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Letters To The Primal Page

Denis Lemire - 11/29/95
Denis Lemire - 12/10/95
Ian Rawling - 12/06/1995
Ian Rawling - 12/09/1995
France D. Janov - 12/28/1995
Colleen English - 1/8/96
Rick L. Prescott - 1/11/96
R. K. - 1/12/1996
Kate Schoonees - 1/12/1996
Doug Johnson - 1/14/1996
Ernst Oslender - 1/16/1996
Doug Johnson - 1/19/1996

November 29, 1995

Dear John,

I was just introduced to the Internet yesterday and I wanted to find out if Dr. Janov and his training center were on the net. Yes, he was and so were a whole bunch of M.S.W.'s and Ph.D.'s who pretended to know with authority what is and how primal therapy works, and that just by having read Dr. Janov's books and by doing it to their clients feel that was sufficient to grant themselves the title of "Primal Therapists." This is highly unethical.

The only thing those people have in common is that none of them have been certified by Dr. Janov. The reason being they ganged up on an idea that was popular at the time and that could give them credibility and business.

Because of their degrees, they should have been the first ones to seek the proper training with primal therapy's originator, Dr. Arthur Janov.

Why pretend to be doing something that none of them were trained for and go through a mountain of mistakes if they are honest like Dr. Janov has been since the very beginning? In other words, why do they have to re-invent the wheel over and over again instead of going forward with it?

If any of those therapists had read the Journals of Primal Therapy, they would have found out how quickly this therapy was evolving.

Because I was at the Primal Institute for six years and also had "mock" primal therapy before, I know what I am talking about. They made a lot of mistakes at the Primal Institute, but now, because of better understanding, videotaping and a lot of confrontation, which is a very important part of the therapy, Dr. Janov's International Primal Center is still the place to get the best therapy.

Primal therapy is not as simple as Dr. Janov thought it was at the very beginning. You just don't use a few techniques to induce a primal and think everything will go by itself.

The discovery of three levels of consciousness was Dr. Janov's second greatest discovery which meant that primal therapy finally had markers in the ocean of primal pains, and what also came with it was the recognition of the intricacy and subtleties of the defense system that is present at all times. I am absolutely certain that "mock" primal therapists like Stettbacher know very little about the implications of that great discovery, especially that anything can become a defense, even mock primal therapy or the real therapy itself.

Primal therapy is dangerous even in trained hands. No amount of Ph.D.'s and M.D.'s can make you avoid your own craziness, and if you have gone too far, too soon into unconnected first line feelings, you could be stuck for a long time in the world of fantasies or mysticism.

That is the reason why the therapy should not be practiced only by one therapist and that a group of therapists is necessary to do good therapy, and even then, you need a group of very open people, people who have felt a lot of pain on all levels of consciousness. With this in mind, it is obvious that the training takes years and not just a few week ends.

Primal therapy is not a game for intellectuals to play with people's lives or those hippy goody-two-shoes therapist's games that you can play in a week end. Your mental and physical health are at stake.

I am convinced that promoting untrained primal therapists, like you intend to do, is misleading, against public interest and potentially dangerous.

Thank you for thinking about it!

Please excuse my English; my first language is French.

Denis Lemire

P. S. Why don't you join Dr. Janov's International Primal Center since you are one of Dr. Janov's biggest defenders!

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Merci pour votre lettre. Your concerns are not new ones. And yes, there are incompetent individuals who practice primal therapy. I have been to many primal week-ends and mini-intensives and feel that there are many competent individual therapists doing this work.

And yes, I believe that you are correct when you write that primal therapy can be dangerous even if "administered" by trained therapists. It is a deep and major psychotherapy which can shake the psychic foundations of an individual, and as defenses become lowered can temporarily make the patient worse off than before the therapy. You also believe that primal therapy is best when practiced by a group of therapists rather than a single therapist. True again.

In any event, there are not enough Janov trained primal therapists available. When demand for a product or service exits as is the case for primal therapy, the supply of therapists will arise to meet the demand. Some of these therapists have been practicing over twenty years. Surely they have learned a lot during those years and the great majority have developed competency along the way.

A problem I have heard often is that many potential clients/patients do not know where services are available. I hope that the free ads I run do not "promote" incompetent therapists. Let the buyer beware. Therapists should be investigated before a commitment of time and money is made.

I have been asked a number of times to recommend a therapist, but have always been hesitant in giving a definite recommendation. I always mention Dr. Janov's Primal Training Center for consideration. But not everyone can leave their hometown or can afford the fees which are charged at the Primal Center. Often the choice is between therapy with Janov's approved therapists, which are few in number, or no primal therapy at all. In such situations, what would you choose?

