An Obituary of Graham Farrant - Healing Life of Many Births by John Spensley M.D.

Healing Life of Many Births

Graham Farrant was a pioneer in primal therapy, alternative birthing methods and infant and foetal psychology, whose non-conformist beliefs and practices inspired a loyalty in his clients that was as intense as the scepticism he provoked in his peers.

Gregarious, confronting, compassionate with a gentle humor, his personal traits and unconventional views in part explain why most of his colleagues found his ideas difficult to accept initially and why some later started to change their views.

Farrant's innovative approach was evident from the early stages of his career. As a medical officer at Repatriation General Hospital in Heidelberg, he started the first halfway house for alcoholics in Victoria. After training at McGill University in Montreal and later at Harvard. he was appointed a child psychiatrist at Melbourne's Prince Henry and Queen Victoria hospitals. When a patient told him about primal therapy he saw the potential of this non-drug, deep regressive, cathartic treatment and began his own therapy and training in the United States with Arthur Janov, the originator of primal therapy.

Certain that patients were remembering birth, which at the time, Janov would not accept, Farrant left and continued at the Denver Primal Centre until he returned to Melbourne.

In the mid-70s he set up the first primal therapy centre in Australia at Erin Street in Richmond. During three-hour groups, clients would be taken through various levels of regression - a baby here, a toddler there, a foetus alongside, a child experiencing a significant interaction with a parent. At another group there might be a funeral service for someone with unresolved grieving, complete with casket, flowers and attendants.

Believing secrets kept people sick, Farrant would fix someone with his penetrating blue eyes, which left few able to hold on to their secrets. He was attuned to every nuance, movement phrase and expression during a session of deep regression he would asise how the body would tell the truth and to trust its movements; he could often tell the type of birth a person had experienced by these body movements and postures. He also taught the importance of "family times" - the repetitive time-patterns in families. He died at exactly the same time of day as his father.

Farrant became convinced that womb life, was accurately remembered and important psychologically. From this developed his main contribution - his emphasis on the importance of parents being emotionally prepared for the act of conception, pointing out that to conceive out of joy and love was an incalculable gift to give a child.

He was, subsequently, the driving force behind the first recorded Leboyer delivery in Australia at the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1976. In contrast to the prevailing orthodoxy, Leboyer births (after the French obstetrician who started them) were characterised by minimal intervention, a slower birth process, the involvement of both parents, cutting the cord only after it had stopped pulsating, and bathing babies after they had been stabilised. Many of these practices have since been incorporated into mainstream delivery techniques.

Later, Farrant was to add a spiritual dimension when he encouraged the exploration of the use of primal therapy in children and babies to heal birth and intrauterine traumas. Children wanted to be with him as he had a way of making them feel special. Perhaps some of this understanding came out of his own pain. Farrant has written that he survived an attempted abortion, which he confirmed with his mother.

In recent years his experience with regression led him to focus more on the psychopathology related to conception and implantation, believing that memories were remembered at the cellular level - he called it cellular consciousness. He believed that the time the soul entered the body was critical - a process he called ensoulment. He was sure that any process that did not have a spiritual dimension to it was unlikely to be successful. His own spiritual growth was enhanced when he found his guru in Sai Baba, who taught in southern India.

Farant's work was starting to be recognised in the US. Besides his presentation at the 6th International Transpersonal Conference held, with his help, at Phillip Island in 1980, he gave the keynote addresses on cellular consciousness at the 1985 2nd International Congress on Pre-and Perinatal Psychology in San Diego. and to the 1986 Internatonal Primal Association Convention in North America.

His approach to medicine was holistic, eschewing the classical doctor-patient relationship, and was more that of a friend. He encouraged the use of body work and other modalities for his patients and particularly emphasised the spiritual aspects of personal growths. His workshops in Australia and overseas were powerful and it was not uncommon for clients who had experienced these to come to Melbourne to continue therapy.

He was a dramatist who made the mundane feel like an adventure; a brilliant teacher and a man of exquisite humanness. Even when Farrant was dying from a protracted illness he still found time to give of himself. He will be sorely missed by his many friends and particularly by his wife and four children.
-- John Spensley

Dr. John Spensley is a consultant paediatrician to the Queen Elizabeth Centre for Mothers and Babies and honorary paediatrician to the Birth Centre at Monash Medical Centre. He has been involved in research with the Department of Neurosciences at Swinburne University looking at the demonstrable brain tracing differences in Dissociative Identity Disorder. During the mid eighties he established the Jamillon Center in Melbourne where he provides primal therapy services.

Articles on the Primal Psychotherapy Page website about Dr Graham Farrant include: