
Primal therapy is available at Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center under the personal supervision of Dr. Arthur Janov. The therapy is performed by our highly-trained staff, who have undergone a minimum of five years of intensive training at Dr. Janov's Primal Center. Most individual sessions are videotaped and therapy is monitored by either Dr. Arthur Janov or Dr. France Janov with the participation of the senior staff, so that each patient is supervised on a continuing basis.
New patients who apply and are accepted at the Primal Center typically begin treatment with three weeks of intensive individual therapy. After the three-week intensive there is recommended follow-up therapy, which may consist of ongoing individual sessions, group therapy, buddying, telephone and/or video therapy,and occasional mini-retreats. We also hold an orientation for patients lecture series every year.
Initial Three Weeks of Individual Therapy
The therapy starts with three weeks of individual therapy. It is the first and most important step towards learning about your Pain and learning to feel it. To that end we usually require new patients to spend the three weeks of individual therapy in isolation, preferably in a motel or any place where he/she can be alone.
Upon starting therapy, new patients will receive detailed instructions regarding the three weeks. It is recommended that patients do not work, make phone calls, snack, smoke, take drugs (unless prescribed), etc., during the three weeks. The patient is encouraged to write and keep a journal of his or her experiences. Sessions during the initial three week period are open-ended but average about two hours in length.
It is also recommended that you bring your childhood pictures or anything else that brings up memories which have a special significance for you.
Although the length of the therapy varies widely, our recommendation is that all applicants should be prepared to stay an average of one year at Dr Janov's Primal Center. For those of you who have had previous Primal Therapy and wish to enter Dr. Janov's Primal Center, please contact the office for special instructions.
"I don't have to live my life in agony anymore. I can finally be myself - the real me - the one I should have been all along - and be happy with who I am." C.B., France
Although individual needs for therapy vary, the optimum therapy includes at least one individual session and one group session per week for the first six months. Individual sessions are open-ended. One must have the financial means that will allow for continuing therapy, particularly more individual sessions during the year. After the third week of individual therapy the patient may return to work.
"It works. It saved my life. . . . I feel so good. . . . I never knew it was possible to feel so good. Now I am going back home to live." P.F., Switzerland
Unlike any other form of group therapy, Primal groups are really individual therapy performed in a group setting. Being in a group setting allows patients to express their feelings, be triggered by each other, and realize that most of us carry a burden of pain. The patients deal with their own feelings and any interaction with others in the group or with the therapists has feelings as its aim.
Groups are held twice a week.
We want our patients to become independent of the therapist as soon as possible. Our goal is to teach our patients how to get themselves into their feelings so that feeling becomes a natural way of life. To that end, after several months of Primal Therapy, when patients have adequate access to feelings, they can enter the buddy system where they can help each other.
The Center provides therapy rooms for that purpose, depending on availability, at no charge to the patients.
Telephone and Video Therapy
Our patients come from all over the world, and cannot always stay beyond a certain time, but they can still benefit from the feeling process.
We have found over the years that "Telephone Therapy" works perfectly well. We are currently doing telephone therapy with patients in England, France, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and several other countries, as well as the USA. Once patients have access to their feelings, the therapeutic process can go on perfectly well through the phone. It allows the patient to maintain his/her therapeutic relationship with the therapist. This system may be taken further by the use of video interactions via computer, which allows a visual connection. (Please e-mail us for technical information about setting up computer/video therapy.)
"I think the phone session worked well for me - I don't think I would have cried so much in a normal session. Fear of showing my feelings I suppose. It is encouraging though to think that I can do this when I come back from LA in December. Obviously I am keen to feature in your 2003 diary." M.N., England
The format of the mini-retreat was created by Dr. Janov at the Paris Institute and was an immediate success. The idea is to bring together all people participating in Primal Therapy -- current and former patients and staff (including trainees, therapists and interns) for a period of communal living.
