FAQ about Being a Patient at the Primal Center
This section covers some FAQ (frequently asked questions) concerning becoming and being a patient Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center. For some FAQ about the theory and principles behind Primal Therapy, please click here. If you would like to suggest a question for our FAQs, please contact us.
1. All my answers on the questionnaire are negative. Is this a bad sign?
The questionnaire allows us to know you better and gives us a general and a clinical profile of you and your life. It is not geared to positive or negative answers.
2. What if I have a medical condition?
It is generally preferable to start therapy free of any medical conditions if at all possible. In case of chronic illness a medical release from the primary care physician is requested where it is stated that it is "ok" to participate in the treatment of Primal Therapy.
3. What is the purpose of the interview?
Once we have received both the questionnaire and your biography, we have a general idea of who you are. However, there may be further questions we may need to address directly with you. We also like to have a personal contact. One of the purposes of the interview is to allow you to ask us all the questions you may have and to meet with us prior to entering therapy. The interview is videotaped. Six months after your starting date, you may be able to watch it and assess your changes.
4. Can patients choose their therapist?
No. The Primal Center decides who the best therapist is for each patient.
5. Can I do only the initial three-week intensive? I can't come over there for very long.
The three weeks intensive period is a necessary phase of the therapy, but not the whole therapy. One cannot undo a lifelong of damage and pain in three weeks only. It is therefore necessary to plan on continuing the therapy after that period. A lot of patients who at first don't think they can stay any longer change their priorities after the three weeks and decide to make the therapy their priority and re-arrange their life to be able to stay longer. In other cases, where this is not possible, some patients commute and come as often as they can. Depending on how often that is, obviously the therapy will go more or less fast. Each time you give the defense system a chance to close off again the access to old feelings, you are slowing down the process. Access to old feelings is what Primal Therapy, as a process is trying to achieve, so that being open and feeling becomes a way of life, and daily life can be the natural trigger to old pain.
6. How long do I have to stay in therapy?
How long is necessary to stay in therapy obviously depends on how much pain a person has, and on how strong his/her defense system is. It is really an equation between the two, and in that sense is totally individual. As a general guideline, for those who do not present extreme symptoms of pain overload, spending a year to a year and half in therapy may be enough to root the process of feeling so that they can go on, on their own, or come irregularly when they feel the need for it. For patients who have left the therapy, The Primal Center offers mini retreats. By the time they feel ready to leave, patients have usually participated in the buddy system.
7. Is there a waiting list?
We try to accommodate our patients requests for their starting date as much as possible. In some cases it is difficult but usually it can be worked out.
8. What is the purpose of the three-week isolation period?
The purpose of the isolation time of three weeks is to keep us away from the defenses we use everyday to stay away from ourselves. Being alone with ourselves for that time allows for memories, sensations and the understanding of ourselves that we never had the time to let happen in our daily lives. It favours all the access to feelings and memories that have happened during the therapy sessions.
9. Are there any patients who have undergone Primal Therapy whom I can talk to?
Confidentiality ethics do not allow us to reveal patient's names. But if you wish for us to do so, we can give your number to patients in your area and it will be up to them to contact you.
We have tried for many years to maintain a list of the numerous patients coming from countries all over the world, to offer the base for a support network to ex-patients. Unfortunately we have found that after a while, the primal population seems to move around, and that most addresses become obsolete. More reliable are the friendships, some for life, that Primal patients develop while in therapy, where the patients come from all over the world. That network is then the one they create for themselves and is by far the one that works the best. However, in some cases we can give an ex-patient the name of someone who wants a contact, and it is then up to the two parties involved.
10. Is catharsis Primal Therapy?
(See abreaction for more details) Catharsis is a discharge of emotion, or at best the release of a disconnected feeling. It is not therapeutic and has only a temporary effect of releasing tension. It can lead to overload, because feeling channels are opened without the subsequent connection and integration. It is never curative. All abreactive techniques are used in the absence of proper procedures. A classical and very counterproductive one is "breathing the patients" when the therapist fails to help them into feeelings.
