Primal Therapy

screaming pillow

Primal therapy is a trauma-based psychotherapy created by an American psychologist, Arthur Janov, who argues that neurosis is caused by the repressed pain of childhood trauma. Janov argues that repressed pain can be sequentially brought to conscious awareness and resolved through re-experiencing the incident and fully expressing the resulting pain during therapy. Primal therapy was developed as a means of eliciting the repressed pain; the term Pain is capitalized in discussions of primal therapy when referring to any repressed emotional distress and its purported long-lasting psychological effects. Janov criticizes the talking therapies as they deal primarily with the cerebral cortex and higher-reasoning areas and do not access the source of Pain within the more basic parts of the central nervous system.

Primal therapy became very influential during a brief period in the early 1970s, after the publication of Janov’s first book, ‘The Primal Scream.’ It inspired hundreds of spin-off clinics worldwide and served as an inspiration for many popular cultural icons. John Lennon, actor James Earl Jones and pianist Roger Williams were prominent advocates of primal therapy. Primal therapy has since declined in popularity, partly because Janov has not produced the outcomes necessary to convince research-oriented psychotherapists of its effectiveness. Janov and others continue to advocate and practice the therapy or various developments of it.

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