It is an intensive weekend where participants can have their feelings, individually in sessions and buddying and in the group setting, attend a live lecture on a subject of interest to patients’ lives, view “Primal” movies and other available Primal material, play music and, generally, get to know each other.
The mini-retreat is open to "old" patients as well, meaning people who have had prior Primal Therapy and who meet certain requirements before attending. Please contact the office for further information.
Mini-retreats are held twice a year.
Orientation for Patients
While in therapy, patients can attend a program of education in the fundamentals of Primal Theory and how it applies in their own therapy. Orientation is held once a year for eight weeks in January and February. The orientation is open to all current patients and we encourage all patients to take advantage of this unique opportunity to increase their understanding of Primal Theory and apply it to their own experiences.
The program is a combination of lecture and open discussion on such topics as need, repression, the chain of pain, levels of consciousness, act-outs, symptoms, the conditions for good therapy, resolution and integration, sexuality, drugs and “wellness”
"Above all, I will always be grateful to you for what the therapy has brought to Jacques and myself. It has been a real turn around in our lives." (Translated from French) A.F., France
Therapy Around the World
To answer the many requests for follow-up therapy from patients who return to their native countries outside of the United States, we have begun a program to send therapists to different parts of the world, wherever the need is greatest. We are offering 3-week intensives, follow-up weeks, individual sessions and groups based on need and therapist availability. Please contact the office for further details, if you are either interested in sponsoring therapists in your area or in being a participant.
"Each passage, every dime and time spent, was worth it in order to gain the clarity I have now. My fears were blocking me in everything. Now I know whatever will come, I will master it somehow." R.L., Australia
Primal Therapy for Children at the Primal Center
|In some cases the Center has given Primal Therapy to children whose parents were in therapy with us. We discovered that children are capable of doing well in therapy as they are very close to their feelings. Provided that children have the right parental environment and their caretakers are in therapy with us, we will consider accepting them for treatment. Written parental consent is required for minors accepted into therapy.
FAQ about Primal Therapy
This section covers some FAQ (frequently asked questions) concerning the theory and principles that inform Primal Therapy.
1. Does Primal pain go away eventually?
The aim and the principle of Primal Therapy is that feeling the pain takes the painful component of the pain away. Suffering is what happens as a result of the repression of the pain, the non feeling of it. Human nature is extraordinary in the sense that it provided human beings with the possibility of repair of the hurt: feeling. Unfortunately, circumstances and cultural factors have causes us to occult the pain by rendering it unconscious. Feeling it frees us of the pain. Only the memory of the pain remains, not the hurt.
It is important to note that feeling the pain not only frees us from its tyranny (having to constantly keep it at bay by various means) but it also gives access to joy, to feeling good in a way that is inimaginable for most of us.
We find out that most pains of our current lives are little compared to childhood pains and that once felt, there is little or nothing left of them.
2. How does Primal pain relate to sickness?
Until Primal pain is resolved, it continues to force the body and mind into neurotic action. Neurosis is not just a psychological disease. It manifests itself both mentally and physically. Primal pain makes you act out feelings in neurotic ways--in hostility, phobias, obsessions--and later deal with them by excessive smoking or drinking, or you "act in" feelings by developing psychosomatic afflictions.
It seems like a long leap between the child of two who feels deserted when his father left home and that child three decades later who develops arthritis. It's also difficult to see the relationship between chain-smoking at forty and being locked in your room repeatedly at age four. Fortunately, experts don't have to make the connection; patients, given the right circumstances, will do it for them. When enough patients with the same ailment relive specific traumas, the connection between past traumas and current symptoms becomes evident. See: Why You Get Sick - How You Get Well, Dove Books, 1996 and The Biology of Love, Prometheus Books, 2000.
3. How can you tell if the therapy is working?
There are predictable changes that can be measured, such as brain function and structure changes, blood pressure and heart rate drop, and numerous hormones changes. Our recent research even indicates that there are significant changes in the immune system of those who relive pain. And of course, our patients report feeling much better. They need to act out less and less, they are more comfortable in their skin and they feel more in control of their life.
