Welcome! This is a website designed to give a detailed and well researched criticism and evaluation of primal therapy. It is a critique on the treatment and theory which was first developed and popularized by Arthur Janov (Ph.D.).
Recommended reading: To understand the parallel between psychological scientists’ lack of esteem for primal therapy books, it is recommended to read some of Peter Medawar’s review of a similarly fringe book, albeit on a different topic, called the Phenomenon of Man, which incidentally Richard Dawkins was once (embarrassingly) taken in by:
The reason for this recommendation is because it essentially is the same problem, in different fields, of well-educated people writing books–with their education giving them great literary and persuasive skills, but a lack of constraint when it comes to scientific testability, analytic thought, and extending theories way beyond the evidence. An excerpt follows:
Its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself. … There is an argument in it, to be sure–a feeble argument, abominably expressed…; but consider first the style, because it is the style that creates the illusion of content.
“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).
“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)
Top 10 Discredited Mental Health Treatments
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.
“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)
[In the footnote it is noted that not all clinical psychologists are poor scientists]
“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)
Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology, (edited by Lilienfeld, Lynn, Lohr) from the foreword essay “The Widening Scientist-Practitioner Gap,” written by social psychologist Carol Tavris, Ph.D.
[For a review of this book by Professor Colin Feltham, see the The Counselling Center website.]
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
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
The idea for the first article was originally inspired by social psychology and the widely 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 counterpoint 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.
Although it was not part of the original plan for this site, in response to requests from some readers this website grew to include more testimonial type evidence. Included are personal experiences of primal therapy, from more than one source, to further inform the potential consumer. However, those sections are not necessarily the most important on the site (the section on falsifiability I think is more important for example) and I suggest reading section 5 on how to weight testimonial evidence before reading those parts.
This website will protect primal therapy participant’s confidentiality while still informing future potential consumers.
”We have come to claim our promise, O Oz.”
”What promise?” asked Oz.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book written by Frank Baum.
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
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).
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
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.
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