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Red.Flags.Quackery

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“Scientific knowledge is public in a special sense…scientific knowledge does not exist solely in the mind of a particular individual. In an important sense, scientific knowledge does not exist at all until it has been submitted to the scientific community for criticism and empirical testing by others.”

How To Think Straight About Psychology(p. 10).  Keith Stanovich (6th Ed, 2001). (see PEER REVIEW section).

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“Social psychology is filled with data showing that once a person makes a commitment in front of others about a position or belief; it is more likely that the person will cling to that position.  Imagine the degree of commitment made by the people you met in this chapter: at their therapist’s command, they rolled and moaned, beat cushions…screamed, yelled, laughed, cried, insulted others, and were themselves humiliated and insulted.”

“Crazy” Therapies (p. 130), Margaret Singer Ph.D. and Janja Lalich Ph.D., (1996) (see CRITICAL BOOKS section)

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                             Top 10 Discredited Mental Health Treatments

1. Angel therapy for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

2. Use of pyramids for restoration of energy

3. Orgone therapy (use of orgone energy accumulator) for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

4. Crystal healing for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

5. Past life therapy for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

6. Future lives therapy for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

7. Treatments of posttraumatic stress disorder caused by alien abduction

8. Rebirthing therapies for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

9. Color therapy for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

10. Primal scream therapy for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders

For a summary of the original  Norcross, Koocher, and Garafalo article see “Discredited Psychological Treatments and Tests: A Delphi Poll” or to see the book from which the list is taken (p. 198) by clicking on the book to the side of the list.

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“Many teachers lament the woeful lack of science education of their undergraduate students…This problem is also widespread in graduate clinical psychology programs and psychiatric residencies, where students can earn a PhD or an MD without ever having considered the basic epistemological assumptions and methods of their profession…[In a study of psychiatrist training] rarely do they learn to be skeptical, ask questions, analyse research, or consider alternative explanations or treatments.” (page xi)

“By the 1960s and 1970s, as the popularity of psychoanalysis was waning, new therapies were emerging.  It was easy to tell how pseudoscientific they were…Martin Gross’s book The Psychological Society (1978) included …,primal scream therapy,…” (page xiii)

“The Widening Scientist-Practitioner Gap,” written by social psychologist Carol Tavris, Ph.D. in Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, (edited by Lilienfeld, Lynn, Lohr)

[For a review of this book by Professor Colin Feltham, see the The Counselling Center website.]

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What gets us into trouble

is not what we don’t know  

It’s what we know for sure  

That just ain’t so

- Mark Twain

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     This website is written with the protections of the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment (free speech and press) and the accepted rule in western science that theories and treatments can be criticized. These rights cannot be abridged by any means, including by Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP lawsuits, see http://www.gjs.net/web-slap.htm ).

    The idea for the first article was originally inspired by social psychology and the accepted standards and rules of science (vs. pseudoscience). That article turned into sections 1 to 5 on this website. Then the website was created to provide a place for critical information on primal therapy. Since then, other sources and evidence has also been drawn on. The aim is to show people what information is out there, and let them discover it for themselves, and decide for themselves.  This critique and sharing of information is designed to make a positive constructive contribution and to help people.

     This website will protect primal therapy participant’s confidentiality while still informing future potential consumers.

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 “We have come to claim our promise, O Oz.”

 “What promise?” asked Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book written by Frank Baum.

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Pseudoscience begins with a hypothesis—usually one which is appealing emotionally…—and then looks only for items which appear to support it. Conflicting evidence is ignored. Generally speaking, the aim of pseudoscience is to rationalize strongly held beliefs, rather than to investigate and find out what’s actually going on, or to test various possibilities. Pseudoscience specializes in jumping to ‘congenial conclusions,’ grinding ideological axes, appealing to pre-conceived ideas and to widespread misunderstandings.

From the website International Cultic Studies Association: Distinguishing Science and Pseudoscience

(see also sections 2-5 and DETECTING REAL SCIENCE for more on what is called the demarcation problem – the distinguishing between science and pseudoscience)

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In general, if your therapist is telling you that you have to get worse before you get better, is tearing you apart rather than building you up, is letting group members insult and ridicule you, is insisting that you must go deeper and deeper and deeper to feel the feeling, or is doing anything that smacks of old-fashioned ventilation theories, get out as fast as you can and look for a supportive therapist who will listen and respond with human decency.

“Crazy” Therapies (p. 131), Singer and Lalich, (1996).

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When you are studying any matter…

Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or

by what you think would have beneficial social effects if it were believed.

Look only and solely at what are the facts.

Bertrand Russell, 1959

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Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign

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Disclaimer:   The resources on this site are for information and education only. Information on this website is meant to support not replace the advice of a licensed health care or mental health care professional. Please consult your own physician for health care advice.
Copyright Policy:   You will encounter information that is owned / created by others, including copyrighted materials. Those other parties retain all rights to publish or reproduce those documents or to allow others to do so. Any copyrighted materials included on this site remain the property of their respective owners/creators and should not be reproduced or otherwise used. It is not the intent of the website to have violated or infringed upon any copyrights. If you believe we have, please let us know and we’ll take care of the matter promptly.
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16 Responses to Home

  1. interested party says:

    I spoke with Werner Karle after he left the Center and he told me that much of the data re was faked. May he RIP.

