Primal therapy

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Warning icon orange.svg This page contains too many unsourced statements and needs to be improved.

Primal therapy could use some help. Please research the article's assertions. Whatever is credible should be sourced, and what is not should be removed.

The other Primal Scream
Style over substance
Icon pseudoscience.svg
Popular pseudosciences
Random examples

Primal scream therapy, or simply primal therapy, was an odd bit of woo popularized by Arthur Janov (1924–2017) in his 1970 book, The Primal Scream. His hypothesis was that psychological problems are caused by early childhood trauma, such as during birth. These traumatic incidents could be re-experienced and then emotionally discharged by expressing them during therapy by screaming. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Steve Jobs were brief adherents of the movement.

Although Janov was then a respected psychologist and did not (as far as is known) derive his hypothesis from superficially similar ideas which were already then regarded as quackery, his focus is somewhat similar to the Dianetics (Scientology) notion of removing "engrams" by re-experiencing traumatic incidents and emotionally discharging them, and to the quack therapy of re-experiencing birth traumas through rebirthing. No empirical studies ever found the therapy useful or sound, and nothing eventually came of his hypothesis except yet another quack movement. Today Primal Therapy is lumped in with other fringe therapies which emerged as part of the Human Potential Movement.

Having said all that, ScreamadelicaWikipedia by the band Primal Scream is a fantastic album. Tears For FearsWikipedia named themselves after an idea in primal scream therapy and is likewise a fantastic band. Lennon's album John Lennon/Plastic Ono BandWikipedia, recorded while he was an adherent of the movement, is often regarded as his finest solo album.

More claims[edit]

Let me count the ways that Primal Scream is wrong.

These are all quotes from The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov, Perigree 1981 softcover edition. The wootastic assertion of major physical changes from a psychological treatment, and the sweeping panacea type claims made for it in general, should be a big red flag for everybody.

Primal therapy makes your boobies grow[edit]

"Perhaps the most dramatic changes which take place in post-Primal patients are physical… For example, about one-third of the moderately flat-chested women independently reported that their breasts grew" (p. 154)

Primal therapy makes everything else grow[edit]

"Two male patients in their early twenties told of beard growth for the first time in their lives. Several others reported giving off an odor for the first time after perspiring. Several patients noted growth of hands and feet." (p. 154)

"There are neurotic symptoms which are not usually thought of as such—being short, for example… We see that the patient has grown and thus may infer that his being short was indeed a symptom—his idiosyncratic resolution of the inner contradictions which plagued him." (p. 134)

Primal therapy screams away the gay[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Reparative therapy

"I do not believe that there is a basic genetic homosexual tendency in man. If this were true, the cured patient would still have his homosexual needs, which he does not. Post-Primal patients who have been latent and overt homosexuals before report no homosexual leanings, fantasies, or dreams." (p. 308)

In case I missed anything[edit]

"I could go on endlessly listing all the symptoms which Primal Therapy has eliminated, from menstrual cramps to asthma. But that would tend to make Primal Therapy seem some kind of panacea and thus lessen its credibility." (p. 134)