Independent Practice: Professional,
or Non-Professional?

By Herman Weimer, Ph.D.

The International Primal Association. is beginning to flourish and spead though the States, Canada and abroad. Very good! However there are some negative developments which can seriously blemish Primal. In one case, a dozen letters have arrived from primalees and facilitators which bitterly catalogued alleged derelictions of a professional primalist. In another case, a primal commune of 25, who felt victimized by another credentialed professional, dwindled to an agonized 10 members.

These priimalees are now financially and the therepeutically adrift. They seek strong, positive professional leadership. Obviously, primal success does not come easily, with or without professional leadership. Leaderless groups may ultimately flounder as do certain groups led by professionals. The surest solution lies in having more adequately trained and seasoned professional primalists, not more primalees turned professional without heavy training and experience. The superior efficacy of pimal is clearly patent to those of us who have both experienced and practised the older therapies. Yet, we encounter familiar kinds of problems and dangers: diagnostic selection of applicants, problems of transference and counter transference; long term responsibility and the dangers of suicide, psychosomatic illness, and psychosis.

These dimensions seem to be hardly, if at all, seriously considered by the enthusiastic newcomer. Indeed, there seems to be an irresistable tendency for many primalees to promote themselves to the status of independent, fee-chaging practitioners. The danger in this can hardly be over estimated--danger for the primal applicant, for the fledgling primalist, and for the entire primal movement.

1. Suicide, Psychosomatic Exacerbation and Psychosis are distinctive possibilities which may occur even under the best of auspices. However, they are beginning to multiply more and more frequently among the less seasoned practitioners. That makes sense, even though degrees and all kinds of accreditions cannot substitute for talent and feelingness. Nevertheless it remains generally true that the dangers of suicide and psychosis tend to be more fully comprehended by those primalists who have had training and expeience in the helping professions. It is frightening to contemplate independent practice by enthusiasts who have little capacity to detect and deal with the prodromal signs of illness, psychosis or suicide. For these reasons alone, any who would undertake the primaling of others should work under the close supervision of experienced practitioners. If they do not, the primal method will soon be blackened by their tragic failures.

2. On Going Responsibility for another human requires many of the character traits and virtues so endemically lacking among parents in our culture. When someone pays you to help him grow, and you accept his money and trust, you become responsible for his life in a profound sense. It is quite another matter to primal each other, or to assist a senior primalist who accepts full responsibility. Whether you like it or not, the primalee comes to you with the hope that you will be his omniscient, omnipotent and ideal parent. Disabusing him of this hope will not eliminate his transferential wishes and expectations. Indeed, in order to help him, you will need to have a good measure of the knowledge, strength and benevolence he is looking for. Even if you have very little of these qualities, of course you may be able to start him primaling. But there is much more to it than triggering a few primals and reveling in the short-term dramatic gains. A life-time of self-destruction is not so easily undone. The underlying repetition compulsions may continue to undo all the good work invisibly, as you and your primalee congratulate each other.

If the nuances and vicissitudes of the complex ongoing process are not sensitively felt and appropriately responded to, great tensions and resistances are mobilized in the primalee. In this regard, even a "feeling" person may be insufficient if he lacks wide experience in helping others. The varied life experience, which may include marriage, divorce, death, and children, may have enormous utility for the practitioner. When you have experienced how difficult it is, despite your best intentions, to be a really good parent or spouse, you experience some of the humility needed for the healing role. Applicants expect more of us than we can give them, and hopefully we won't confound this dilemma with our own arrogant and unrealistic expectations in the work. The more talented and experienced primalist will recognize sooner than later when he is laying his own trip on the primalee. However, the novice will tend to wreak his inexperience upon the primalee who, in turn, will avenge himself with costly failure.