11. I have been self-primalling, is it ok?
"I scream in my pillow, and sometimes cry, is that a primal? Is there any danger in self-primalling?"
As you have seen in our various documents, we warn the public about doing Primal Therapy with untrained people. self-primalling falls into that category in the sense that self-primalling is substituting a professional for the patient.
Basically, as a self-primaller we are asking our defense system to forego its job of defenses and let us get to deep hurtful material that our physiology has throughout our history protected us against.
The defense system is a brilliant and complicated system : It is all pervasive throughout our body, our feelings and our mind. It is interconnected to our hormones, our muscles, our sleep patterns, our vital signs, our endorphin production, and the incredible complicated organ that is our brain.
When self-primalling, while trying to feel what has been deeply buried, we are sollicitating our defense system to come into action while at the same time, trying to access deep pain. One cannot do both at the same time, because one doesn't know that such element coming into play may actually be a defense at work.
The defense system has insured our survival against sometimes great odds. Because it is so much a part of our physiology, the mere fact that we now want it to let us have access to past feelings isn't enough for the defense system to step aside and let us do it. It is still doing its job, and will defend us in all the brilliant ways it is capable of.
What happens then, is that the defense becomes an integral part of what may look like a primal but isn't. It promotes abreaction.
Let's take an example : While trying to feel the loneliness of one's life, as the pain mounts and is too much, therefore difficult to feel, our body may start crouching or getting very rigid and tense. Someone with little knowledge about primal may conclude that a birth primal is on the rise, and push in that direction, feeling : Wouah, something is happening, it is my birth ! "While it is really a defense against the current feeling : "I am all alone and there is nobody there for me". This feeling is all the more powerful because that person is all alone and there is really nobody there to help. The defense system is very unlikely to let the feeling being felt for what it is because it is too powerful. The body uses tricks, like a body defense, to protect us from it.
For a feeling like that one to be felt, the dialectic is necessary : we need to have someone present, and someone who needs to recognize what is real, and what is the defense. Only a trained therapist can do that.
The result of not feeling the feelings for what they are has very serious implications and consequences :
The feeling "I am all alone" has been on the rise but isn't felt in its real context with the proper connection. It is going to stay in "half consciousness", keeping the person in a state of suffering without any resolution or healing. It is going to keep on disrupting one's life and ability to function : the pain is still going to be present because not felt.
It is called Abreaction. The more abreaction, the more unfelt feelings that have been called upon are getting closer to consciousness, the worse the result. We might see a series of symptoms arise from fragmentation of the mind, to sleeplessness, to various illness or just bizarre ideation, paranoia, symbolizing old feelings on present person or situations, acting out etc...
A therapist has to be able to make the intervention that will allow the defense to ease enough for the feeling to arise, and not too much of the feeling, so that the patient won't be overwhelmed. This is a great skill that takes many years to learn..
Learning about the defense system and its relation to pain, how to get to feelings, also implies learning about the brain and the neurocircuits, about levels of consciousness. It involves spending countless hours having clinical training. The Primal Center, and only Dr. Janov's Primal Center offers such a training.
It is much more difficult to help a patient who has been self-primalling or has done "mock therapy", as we detect patterns of abreaction almost everytime. We then have to "regroove" the primal style, which makes clean access to feelings much more difficult to achieve.
12. What is the average age of patients? Am I too young? Am I too old? Do you take children?
Most of our Primal population is between 25 and 45 years old. However, we have had much older patients and much younger patients as well. The age factor is unimportant. Primal Therapy in children: We have expanded our age limits to include children, who do very well under this process, with the right circumstances and provided the parents can cooperate. The elderly do very well, indeed. We thought those over sixty could not make radical changes in their lives. We were wrong. Young children change dramatically in a matter of weeks with this therapy. I primalled my four year old cousin who whined all the time. She was able to go back in her short life and relive certain key events and stopped all whining. A much happier child. We have treated a four year old whose mother was on drugs, the child had AIDS. After a course of therapy she was no longer HIV positive. She was also in a hospital for treatment, but it is my guess that her Primal Therapy was crucial in her recovery. When young people apply, they need to have their parents' consent if they are underage.
