Official site of Primal Therapy

Ken Seman, LCSW, Director
Dr Arthur Janov, Founder
Dr France Janov, Founder

Dr. Arthur Janov examines the power of beliefs and how they are used as a mechanism for dealing with early trauma that goes as far back as birth. Beliefs are a way to rationalize with pain rooted deep in the unconscious, and reveal that love is a biological need. Dr. Janov applies engrossing case studies and his many years of experience to bring the reader one step closer to understanding human behavior, and how pain can become converted into an idea. Available on Amazon:

This is Dr. Janov's opus magnum, a revolutionary work in every sense of the word. It may help to change the practice of psychotherapy as we know it, and above it, how we give birth today; the shoulds and should nots. It explains in detail how early trauma and adversity can have lifelong consequences and result in serious afflictions from cancer to diabetes. It can have monumental implications for medical practice, as well, and points to how we can rear healthy children.

Dr. Arthur Janov's Blog
A collection of articles by Dr Arthur Janov and comments from his readers.

Deviations and Aberrations of Primal Therapy

Primal Therapy is not Primal "Scream" Therapy. Primal Therapy is not just making people scream; it was never "screaming" therapy. The Primal Scream was the name of the 1st book by Dr. Janov about Primal Therapy.

Those who read the book knew that a scream is what some people do when they hurt. Others simply sob or cry. It was the hurt we were after, not mechanical exercises such as pounding walls and yelling, "Mama". This therapy has changed what was essentially an art form into a science.

This therapy is dangerous in untrained hands. There are hundreds of people practicing what they call "primal therapy" without a single day's training and others who claim to have been trained by us who were either not here or who were nowhere near completion of either their own therapy or the training at Dr. Janov's Primal Center.

Once people have been opened up to their pain, they are vulnerable to manipulation. A therapist who needs to control will control his patients and control the course of their therapy, never realizing that his patient needs to lose control into his/her feelings, leading to places the therapist cannot imagine because he won't let himself lose control. A therapist who acts totally out of control and has an "anything goes" attitude towards therapy will miss the fragile patient who needs structure and so drive someone to madness or suicide. The possibilities for abuse are limitless.

It takes years to train therapists in Primal theory and teach them to do proper Primal Therapy, honed by Dr. Janov and his staff with 30 years of experience into a scientific tool, instead of an art form. We have rarely seen the therapy practiced correctly by others outside of the Center and spend a great deal of time treating patients from these other so-called "primal" clinics. We have seen the damage that can result when therapy is done incorrectly. If you are thinking of having therapy with someone, we will verify any claims they make regarding training with us and address any concerns you may have.

Real Beaulieu advertises himself as a Certified Primal Therapist from Dr. Janov Primal Center. Not only is Mr. Beaulieu NOT certified but he was asked to leave the training program due to incompetence as a Primal Therapist and unethical behavior. His claiming of being certified by The Janov Center is therefore inaccurate and dishonest.
We cannot recommend him as a Primal Therapist.

In Quebec, "Pierre Riopel advertises himself as having had years of Training at Dr Janov's Primal Center. This is not an accurate representation of his training as he only attended our clinical and theoretical courses sporadically . He didn't demonstrate a level of competence sufficient to call himself a primal therapist from the Primal Center nor claim to be on the level of therapists at our Primal Center.

Here is the account by one of our patients of the "treatment" she received in the name of Primal Therapy. This is one of many stories we receive routinely.

What she had told us shocked us so deeply that we decided to dedicate a substantial part of our website to the horror that are done all over the world to elicit feelings in so called Primal Therapy.

We always called "mock therapists" people who pretended to practice Primal Therapy without proper training or any training at all. We have always tried to caution the public about "Primal therapy being dangerous in untrained hands."

For years we have addressed and repaired psychological damage done to unsuspecting patients who were abused into thinking they were indeed receiving Primal Therapy. In a way it was understandable: how, could anyone imagine that "professionals" who advertise themselves as Primal Therapists don't know the first thing about Primal Therapy.

Most often they don't. These accounts are stories related to us or what we have witnessed while trying to undo the damage done to them.

