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Primal Therapy


Also sometimes known as primal scream therapy.

A therapy technique that encourages reencountering traumatic childhood experiences (sometimes even prenatal experiences) and relieves the pain in whatever way to express the pain by reacting vocally and physically in ways such as screaming, sobbing, overcome and eliminate it.


This method was first written in Dr. Arthur Janov’s 1970 book titled “Primal Scream”. He was also the author of 13 other books, some of which are related to primal therapy such as The Biology of Love and Primal Healing.

Dr. Arthur Janov was educated at UCLA at the Claremont Graduate school. He then worked at a Veteran's Administration hospital and the Los Angeles Children's Hospital.

During his own therapy, he found an "eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor". This inspired him to create primal therapy.

He later founded the Janov primal center in Santa Monica, California where they specialize in primal therapy treating those in need.

According to Janov, painful experiences can place stress on our mental and physical body, even having the potential of causing illness such as hypertension, allergies, asthma, panic attack, heart palpitations, ulcers, phobias, depression. Hence it is important to address and resolve early childhood trauma.

This method received little scientific attention and is not really used by most psychotherapists or counselors.


The treatment is an open-ended therapy which the session remains accessible and lasts as long as the patient needs it.

This must be done with the supervision of a licensed professional.

Firstly, the empty chair technique is used. The chair represents the person that is responsible for causing the trauma, in which the patient can express all of the negative emotions on the chair.

Secondly, with the supervision of a licensed professional, the patient is encouraged to identify and return to the traumatic episode by lifting it out of the unconscious. This allows the patient to make a conscious connection with the memory and returns to the neuro-physical state at the time of trauma, allowing the patient to have access to their repressed feelings.

Thirdly, as the traumatic experience arises, the associated pain will also arise. Hence, they are able to direct their emotions and feelings onto the chair. This can be achieved by re-experiencing the trauma in ways such as kicking, punching, screaming, yelling and crying.

This is due to the fact that they are releasing all of the repressed emotions and pain from the trauma pent up inside of them, allowing the patient to be free of the trauma and moving on with their lives.


Primal therapy has been shown to have long lasting results and a high potential for success, with patients feeling a “sense of relief” due to all of the pain from the traumatic events released.

This method, although successful, is unable to “fully flush all of the pain from their bodies” since it has the chance of the negative symptoms reversing and coming back again within fifteen to twenty-five months, meaning that constant therapy is required.

General result

At least 40% of patient that have experienced primal therapy reported relief in symptoms after 8 months


Subjects under 30 were 40% successful

Subjects between 30 to 40 were 64% successful

No subjects above 40 were successful.


Women were 43% successful

Men were 40% successful


European were 53% successful

Scandinavians were 50% successful

American and Canadian were 31% successful


“Severe disturbance” were 25% successful

“Moderately severe disturbance” were 60% successful

Experience with therapy

No experience were 55% successful

With experience were 41% successful


Primal therapy can be used to treat a wide range of trauma but it is most common in treating trauma that occurs in the early childhood or “formative years”. This is because at this time period, most of our skills and abilities that we require are developed at the time and trauma experienced at the time will be having the more lasting and damaging effects and will likely to affect for the rest of their lives, developing mental illnesses such as post traumatic disorder later on in life.

Physical abuse

Any physical injuries to the body that could be caused by hitting, kicking, punching or any other physical forms of abuse. This can cause fear of any sudden physical movement and trouble trusting people.

Sexual Abuse

Any type of unwanted sexual contact and actions that occur without consent. This can involve actions such as unwanted touching, kissing, sexual gestures and sex. This can cause fear of physical affect and fear of being around the opposite gender.


The failure to be cared for properly such as having little access to proper food, shelter, water and other basic everyday living requirements and a caregiver giving a lack of attention. This can cause being distant from others and poor health.

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