I decided to write this because recently there has been an influx of patients from so-called primal therapists, and without exception they have been damaged. Patients have gone to professionals with all the credentials who have advertised primal and claim to know how to do it. Since it takes years to learn, they just borrow the term Primal and use it to deceive prospective patients. Sometimes it is former patients who think they know enough. Most often it is strangers who read the Primal Scream and decided to go into practice. In any case, we have spent some 47 years refining the theory and therapy, joining it with biochemistry and neurology to make it as scientific and efficient as possible. It is at least a complex matter that embodies science as its base.
There is a case this week that set my hair on fire. There are several primal centers in Europe who claim to be doing Primal Therapy. One Center took a woman who was feeling somewhat hopeless, plunged her into first line abruptly and drove her straight into parasympathetic overload and then deep depression. She left their place in pieces and no one there had any idea what was going on and or what to do about it. Then they say, “there is nothing more we can do for you.”
It happens a lot that they open up the person to far too much pain, flood them and inundate them and then do not know what to do. There all manner of deviations possible and there all manner of unscrupulous individuals who use our term, Primal, to deceive others who are suffering. The proof lies before us every day in the wrecks who come to us from so-called primal therapists.
I know that is often more convenient to go to someone nearby especially if they are in a foreign country but it is your life you are compromising. I have never known any one of these mock therapists to do research, to follow up on their work or to do vital sign research on patients. So here is what to watch out for.
- The whole reason for Primal Therapy was to counter the 50 minute hour and let patients stay as long as the need to. So the first thing the mock therapists is to do one hour sessions. That defeats the whole idea of feelings guiding the therapy. There must be no timetable for it.
- The mock therapists eliminate doing group therapy, which are essential to getting patients together, to learn about feelings and interact with others and see what feelings look like. Patients help each other in groups and then learn to buddy and carry on the therapy with each other.
- Because they do not follow evolution they often plunge the patient into deep feelings for which they are not ready. The result is overload and flooding of the brain with too many and too heavy feelings. Or, the patient is ready to go deeper but they are not taken there because the therapist has no idea how to do it.
- Mock therapists always guide and control the patient. Telling him or her what to say, how to say it and even force them to speak words when the feelings have no words attached to them. Thus they produce a mélange which confuses the patient all the more.
- They tell the patient when to come, how often and how long to stay, which should be the province of the patient not the doctor; oh yes, don’t be fooled many of these therapists can be licensed, are doctors, with all the accouterments of professionals. All they lack is knowledge and a bit of humility. They never know their limits and they figure since we do it why can’t they? The “we” in this case is me and my team who work relentlessly refining what we do.
- The mock therapists do not have medical controls so they may treat something neurologic as something psychological; the patient suffers. They need a wide ranging background to sort out what is wrong with the patient before embarking on therapy. I wonder how many of them actually have the knowledge. We had a case recently of brain impairment which was previously treated as something psychological, and left a damaged individual in its wake. The human mind is not for dilettantes. Once derailed the patients may take years to make up for what was done to them.
- The ways of detours and derailment is infinite. Often done by well meaning therapists, and just as often done by those who see commercial value in it. It has become the “flavor of the month.” I would very much to be democratic and leave the way open for other therapists but our experience up to now has been disappointing. There may be some who sit for patients and give them a good environment in which to feel but I have not seen it.
- The danger lies in those who had a bit of training, left too early and hang out shingles saying, “Janov trained.” True, they had some training but Primal Therapy can be dangerous in those with insufficient training. This is especially true when there is no knowledge for how the brain works or should work. I often say that we cannot love neurosis away. No matter and good intentioned there is a precise science to learn.
- To my knowledge, not one of those so-called Primal people write and publish in order to further the science of the therapy. Their interest is not the patient; it is commercial. It has become a business not a mental health approach. We have had several peer reviewed articles recently. One in the World Congress of Psychiatry, and another accepted by them for publication. And there are others. I do write books explaining the therapy (in 26 languages) and the science underlying it. Dr. France Janov is now about to finish legacy program detailing what we do, on disc. It is not a secret. We have no desire to keep it for ourselves but we do know that a high level of training is needed, and we do not want therapists to take short cuts that endangers patients’ lives. They would be taking short cuts on the patients’ health.
- Primal Therapy should not be practiced alone. There are feelings in all of us that when they come up can derail judgment. We need others around to make sure we do not commit systematic errors on patients. Therapists control one another. There are constant staff meetings to make sure every patient is attended to. And training sessions where we advance the therapy and the theory. The whole focus is on bettering what we do for the benefit of the patient.