It is obvious to us to when someone has undergone a mock therapy. Most often the patients abreact. Abreaction looks like a feeling (from the outside) feels like a feeling (from the inside) but is not a feeling. The marks of abreaction are multiple and unmistakable. The most obvious signs are that the patients don't get better; may act out even more, and their lives don't change. They have no or very few insights. They keep experiencing the same feeling with no resolution.

The look and the sound of abreactive feeling is very different from those of a "real" feeling. The patient never goes down to "need" which is the most important part of the feeling, and the most deeply resolving.

Alice: The "Birth Story" Account of Treatment at Mullingstorp in Sweden, 2.5 years ago

"They did horrible things to me. There were four activities that I remember as being the worst. 1. They said they would do a birth thing, so that I could be born again. The 20 or so patients had 3 or 4 Persons assisting (assistants or so called therapists, some of which worked there in exchange for their own therapy etc.).

One Person (she) was kneeling on the ground with their feet spread, while I lay down between Her legs, with my face pressing on the ground, and two other Persons lying on top of me, pinning me down so that I couldn't see or hardly breathe. I felt trapped. They told me to move and to struggle to get through Her legs - that she kept tightly shut - in order to reenact a birth.

I got more and more desperate. Then the manager - who I was afraid of since the first time I spoke with her on the telephone - put her hand over my face and began to stop my breathing. It was the worst I ever felt in my entire life. It was a horror and a desperation. I was terrified. I had so much agony. I thought I should die. I thought they should kill me there.

In the end they let me get my head and shoulders through; then they changed persons and made me do it over and over again. Then I panicked. It felt like hours - even if it wasn't - but I wasn't aware of anything. When I finally was through, then I was not aware of reality. I was so desperate in horror that I continued to wriggling and crawling on the floor until someone stopped me, and I collapsed. Then they left me alone on the floor.

2. One therapist took me to an isolated room with mattresses etc. and she had me stand with my feet a couple feet apart and my hands on my lower back and my head back.

In this position the head is too heavy and the muscles soon begin to get tired and to shake.

I was so frightened that all my muscles tightened until it felt like they were stone, which was my body protecting me. My muscles burned from tiredness at holding them so tightly. The burning was a horrible pain.

I begged Her to stop, telling her 'I can't take it,' and crying. She responded, 'You take responsibility for your life. You may never get a chance to heal yourself. This is your chance. Do you want to suffer for all of your life?" I had to hang on; I'd done so much therapy already and thought if I didn't do this, I'd kill myself. But this traumatized me 100 times more than I was already. I tried to stand it a bit more and then the horror came up in me and I screamed and screamed and was so exhausted I could nearly not stand on my feet.

3. Aptly named the 'Fascist activity': In the group, they put us into pairs, and they told us that we would take turns being fascists to each other. They said we could do almost anything except pee on each other or be sexual or violent. We should do everything to humiliate the other and make them feel bad, like a fascist would.

My partner was a man, who used information I had been forced to tell the group at the start of the week, during our introductions, about my possible past sexual abuse. I had told them during the interview that some of the therapists I'd been to in the past had suspected sexual abuse when I was a child. I didn't want to bring it up to the group because I don't know for sure.

My partner did everything to humiliate me, making me take off my clothes, except for my underwear and bra. I hated that because I have a hard time connecting to men and have none and he made me run around the room, lifting my legs like I was marching, with everybody (some Persons were just sitting against the wall) watching. Then he made me lie down on the ground and put his foot down between my breasts, pressing down, not too hard. He was the most controlling and sarcastic one of the group. I blanked out on the rest.

4. One therapist and two assistants took me to a small room. One of the women sat with spread open legs on a mattress with a pillow on her lap. I lay down on my back with my head on the pillow. The male assistant lay on top of me and did some movements so I could be scared. And I really was. I screamed and cried and got so scared. And I have big problems connecting and being close to people, even physically, so it was really hard for me. I only remember the horror. There were lots of activities, no rest, and we weren't allowed to talk to each other; we were even to eat (our one evening meal a day) in silence. The doctor there even told me I couldn't take the vitamins I'd been taking for two years and relied on for good nutrition, even though I begged.