"Feeling my old feelings enabled me to grow and leave behind the frightened child I was and was condemned to stay had it not been for Primal Therapy." R.L., Germany
4. Why do you call Primal Therapy a revolution in psychotherapy?
Because Primal therapy is the end of a fifty-minute hour and the end of interminable therapy with two or more weekly visits over many years. It is a new concept in group therapy where confrontation is only a by-product and each person explores his or her history, despite the fact that he or she is surrounded by others. It gives patients back their self-determination and their right to make discoveries about themselves by themselves. It returns the power back to the patient, where it should be.
5. Do you believe Primal Therapy is the only effective cure for neurosis?
Yes. Primal Therapy works. It works because it is a rigorous and systematic procedure that allows for predictability and testability. We have shown that Primal Therapy can reduce or eliminate permanently a number of illnesses. (see The New Primal Scream, Why You Get Sick - How You Get Well). Primal Therapy is the first science of psychotherapy that encompasses and explains the relationship between biology, psychology and neurology. See: The Biology of Love, Prometheus Books, 2000.
6. Why is it necessary to relive your past rather than simply discuss it?
Because you must recall not only the scene but also its emotional content. In traditional analysis patients discuss certain memories in detail, but in Primal Therapy they are put in contact with the emotional component of these same memories. That is an entirely different experience. Reliving opens the gates to emotional storage areas that are different from cognitive recall. The agony that was never felt is now experienced. The tears, never shed, are now flowing. The sadness or rage that has been held back is now all encompassing.
Discussion does not unlock the energy aspect of a memory. If you were made to feel bad about yourself because you were sent to your room repeatedly as a child, it does no good for you to intellectualize the experience. You have to express your rage and your hurt in context, you can only heal where you were hurt. It doesn't really help you to understand why your parents acted the way they did. Understanding can only cover up the painful memory.
7. What about Alice Miller's statements that Primal Therapy is dangerous?
Alice Miller a long time advocate of Primal Therapy has been in the last years claiming Primal Therapy is dangerous. This statement needs to be enlightened by a few facts ; When A. Miller visited Dr. Janov she could see the effects of Primal Therapy first hand, and was recommending it highly. She then got involved with Mr. Stettbacher (see ex patient of Mr. Stettbacher account of his treatment) practicing Primal Therapy in Zurich, Switzerland, who claimed in 1989 to have discovered Primal Therapy, and wrote a book to that effect. Needless to say, Mr. Stettbacher had no training in Primal Therapy. Numerous patients he "treated" came to Dr. Janov later on to undo damage done to them by him. Their therapy bore all the marks of a treatment done with insufficient knowledge of the process, and as Mrs. Miller claimed then, produced counter results. In that sense she was confirming what we have been saying for so long : Primal Therapy is dangerous in untrained hands. Given the fact that there are some 500 clinics in the world wrongly using Dr. Janov's name, their inadequate treatment has inadvertently given us a bad name. Mrs. Miller made statements based on wrongful information. We understand that Mrs. Miller had at some point been associated with Mr Stettbacher.
8. Is psychodrama a technique necessary in Primal Therapy?
Psychodrama can be a tool used in some limited cases but is largely irrelevant for us. Feelings can be accessed in a more direct way. We don't want patients to be their mother or their father or anyone else. We want them to be themselves.
9. What do you think of self-primalling?
Our observation of those who self primalled resulted, almost without exception, in abreaction. The reason for that is easily understandable : The subject is asking its defense system to let the feelings come up when the purpose of the defense is to block feelings. The person never really knows in which direction to go and when to back off certain feelings. The purpose of defenses is self deception. That is why we all need an objective, well trained person to help us. There is nothing wrong with crying about things, however, or even screaming. That is relief, but not therapy.
|© 2002-2005 Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center|