13. Is Primal Therapy dangerous?
The only reason why we keep warning the public of the dangers of Primal Therapy in untrained hands is that we know how much expertise the reliving of deep feelings involves. We unfortunately have to correct many mistakes, with often serious consequences, of patients coming to us after going to "mock therapists". Please see: What is proper primal therapy as defined by Dr. Janov?
14. Do you have any therapists you can refer me to in my area?
We advise all people interested in Primal Therapy to check with us for the availability of primal therapists in their country or area. (Please click here for more information about Primal Therapy outside of the United States.)
Due to the great success of Dr Janov's books and his theory, a lot of professionals and non professionals (in countries that do not require diplomas in psychotherapy) have embarked in practicing primal therapy without training. Although some claim to have had a relationship with us, it is usually not true.
Dr. Janov's Primal Center is the only place in the world where Primal Therapy keeps being researched and constantly advanced. It is also the only official training center. At Dr Janov's Primal Center, trainees undergo a 5 year extensive program of theoretical and clinical courses. It is supervised by Dr. A. Janov himself, Dr. France Janov and the Senior Staff.
We have no control over practitioners who practice Primal Therapy all over the world. We do not want them to misrepresent themselves as having been trained by us. We feel it is our duty to inform prospective patients of deceitful advertising. Primal Therapy is a very elaborate process which takes years to learn. Please contact us if you have questions about a particular therapist.
15. Has so and so been trained by you?
RÃƒÂ©al Beaulieu (Montreal, Canada) announces he has been "certified" by Dr. Janov's Primal Center during the years 1993 to 1995.
Please contact us if you have questions about a particular therapist.
16. Why don't you have trained therapists elsewhere?
There are simply not enough well trained therapists to spread ourselves out all over California, let alone in America or in the rest of the world.
17. Does Dr. Arthur Janov see patients?
Rarely and then only for teaching purposes. Each patient must be filmed and allow that film to be used in-house for training.
18. What are the academic requirements to become a primal therapist?
It depends where you plan to practice. In the US, states have various requirements. You will need to check with your state to find out what specific requirements are necessary to become a licensed psychologist. In California the requirement is an MA and an MFCC/MFT or a PhD. European countries may not require any academic degrees to practice Primal Therapy. Please check directly with your country.
19. Is Dr. Arthur Janov associated with any other clinic or center?
Dr. Janov has no affiliation nor association with any other clinic.
Dr. Janov is exclusively with the Primal Center in Venice, California. Besides being its Director, he supervises treatment, all clinical aspects, training and research.
Dr. Janov keeps refining and advancing the knowledge in Primal Therapy through continuous research.
20. How will I find a place to stay during my three weeks, and therafter during my therapy?
We will send you a list of motels near Dr. Janov's Primal Center, and you will be responsible for making a reservation in the one you choose. You can also elect to go to any hotel of your choice, provided you can be in isolation there if necessary. Once at the Center you will have plenty of opportunities to find a place to stay. Many Primal patients share houses or apartments, or vacate their lodging upon returning to their country. It is usually not a problem. A billboard at the Center is dedicated to patients to place their ads and information.
21. Can I work after my 3 weeks?
Yes, you can resume all previous activities, including working.
22. Can I answer your questionnaire by e-mail?
Yes, you can e-mail the questionnaire back with your answers.
23. Can I work in Los Angeles?
It would be a good thing for you to work during your therapy, but only after the first three intensive weeks. If you are a foreigner you may not be able to work without a working permit. That is a matter you would have to check directly with the U.S. consulate in your country.
24. Can I work at the Primal Center?
The Primal Center is a treatment, training, and research center. It does not offer employment. However, there is a bulletin board at the Center where work offers are sometimes posted.
25. Do I need a visa to come to the United States?
You will need to check with the US consulate in your country, but most likely