After that, when I went home, it was like they had destroyed my system, in the brain. If there was some sound, anything, it could be a tree outside tapping the window or some noise from the refrigerator, it started a fear in me that lasted for hours. I would lay down in fear for hours. It was the same fear like someone could attack me, like it was happening in reality.

That made my life more terrible, because then I couldn't work. My company was going down and I had to do something, but I couldn't work. In the end I had to close my company that I'd had for 15 years, and I loved my work. Then I lost my beautiful home, a farm from the 18th century. And then I had to sell my horses that I loved so much because I had no more money. Then I didn't have a life because it was so ruined by those people.

I didn't dare to come to the Primal Center after Mullingstorp, but my friend said no one forces you to do anything here. I discovered this was true; it was a good therapy for me.

No one here forced anything. There is no pressure here at all. Here, they gently lead me to the feeling and if they see I'm suffering, then they stop. They only go as far as I want to go myself. There is a big big difference: here, when they do something in therapy, it is always connected to something either in the present or in my past. But when they did something there, it was not connected to anything; it was only a big abuse, a re-traumatizing of me at Mullingstorp. There were lots of feelings, but nothing connected."

Primal Center Comments:

Why this is so dangerous and why and how it can damage patients. It is horrifying and very distressing for us to hear and read accounts like these one. It does not resemble anything we do at the Primal Center.

It only shows unscrupulous people have no idea how to help people to feeling. Being themselves unfeeling people, they have to rely on gimmicks and abusive tricks to try to provoke feelings.

It is amazing how Alice L. did not become psychotic: it could have happened when patients are forced prematurely to relieve birth. Trying to coax anoxia and a birth trauma out of a neurological sequence is very dangerous. It is rebirthing therapy, which we strongly oppose.

Primal Therapy is a Scientific Theory with years of research behind it, including four brainwave stories, biochemistry and neurochemistry, double-blind studies. We have done research at UCLA, with Rutien and open University.

A Misperception of Primal Therapy

This is a "lawyer's" account of what Primal Therapy is supposed to be. This "description" of Primal Therapy is written by an "expert" in a court case. Here is the misconception that the court was given:

"Although the philosophy behind Primal Therapy becomes very complex, the actual practice of the theory is relatively simple. The patient is encouraged to scream, vomit, re-birth, confess for his/her real and imagined sins and the real or imagined sins of his/her people. This therapy has not been widely accepted by the traditional psychotherapeutic schools and is not seen as offering long lasting cures. However, it does have some value for patients with life-long existential depression and guilt as well as patients who are blocked in their feelings."

Primal Therapy is the contrary of all this. It is a soft process where we help people feel the misery of their life, they rarely scream and it if happens it is as a result of great pain it is their voluntary expression.

Dr. Arthur and Dr. France Janov's year of extensive training in Primal Therapy teach therapists to recognize on what level of consciousness patients are, at any given moment. This knowledge is essential to know how to address the "feeling." It is always soft, gentle and appropriate to where the patient is.

We do not practice rebirthing and as matter of fact we are strongly opposed to it.

We also do not have anyone confess sins. This is therapy not church. As a matter of fact, nobody at Dr. Janov's Primal Center even looks at any neurosis with critical or moral judgment. Pain and its defense take on a whole variety of focus. As therapists we are there to help, not to judge. It is really sad to see how people display their ignorance as factual. Their accounts can be misleading and especially when it comes to a court case it is unprofessional.

Primal patient of the Primal Center is telling us what happened at the Ocho Center.

At the Ocho center, John our patient was a group helper. "The leader would determine what feelings people would feel. For example, the leader would ask the group to paint a picture of parents, then command them to be mad at them; there is no present context and connection to the past w/ these exercises, resulting in a group of repressed people from this center."

A "helper" someone (John's own admission) with no experience or training in Primal Therapy was working with patients! It seems like the Ocho Center not knowing how to help patients with their feelings uses gimmicks like asking them to be mad at their parents whether they really are or not. This is a complete aberration and is again like in their past, ignoring the patients "real" feelings.

Let's reiterate that although the Ocho Center advertises doing Primal Therapy it has nothing to do with it!

"My Boyfriend experience in London"

"I am writing to you about my boyfriend because I am concerned about him and the so called Primal Therapy he received in London with people who say they were trained by you in Paris."

