Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center
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FAQ about Primal Therapy

Overview of Primal Theory

What is Proper Primal Therapy?

Treatment at the Primal Center

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

About Dr. Arthur Janov

This section covers some FAQ (frequently asked questions) concerning the theory and principles that inform Primal Therapy.  For some FAQ about the particulars of becoming a patient at Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center, please click here.  If you would like to suggest a question for our FAQs, please contact us.



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 in imaginable 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.  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.



8.  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.  (Please click here comments on Alice Miller and self-primalling, and why self-primalling is dangerous.)



9.  Is doing research, such as taking vital signs on patients, important?


Anything that helps verify the state of the patient before during, and after a session helps us understand where the patient is, whether he has had an abreaction, not a true feeling and indicates whether a resolution of a feeling has taken place. If there is no research, Primal Therapy becomes a business to make money and does nothing to advance the science of psychotherapy. We have done 4 brainwave studies, double-blind neurochemistry and biochemistry studies (all to be found in my new book, PRIMAL HEALING, out in November). One third of our entire budget has gone to research, done often with outsiders who are not in the primal world. One of the key ways we know if a depression is lifting and by how much is the change in body temperature, controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. A therapist must know what nervous system she is dealing with in certain diagnostic syndromes. Ignoring all this is not science and does not help the patient who deserves all the knowledge that exists in the field.



10.  Is the relationship between therapist and patient paramount in the therapeutic process?


a. This is turn on the old Freudian transference theory now dressed up in new clothes. Of course, the patient must trust the therapist, but the cure is not there. It is in the science of the therapy itself. All of our sessions are controlled, taped and watched over to make sure that the science is adhered to. Primal therapy is now almost mathematic and predictable. We know when a therapist makes a mistake and we correct it immediately. In addition, we systematically bring in patients to staff meetings to see how they are doing, if they are satisfied with their therapy and how we can further help them. Transference and its analysis is now 100 years old. Can we imagine any other medical field still using ideas from 100 years ago? Too often, patients become too dependent on a therapist under the name of transference, where the patient believes he can only feel with his regular therapist. Remember it is the process, not the person.

There is the notion that we cannot reduce a patient to a series of research results. This is from the "know-nothing" party. How on earth else to see if the patient is getting well? If her vital signs are continuously high, her cortisol levels constantly high, we know that the patient has problems. And the brainwaves: when a patient approaches deep pain there is a characteristic change in amplitude. Should we ignore all this and trust our instincts? I think not. That is the position of the New Age therapists and is, in my mind, dangerous and solipsistic.




Please click here for an FAQ about being a patient at the Primal Center.


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209 Ashland Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Phone: (310) 392-2003
Fax: (310) 392-8554
E-mail:  primalctr@earthlink.net