Warm regards,


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December 10, 1995

Hi John,

I want to answer you back. First, I want to tell you a little bit about my own experience with "mock" primal therapy.

My discovery of primals happened at a mock primal center in Montreal. The first hour of therapy was a huge discovery to me; I had a totally connected primal which opened me up like nothing else before. I told a friend of mine: "Eureka, I found it!"

I found the right therapy after three years of searching and was so happy. I had cried for hours and connected to my real self for the first time since childhood. I was twenty-two years old.

What happened later on was that I had a lot of primals but didn't know how to integrate them into my life. Worse than that, I didn't even know that I had to integrate them into my life. I also became a mock primal therapist myself.

It was easy for me to get people into feelings. Most people thought I was a great therapist. I had a few doubts myself because I thought that a lot of people were just becoming more sensitive and that was it.

I read the Journals of Primal Therapy, where I discovered the article about the three levels of consciousness. I read it over and over again, until I understood that we were forgetting something, the third line of consciousness, our intellect. People would plunge into feelings, first line or second line, feel a relief because of the abreaction effect, and think they were doing Primal Therapy. I thought I was doing primal therapy.

Later on in Los Angeles, I found out that there was more to it then just feelings. The most important part is to use your feelings once you have made a connection or had insights. If you don't use them, you don't learn and you are bound to repeat the same mistakes in life and be unhappy.

That may sound easy, but it is not.

Another aspect of Primal Therapy is you can be feeling the WRONG feeling. How is that possible? You come into a therapy session with a main feeling which is the one you are living in at the moment. The therapist comes in, asks you how you are, you answer and start to unveil your feeling. The therapist doesn't feel where you're at and lets you talk further away from it. Since the pressure of that feeling and others is still there, you keep on talking and touch something else that this therapist can relate to and he will get you in that feeling which is the wrong one for you, since the one you should have felt for resolution was partially expressed at the beginning of the session.

By doing that, the therapist will bring you on his turf, his own neurosis and will complicate yours. This is only one of the multiple ways that a session can go wrong.

That's why you NEED a group of good therapists, videotape sessions and confront the therapist with his mistakes and hangups, without that, you're bound to fail.

A single therapist cannot give good therapy in the long run, since he will not be criticized or confronted, because most patients need help and cannot afford losing that help, especially "primal" help, since it is so rare.

You say, "let the buyer beware." It's easy to be misled and believe that you're getting good therapy, because when you feel something, when you have a primal, you think that's it, I'm doing Primal Therapy.

But like I said, Primal Therapy is not just feeling old feelings, THAT IS THE EASY PART, the hard part is to feel them in the right sequence and to use them in your everyday life and grow-up!

Another problem created by mock primal therapists is that there aren't any standard and by copying Dr. Janov's ideas without the knowledge of the training, they have created so many clinics throughout the world that Dr. Janov's Center hasn't developed as fast as it should have, because of too many mocks, bad therapy and bad press.

Competency is not a matter of years. If a therapist was never challenged or "confronted to himself," he could be doing his seven steps over and over again and never learn, and screw people up good.

With what I know today, I would suggest that, if you really want Primal Therapy, go to Dr. Janov's International Primal Center and don't lose time and money elsewhere, since it will eventually cost you more and you won't have gone very far, because nobody's checking those "Primal Specialists" who haven't even done their own therapy at Dr. Janov's Center. Better do a behaviorial therapy that helps you to function and get you there later.

Sincerely yours,

Denis Lemire

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December 6, 1995

Dear John,

It was great to find your site on the web. I went for a Primal stuff search when I initially became an Internet user ( a week ago ) and I didn't really expect to find much. Sounds like you know quite a bit about the subject and have undergone Primal Therapy yourself.

I spent three months in L.A. at the Primal Institute from May 1994 and feel that I gained a great deal from the experience. I believe in the theory of Primal Therapy and am determined to succeed with my own experience. I have been working at home for the past year and have been getting into feelings quite often - that is, most days.

My main problem is in not having a therapist on hand to guide me and to let me know if I am still on the right track. I am very interested in the book you reviewed Reclaiming Your Life by Jean Jenson. I feel that it could be of great benefit to me as I am not scared of the therapy or the work involved but just seem to need a bit more method in what I am doing.

I have tried to find the book here in Australia but to no avail. Could you please supply me with the address (phone no. EMail address etc) of any bookstores in the US that could send me a copy...preferably one that would accept credit card payment. Any other relevant information on the subject would be greatly appreciated.

Hoping to hear from you and keep up the good work, I don't feel so isolated now.

