Therapy Gone Mad, Carol Lynn Mithers, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994, $23.00

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

The author recounts the story of a small group of therapists accompanied by about twenty-five patients, who in the early 1970s left the Primal Institute in Los Angeles to form the Center for Feeling Therapy. Originally there were no plans to offer a therapy different from traditional primal therapy, but slowly the therapy changed. Deeply feeling past traumas was thought to be therapeutically important, but the therapy theory changed into believing that the road to emotional health was through having and expressing complete feelings of what was happening in the present.

Over time the therapists began demanding strict obedience, became sadistic and insisted on having complete control of their patients' lives, including work chores and even their choices of mates. The center's businesses hired their patients but paid them very little. They were even fined for small infractions. What had started as an equalitarian group became a dictatorship which subjugated their patients. In the name of therapy, the Center had become a cult, not unlike other cults, with overwork, malnutrition, humiliation and absolute obedience its hallmarks.

By 1980, the abused and exhausted patients began a revolt which culminated in the closing of the Center. The patients had begun to realize that they had become victims and revolted by initiating numerous lawsuits against the founders and therapists. The Center for Feeling Therapy was no more.

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The author of Therapy Gone Mad interviewed Dr. Janov at his Malibu, California, beach home. The write-up, entitled, "Silent Scream," was published in the August 1994 issue of Buzz magazine, a journal aimed at those living in the Los Angeles environs.

Janov was called the first therapist superstar by the article's author, Carol L. Mithers, and who wrote that the rest of the therapy community have never acknowledged the contributions of primal therapy's discoverer. By telling the rest of the therapy world that what they were doing was not correct, Mithers claimed that Janov alienated many of his psychotherapy colleagues. Janov did admit that he was arrogant in those early days.

Janov, the author of eight books on primal therapy, began writing a draft for a play about the therapy. The play was turned into a musical (Scream), with one of its songs, recorded in a album by Celine Dion, becoming popular. The album has become a worldwide best seller with Janov's lyrics to "The Color of Your Love'' featured as the album's title. Janov says that in 1994, he made more money writing songs than he made in the preceeding five years of doing therapy.

Dr. Janov continues to research the effects of primal therapy. He claims that his EEG research tools have become so precise, that with brain mappings, he can tell the extent of a patient's repression and if he has been cured. The article recounted Janov's attempts to make primal therapy available to more people by offering free therapy services to the governments in France and Sweden. However, his offer was declined.

He says that it may not happen until he is no longer around, but he is quoted as saying that "it's inevitable that primal therapy will be recognized as the therapy. Because it is.''

Arthur Janov is right. One day it will happen!