Dr. Arthur Janov's Primal Center
For treatment, training and research

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.


Other criteria: 

  • 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.

Emergency Services

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.

Mentoring Group

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.

Patient Retreats

We have found that patients benefit greatly from our mini-retreats. Please click here for information about our mini-retreats.


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