Ian Rawling
1 Willoughby St
Western Australia

Thanks for your interesting note, Ian. I sent Ian the address and telephone number of Strand Bookstore in NYC which sells Jenson's book.

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December 9, 1995

Dear John,

Thanks for replying so quickly to my letter. I have contacted the Strand Bookshop and they are sending the book out to me.

You have my permission to publish any letter or article that I send you, I think the more Primal information around the better.

As you seem interested I will give a brief account of my Primal experience so far. Like so many of us I came across the Primal Scream many years ago but never thought it possible to undertake the task of actually doing the therapy, being overseas makes it all the more difficult. When I reached age forty or so (mid-life crises time) I started to realise that things were not getting better with my life and probably wouldn't. I think that when you are young, even though you are feeling bad there is always the future to look forward to and this hope keeps you going. Two years ago I was spending my leisure time drinking and smoking heavily just to become numb - all I looked forward to each day was that lovely warm feeling after a few drinks.

I searched Australia for a Primal Therapist but only came up with a few psychologists who dabbled in the therapy. I actually did a bit of work with one but had a very bad experience - I opened up too quickly and had no technique available to deal with the horrible feelings which were overwhelming me. I had to drug myself to stop this episode and build up my defenses again. I realised that if I was going to do this therapy I needed expert help and so decided to go straight to the top, that is Arthur Janov. I contacted the Primal Institute in L.A. and made the trip in May of 1994. I knew that Arthur Janov had left the Primal Institute and that Vivian Janov was running the show now. When I arrived in L.A. I found out that Arthur had set up the Primal Training Center in Venice; this added to my confusion about whether I had picked the right place to go.

Going to the Primal Institute was a rewarding experience for me and I think that I learned how to get in touch with my feelings there. It was different to what I expected from reading The Primal Scream or any of Janov's books in the sense that the therapy was a lot gentler than I had thought. I expected to be ripped apart and put back together all a matter of a few weeks. I think a lot of us have that expectation of Primal Therapy. What I found was that it is very hard work and most of it must come from ourselves, the therapist is our guide and provides a safe environment for the feelings to occur.

Vivian said to me on one occasion that Arthur was quite brutal sometimes in his treatment of patients and I felt that this method may have been better for me than the more subtle approach of the Institute. The thing that was dissapointing about The Primal Institute was that I expected a much more volatile environment for feeling and sometimes it was just downright dead, especially in the group work as people just seemed to want to have a nice place to come to on a Friday night and not really get into their feelings. Sometimes I just felt like screaming it was so quiet (now there's a feeling!).

I don't know about Vivian's thoughts on birth primals as the subject never came up with either her or any of the loons. Ha! Ha! What they are extremely careful about is not pushing people too quickly into early feelings but instead building up the patients capacity to feel stronger and stronger feelings over a period of time. From what I have read on the subject most people are not ready for birth primals until they have been in the therapy for maybe years. I know some go straight there but generally I think these horrific feelings are felt much later and are the ones which can make the most significant changes in a persons makeup.

Anyhow, now I am working by myself at home and as you probably know it can get pretty hard at times. There is just no one over here (I live in a small country town) to talk to about my therapy and sometimes I find it hard to keep things in perspective. Even though I am still hurting quite a lot I haven't drunk or smoked since going to L.A. so this has been a big change in my life. I now have some way to release the pressure without drugs so just this change alone has made the therapy worthwhile.

So that's my little story, I will keep you informed with my progress using J. Jenson's book.

Keep in touch and take care.

p.s. I just received your last message with the details of the Strand Bookshop. Once again thank you for taking an interest.

Ian Rawling
1 Willoughby St
Western Australia

Ian, yes, please do keep us informed about your primal progress using Jenson's book!
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December 28, 1995

Dear John,

We have read the exchange of correspondence between Ian, Denis and yourself. In his letter Denis Lemire makes a very good point about the dangers of uncertified primal therapists practicing Primal therapy.

You are right when you say that some therapists have now practiced for 20 years and have learned a few things. However, nobody to our knowledge has done any research or advanced Primal theory. Only Dr Arthur Janov has put financial resources and time to do the extensive research that has allowed for all the latest advances in techniques that we practice at the International Primal Center. Research allows the therapy and our diagnoses to be extremely precise and accurate.

May I add that almost invariably, people who come to us, after doing mock therapy, have to be "regrooved" as most of them abreact and don't have the slightest idea about it. It is all these findings that make us very weary of recommending anyone who has not been trained by us at the International Primal Center.

Primal therapy can indeed be dangerous if not practiced with all the necessary knowledge and safeguards.

