Why is primal therapy ignored or criticized by mainstream psychology?

by Bruce Wilson

Search for “primal therapy” on PubMed, the US National Institute of Medicine’s database of the world’s medical literature, and you will a grand total of 12 papers.

There is only one paper in the 1990s: a survey that criticizes primal as one of the “least sound” of mental health treatments, along with neurolinguistic programming, bioenergetics, and aversive therapy. A more recent survey (2006) ranks “primal scream therapy” as less credible than prefrontal lobotomy, EST, NLP, craniosacral therapy, AND “dolphin-assisted  therapy for treatment of developmental disabilities.” Only slightly less credible than primal were “treatments for PTSD caused by alien abduction, past lives therapy, future lives therapy,” “use of pyramids for restoration of energy,” and angel therapy.

Remarkably, only 4.5% of those surveyed (mostly cognitive behavioral therapists) indicated they were not familiar with primal. In other words, more than 95% of mainstream therapists believe they know what “primal scream therapy” is and feel justified to rank it below lobotomy. Pretty sad, I’d say.

Look elsewhere and you’ll find plenty of attacks from skeptics who think the therapy has to do with screaming.

Before 1990, there is one small observational study (13 patients) reporting favorable outcomes, and an EEG study done by Erik Hoffmann, PhD, an independent brain researcher who worked with Janov in the mid-1990s, but that’s it.

So why the lack of interest in studying primal therapy and other deep feeling therapies? Why do skeptics smear it as “woo?” I think there are several reasons, but here are eight that I will be discussing in upcoming posts:

1. Outdated notions of abreaction and catharsis.

2. Misunderstanding and disinformation about primal therapy

3. Lack of an organized network of accredited deep feeling therapists

4. Lack of scientific evidence.

6. The view that regression therapies are based on false memories.

7. Association with new age, supernatural or spiritualist movements.

8. Misuse by untrained or unaccredited practitioners.


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The Why is primal therapy ignored or criticized by mainstream psychology? by The Primal Mind, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.

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