    • Debunking Primal Therapy says:

      Hello interested party,

      I think I have this documented somewhere – but refresh my memory – did Werner Karle write a testimonial that was used in the Primal Scream?

      Just going from memory now, was Werner’s retraction documented in the book Therapy Gone Mad?

      Many thanks for your message, and remember you can email me too at debunkingprimaltherapy@yahoo.com

      Ed. DPT

    • Ray Martin says:

      I know nothing of the way the Janovians work their therapy, and I’m not really interested except for what I could pick up from them in terms of improving my own technique, of which there is very little. I realize that this is a site primarily for the purpose of debunking Primal Therapy, but the process of relieving internal discomfort by feeling that discomfort in its original context has been of high value to me and the way I live my life. If you wish to criticize the concepts and have some sort of strong disagreement with the Primal hypothesis and its practice, that’s your bag and you’re welcome to it. It was Janov’s work that originally intrigued me about the whole feeling/reliving thing, but I learned, once I got with a group, that many of Janov’s claims were either not true, or they were the testimonials of a select few — sort of like when you watch a commercial and it says in very small print that one should not expect those same results. But draining off emotional build-up, whether early past or recent events, works for me to feel balanced, centered, and more open to life’s adventures. Sorry — there are pros and cons both ways, and I happen to like the way I was taught as well as feeling that I have progressed light years beyond what I was originally taught. I better stop now before I write an entire essay, but that’s my slant on the topic.

      • Debunking Primal Therapy says:

        Thanks for your comment Ray,

        We can probably agree that we both found out that many of the claims were either not true or testimonials like in a commercial. I am not actually sure about draining off emotional build up — sometimes it seems like a good thing — other times it seems counterproductive. I certainly question the idea that emotions are like steam in a steam engine. Emotions have both an affective and cognitive origin, as has been shown in studies such as the famous Schachter and Singer epinephrine study, and viewing emotions as just affective blobs seems to me to be the only way to sustain a belief in the catharsis (or hydraulic) view of emotions. Perhaps letting emotions out when it happens naturally is good, but taking the time to elicit emotions from childhood in a prolonged therapy not only takes a long time, but also some authenticity may be lost if you try to then get them all “out” of the system. Again, to be clear, I am not sure it works in that way – of emotions being entities that can be considered either inside or out — that is the old catharsis model.

        Ed. DPT.

  2. Ray says:

    I have been a primal devotee’ for many years and I would like to add my two cents’ worth to this column: Primal is not all Janov has it cracked up to be. He claims a “cure” in a very short period of time, and most of us in Primal have not experienced anything close to that. However, I can say without reservation that the practice of emotional release *in context with the original setting* does dramatically improve my relationship with reality — my sense of well-being, being able to relax and enjoy my life, my ability to reach out and do and experience things that I would never have had the courage or self-worth to try, given the emotional constriction of my early life. It has brought me full circle to hating my parents to being able to feel deep compassion for them in terms of the misery *they* had to endure, and to finally be able to reveal true feelings of love for them as my parents. Through the therapy I was able to eventually remember the good, loving times once I got past the pain that was superimposed over all those really nice feelings. My clients also have had good experiences from their work, with more than one being able to dispense with medications that they had been on for years. So, although I do agree that the primal process has been exaggerated into something that smacks of “magical thinking” and pseudo-science, I would urge that you don’t summarily throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s been hyped up too much by Janov et al, but, for some of us, it has been a godsend to help relieve us from the ravages of neurosis. Perhaps the placebo effect of simply believing in it has had something to do with the success of those who have benefitted from it, but the positive effects, often fairly dramatic, are real enough. Janov also claims that everyone, provided they stay with it long enough, will receive the same benefits as his model examples. Nope. There are those, in my belief, that should not do, or do not need, primal therapy, and there are those who have had horrible experiences with it, but they usually had horrible therapists, also. And that’s part of the rub: The course of one’s therapy can be greatly influenced by the therapist, as the therapist, for a while, is the recipient of transference, where the client sees the therapist as a parental or authority figure. But those who receive good, solid therapy by someone who has been though enough to be relatively defense-free seem to do well. I’ve written more than I intended, but I thought this site needed a little balancing out. Many mainstream therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy have been much less successful than primal with certain people, and vice-versa. Thanks for allowing me this space.

    • Debunking Primal Therapy says:

      Thanks Ray for your contribution. There are many things you write here that are heavily influenced by Janov’s writings, although you do seem to trying to be balanced. For example, coming to view one’s parents as having miserable lives is a very common outcome of reading Janov’s works. It can be quite patronizing to parents to have one’s children view them in that way – and many times I am sure it is inaccurate too.

      Not sure I agree that the best therapist are the one’s that have had the most primal therapy – does not fit with what I saw. Some of the most “defenseless” therapists seemed overwhelmed to me, and most apt to cross boundaries, to be honest.

      I thought the whole thing detracted from people’s lives – even those who professed it had helped them.

      Editor Debunking Primal Therapy

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