Because of all the difficulties that therapists all over the world face to come in our regular program, which take four years, we have organized an extension program based on a one month course which includes lectures, by Dr Arthur Janov and members of his staff, on various subjects like, abreaction, anxiety, manic-depression, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, lifelong effects of birth, first line pain, brain research, neurological foundations for levels of consciousness etc...

This program also includes clinical courses. The first extension program is going to be held April 1st to the end of May 1996.

We will put more information in our home page very soon. If you would like to know more about it please contact us at our e-mail address: or telephone (310) 392 2003.

You may publish this in your newsletter if you wish.


France D. Janov
International Primal Center
Venice, California

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January 6, 1996


I don't know why I never thought of searching on "primal therapy" before this. The fact that I am sometimes a slow thinker and that I can only do it at work probably accounts for it.

I did [what I believe to be] "real" primal therapy for about one year at a place called the Feeling Center about 120 miles from my home. (I took a 3 month leave of absence at the very beginning and after that I commuted.) I knew I was far from done when I quit going there and subsequently tried a couple other primal-like encounters (one a group; one a private therapist) but they didn't quite "get it" and the time came to quit. The last person introduced me to Alice Miller and from there I found Stettbacher (sp?).

But the reason I keep trying to find someone to help me is because I have a very hard time "getting into" my feelings by myself and I probably am inhibited (don't feel safe) in my house. I fall asleep (what I did as a baby); I have very little memory (I suspect most of the really bad stuff happened pre-verbally), I can't retrieve even very strong feelings that are triggered, when I am in a position to do something about it, and often I can only guess at what's going on when I do "get into something" (although I'm probably right).

So I continue to try doing stuff by myself, too infrequently, and I continue to look for someone locally who "gets it" to help me. [I really don't understand why Janov thinks everyone should move to California and spend their life savings. And I've never believed only he is capable to "doing it right".]

I am impressed with what I read today on your Homepage. Have you done primal therapy? If so are you done? How many inquiries to you get a day as a result of your Homepage? Do you work outside the home for money? Given that I have a limited amount of time to browse, where on your Page should I look occasionally for help?

Why doesn't the International Primal Therapy Center train and certify primal therapy therapists? It surprises me that after all these years there is only one place in the United States that Dr. Janov's primal therapy is offered.

Thank you,

Colleen English

P. S. I have to go to a yoga class now and since this e-mail method doesn't have a spell-check attached, I apologize for any mis-spelled words. I apologize also if I am hard to read; I think I'm being perfectly clear until I go back the next day and read what I've written.


Sorry that you did not have a "successful" primal endeavor during your first venture into primal therapy. That happens, I am sorry to admit. I'd suggest reading both Stettbacher's and Jenson's books and doing the exercises again and again.

Conditions have to be "correct" for me also; and that's after 21 years of getting into my primal feelings. I began the therapy spontaneously as a result of being in group therapy for anxiety and many psychosomatic symptoms. I've received about six or seven inquiries so far (I established the PPP in October of 1995).

I no longer work. I've been retired for seven years. I hesitate to recommend a particular part of the website to browse for information about self primaling. I envision the site as a general informational resource, and would recommend that you continue to read the two recommended books and attend primal mini-intensives and every opportunity.

The International Primal Center does train and certify primal therapists. At one time there were Janov established centers in San Francisco, New York and in Europe.


The Top Of The Page
January 11, 1996


In 1973-74, I was a patient at Sid Rose's Center for Intense Feeling in Manhattan. The Center was a primal-style scream therapy clinic. There was a large amount of scream/feeling therapy being done in NYC at this time both by professionals and self-appointed amateurs.

This note is not so much a comment on any aspect of Primal therapy, etc., but a historical note to the effect that there are many people who went through primal experiences in the early 1970's and little seems to be known about the long-term psychophysiological gains/losses (if any) stemming from their therapy. Additionally, little is known about the primal subculture that existed at that time. (Mither's book "Therapy Gone Mad" is an exception.)

Two more points:

(1) If anyone has any buzz on scream therapy in NYC in the early 1970's, and you're inclined, feel free to reach me at

(2) Thanks for putting together this page. It's very professional and your objectivity and fairness to all points of view is great.

Rick L. Prescott

Thanks for your comments, Rick

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January 12, 1996

Dear John,

Thanks for the further info you sent by email. Just writing to say how useful I find the Primal Psychotherapy Page and its great to see it growing week by week.

Its good to read ordinary people's experiences and to have the debate out in the open. Its a pity that the Denver Centre is no longer operational, I'd be interested to know the reasons for that, from the articles from their journal it looked like it might have been a good place to go for the therapy. What has happened to the therapists who worked there?

Perhaps someone involved could do a piece about this?