I sent my boyfriend to primal therapy in London where he for four years worked with someone called Sharon and later Tom. He changed from only being overwhelmed with pain to getting back to drugs, feeling suicidal, all types of destructive behaviors. Completely overwhelmed with and stuck in first line pain. I keep comparing his scarce messages about his Primal Therapy in London with what I have read in Dr. Janov's books. I increasingly doubts whether they practise "proper Primal Therapy".

My therapist claims to have "A Background" in Primal Therapy. Can you tell me if the treatment I received with him is Primal Therapy.

  1. Q. He claims that correctly conceiving the source of one's pain and allowing oneself to feel the pain connected to that context is Primal Therapy

    A. Your therapist' claim of "correctly conceiving the source of one's pain and allowing oneself to feel the pain connected to that context" is NOT Primal Therapy: Pain should not be "conceived"...whatever hurts and whatever feelings are present are what we follow. They are emotional elements that need to be felt for what they are.

  2. Q. We analyze dreams or some upsetting daily events to understand what conflicts and repressions they point to.

    A. We do not analyze dreams: There is absolutely no benefit to dream analysis. We only use dreams as a departure point to feelings. Conceding the source of one's pain and analyzing dreams or understanding conflicts and their repression, only engages in your intellectual level and your defenses.

  3. Q. He implies that understanding the defense mechanism causes it to slowly unfold.

    A. Your therapist' claim of "understanding the defense mechanism causes it to slowly unfold" is actually contrary to the process. You "feel" the pain - that is if you are helped to access it, and again "to feel it" the feeling and integrating it in what releases the "insights" making clear what defenses are attached to the pain.

  4. Q. My therapist uses the "empty chair" technique where I imagine my father in the empty chair and tell him how I feel.

    A. "The empty chair" technique is totally unnecessary. A therapist fully trained in Primal methods does not need any gimmicks to help patients to feelings. That's an old Gestalt Technique dated from 50 years ago. We know how to follow feelings when they are present and how to loosen or open momentarily the attached defenses. There is no need to artificially provoke feelings: this can only engender abreaction. On a neurological level, to "choose" what feelings to feel by artificially provoke them, is to ignore and by pass the current reality and the patient's. The "triggered feelings in the present are the "royal way" into the past pain.

  5. Q. There is no three-week intense period to break down defenses, only one hour every week. I am concerned that what will occur is not resolution, but abreaction.

    A. You mentioned that you have never had a 3-week intensive; the intensive period is an essential part of the Primal Therapy process. Dr. Janov insists that Primal Therapy is not done on a 1-hour format; it would be a complete aberration to be deeply involved in a feeling that hurts be interrupted in the midst of that experience. Primal Therapy cannot be done any other way than with open-ended sessions. They normally last naturally approx. 1.5 to 2 plus hours.


It seems you are getting a mixture of psychoanalysis and emotional therapy, none of which resemble Primal Therapy, as we know it. This therapy is precise and carefully controlled. It should not be practiced by those who have not had years of training in it.

Rebirthing And Why We Are Opposed To It:

If one thinks neurologically, one can understand that the trauma of birth -if there is one- has to come up naturally into consciousness. The brain grows from what we call first line and contains birth trauma: the brain stem, into the linbic system: the second line emotional imprint, and then into prefrontal neocortex, the third line thinking brain. The treatment of the first line birth trauma is very specific, precise and scientific. It is not to be tampered with.

Rebirthing bypasses the last two developments of the brain to plunge directly into birth pain. Of all the feelings, the birth trauma has the most powerful valence.

Because of its power, and because it is the first pain registered, it should only be addressed in sequence, after 3rd level and 2nd level and only when it manifests itself, usually in intrusions, inside 3rd line and /or 2nd line feelings. How to address these intrusions is the subject of countless hours of training and supervision at the Primal Center.

Each "piece" of the birth sequence has to be integrated by the other levels of the brain, little by little, as it reaches consciousness. It is not to be provoked, and/or brought up out of sequence. Let's never forget that the patient "safety" resides in the fact that the body lets us only feel what it can integrate, provided the feelings haven't been "provoked." Accessing Birth "directly" can result in fragmentation, lack of integration, at worst it can induce psychosis.

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