3. Diagnostic Selection can be crucial for primal outcomes, for despite Primals' remarkable wide applicability, not every applicant is ready or able to engage in primal work. There are those whose characterological brittleness or porosity gives way to frangmentation when strong feelings are touched off. These are borderline, ambulatory and barely compensated sschizophrenics who should not be worked with outside of a protected setting. Even in such a setting, many of them are incapable of primal work. Many of them are too fragile or obdurately distrustful. On the other hand, there are those who may be dramatically rescued by primal from a lifetime of chronic psychosis. But in such bases, if we can select them, we must avoid extra-mural efforts for both their and our own protection. Knowledge of the widest range of human pathology should be featured in every independent primalists' educaion.

In the absense of residency or internship within a diagnostic setting, the primal aspirant would do well to apprentice himself to the most mature and experienced practitioner available. This is the most germane way of learning what is susceptible to learning. In this process, the growth of creative resources beyond the grasps of mere technique may be developed. The development of diagnostic acumen is certainly more than a mere knowledge of psychiatric nosology. For no set of labels is sufficient in the ongoing interactive process between two people. Empathy, sensitivity, and not least important, humility, must be enlarged. In the long run, it will become apparent that Primal is not for everyone and that it is not as unlimited in its benefits as we would like to believe. In the meantime, we would do well to proceed with caution and humility in our selection of patients.

4. Transference and Counter-Transference have had limited usefulness in the more traditional therapies. Its application had been largely on the intellectual level. Here, Janov scored a powerul hit in his attack upon psychoanalytic therapy. However, the transferential phenomena (repetition compulsions) do not disappear. Even though the primalee is directed to address his feelings to the introjected parent rather than to the primalist, the process of transference and counter-transference continue to surge in subsconscious channels. In the most subtle and varied ways the pramalee will provoke reactions in the primalist which correspond to the ones his parents instigated in him, and the victim and victimizer will be alternately reversed. In this event, significant connections will occur rarely, if at all, as the primalist continues to push and the primalee endlessly circles pain and relief.

While the aggressive primalist, pushes even harder, the passive one may despair. In either event, it is unlikely that the primal outcome can exceed the limits of the primalist's counter-transfrence any more than psychoanalysis could ever transcend the analyst's hang ups and blind spots. Should the primalists need for "success" exceed the primalee's capacity for resistenace, psychosomatic flareups and despair may result. Janov's own utopian trip may coincide with similar unrealistic hopes among many primalists. Although Primal is more curative than the other methods, it will become apparent that not "cure" but prevention, based upon the primal view of man, is humanity's best hope.

No techniques, including Primal ones, can far transcend the patterned character structure built up over a lifetime. Decent primalists have been essentially decent people before primal. They, thus, tend to treat their clients decently. Authoritarian personalities conduct authoritarian relationships with thie primalees. Hostile, mean people, tend to conduct their work in especially cruel and degrading ways. Psychopaths, hungry for power and money, lay their manipulative trips upon their primalees. In short, there is as wide a variety of compulsive trips laid on primalees as there are different kinds of people doing primal.

There is no final "cure" for this sickness of "civilized" people. This terrible circularity of the sick treating the sick will be with us for the indeterminate future. However, we must continue to struggle against these endemic trips foisted upon others in the name of primal. How? More primal for primalists, more group practice control over individual primalists, and much more selective training and accredition of independent practioners.

We will need to institute various study and work groups, to implement these and other goals for our lusty, infant movement. If we should fail to recruit a sufficient number of informed and participant primalees for these IPA groups, history will surely repeat itself: the primalists will "regulate" themselves and the IPA will become one more self-serving professional organization. Any primalees listening? What do you say?

Hy Weiner, Ph.D. was one of the founders of the Intenational Primal Association and its first president. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology at NYU in 1959 and has been in private practice since 1954. From 1973 to 1981 he directed the Primal Center of Toronto. Returning to New York City in 1981, Dr. Weiner is now engaged in a wide-range private practice. He still believes in the efficacy of primal but says that at times being a primal therapist can be physically taxing and that he prefers to conserve his energy for his hobby of tennis.

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