All the best to you and good luck with future web-writing.


R. K.
United Kingdom

I've heard a number of different explanations why the Denver Center closed. I also would like to read an article about that subject. Thanks for the note.

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January 12, 1996

Dear John Speyrer,

I was interested to see that you say in your home page that Stettbacher will be publishing an accompaniment guide to self help soon. Where did you hear of this and do you know when? Do you have any of the publishing details? I know that another book recommended by Alice Miller called Facing the Wolf is due to be published in May 1996 in hardcover if you are interested.

Best regards

Kate Schoonees

Children are the future love them with gentleness and kindness.

Kate, I'm sorry to say that the news about Stettbacher's plans to publish an accompaniment guide to self-help is news which is over two years' old. I received this info from a friend in the New England states who had written to Stettbacher for information. I copied this information from an older issue of my newsletter without realizing that the info was that old. Read Jean Jenson's Reclaiming Your Life if you have not read it as yet. Thanks for the information about Alice Miller's Facing the Wolf. That is one book I definitely will read.
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The Top Of The Page

January 14, 1996


Many thanks for building the primal homepage. I'll call later to offer assistance.


Doug Johnson

Doug telephoned last night and plans to send the PPP an article about "body therapies" which often trigger early pains. Doug's main interest is Radix therapy. We are waiting your article with great expectations, Doug!

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January 16, 1996


I read all of the letters and what I find mostly are intellectual arguments, attacks and counter-attacks. What I find missing are humble statements such as "Thank you Arthur for finding it for us."

Ernst Oslender
Winfield, B. C.

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January 20, 1996

Hi John,

Hope you get the Radix/Kelley therapy info I sent you soon. I mailed it today. Let me know if scanning it works or if there's some other way of getting this stuff available. I'm concerned that some of the therapists in the body oriented/primal focused realm still have agendas based in Freudian crap... the "poisonous pedagogy" is too thoroughly entrenched. I really like Alice Miller. As you can see, she my "enlightened witness" and my anchor.

Milton Scharaf is the author of Fury on Earth and he also was a student of Reich's during the 40's. I'm amazed at how little credit Reich is given by the various practioners and letter writers! I'm amazed that Janov is given such credit given the shoulders he's standing on. No doubt he's explored quite a bit, but I think it would be better, as we agreed, to focus on what works, how it works, and how to get it working the best.

In our phone conversation, I've meant to ask about your own "work" on these issues. Would I be somewhat correct by assuming you've suffered a "wee" bit? Have you access to old memories now or are you actively uncovering more all the time?

I'll try to find Jean Jenson book the next time I get to Conway, AR (the nearest large city of 29,000 pop.)

As for myself, I engage in 30 to 60 minutes of breathwork each day... in order to supplement the work I do in Dallas every 5 or 6 weeks. While there I do 6 sessions total with the two people there. They help provide a "safe and trusting" environment in which I usually get deeper into my stuff. I've been very depressed most of my life and don't have much "feeling and sensation" per se and this past two years have helped me lose quite a bit of the depression, have opened me to a little feeling, and have re-activated some hope! Altogether now I've been doing therapy of one kind or another since 1968 and it's only been the involvement with the real regressive stuff that has helped noticeably.

I was impressed by that article from the Denver Primal Journal page. Some of the conference participants, related their experiences dealing with the "therapist's" issues and how to get through this barrier. I am very happy to read of others having this difficulty! It's bad enough having to grope around in the dark of repression without having to bump inadvertently into someone else's nightmares! I'd like to believe that no one pretends to do this work until they're "all better" but I realize that wish is unrealistic since neurosis is always present -- it's always on a "sliding scale". So maybe we (those of us in the world) need to devise acceptable ways of saying, "time out; is this my shit or yours?" I've been aware of slight rumblings before and only felt like I should ignore them, but lately I'm into saying whatever my reaction is and allowing the interaction to sort out what's what. I definitely do not need the burden of the therapist's stuff.


Doug Johnson

Oh yes, I have suffered a bit in my life! Mostly from psychosomatic stomach pains, phobias and anxiety. Very soon I will be printing two articles from the Primal Feelings Newsletter about my long primal route towards health. You'll notice that I have not quite reached my destination! Birth pain feelings seems interminable. I am not so much as uncovering new traumas as I am re-experiencing the older ones.

You seem to have found out what many of us have discovered, that "it's only been the involvement with the real regressive stuff that has helped noticeably," but some symptoms are more tenacious than others. Those horrid stomach pains were gone in six months after I began primaling, but insomnia is still a problem.

Confronting the therapist when you feel he is dumping on you is the only way to go, Doug. Thanks for all of your comments.

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