Question:-- When Might It Be O.K. To Do Deep Feeling Oriented Therapy Alone? -- Ruediger Otto


(Notwithstanding his M.D. Dr. Vereshack is not a licensed physician)

by Paul Vereshack, M.D.

Dear Ruediger,

This is one of the most important questions in all of psychotherapy. Of course there is no hard and fast answer, but we need to try very seriously to set out some guidelines.

Let us start out with some general comments about this type of therapy and then become more and more specific as we go along.

In my book, Help Me- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad, Chapter Nine has cautions and lists indications regarding who might be ready for deep regressive psychotherapy:


About half of my patients can learn to focus deeply within their feelings. About one person in eight does continuous Level Four therapy.

Wanting to do deep work is a crucially important factor in doing it. Wanting, however, does not mean that a person can or should work in this way. Many people who want to do regressive therapy find that their defences simply will not allow it. They just cannot get down there.

Others who can reach these levels should not attempt to do so. Their pain may be too great, their ego structures too weakened by childhood experiences. This dangerous combination can give rise to severe acting-out or other kinds of breakdown.

An experienced depth therapist can help with these decisions and can often modify the techniques to suit individual needs. Usually, however, it requires working with someone for several months to know what is and is not right for them. Others, however, will only acquire the skills and the confidence after a year or more of less intense work.

Although I personally feel that everyone who wants to, should be given a chance to try depth psychotherapy, it must be stated that for a certain percentage of people, Level Four regressive psychotherapy is not a safe option.

Indicators of Readiness for Depth Therapy

1- Once having had the techniques explained, the client shows an ongoing preference for lying down in the therapy room and centering him or herself within their feelings and inner body state.

2- The client demonstrates an ability to remain inside the feeling and to verbalize the non-logical material which the feeling brings forward.

3- The client allows feelings to intensify and continues to externalize them with words and sounds. Externalization is central to this therapy.

4- The client realizes that these feelings are to be experienced, learned from, and not to be acted upon.

5- The client does not simply `forget' about the therapy work between sessions, but rather continues to ponder on and process the material in a non-compulsive way between visits. It will usually be some time, weeks or months, before the confidence to actually lie down alone and do therapy work emerges.

6- The client is not surprised to have periods of feeling truly awful as therapy deepens. There is, however, an inner sense that these truly awful feelings are just exactly that. They are feelings and as such, can, and will, be processed on the mat using the techniques we have already outlined.

Chapter Twelve is only eight lines long! It asks "Who Should Take The Journey?" Also, as follows:

I have always said to incoming patients who wonder if they should be in psychotherapy, 'If your brain works, leave it alone.' If you are reasonably functional in your thinking, feeling, and behaviour, if your work, your play, and your intimacy are going well, if you are reasonably content and feel good most of the time, for God's sake don't try to undo the anchorings of your mind.

If, however, you hurt too much of the time, if things aren't going well in too many areas of your life, or, if you are the kind of person who feels compelled to understand your deepest self, and if you are prepared to be in emotional pain for an undetermined period of time in order to obtain the gifts of Holistic Insight and improved function, then welcome aboard.

* * *

Let us now break away from the book and try to be more specific about the feasibility of a person doing Self Therapy.

When we look at someone's strength to bear disintegrative levels of emotional pain, we look to see how they are doing in daily life.

The more indicators in their life that show that they have a basic strength, the more we feel they will be able to return from deep emotional experiences and stay functioning in their life.

Now, many people can hold down a job, etc., but only with extreme struggle are they able to do so. They are always on the edge of disintegrating. So the more "wobbly" they are, the more likely they are to fall into a pit of pain where they can't go it alone.

On the other hand, being wobbly is an indication that they may be able to do very deep work, but, perhaps not alone.

The more bleak and unsupported the child, the greater the wasteland they have to crawl through, and the more nurture is needed in the present from a therapist. We must also look at the amount of emotional support a patient had in their infancy and childhood, as they were being harmed. A mother by being protective towards her son may instill a core of strength in him during her husband's alcoholic violence. Such a mother may help compensate for her son's trauma.

I'm not sure if we can expect an untrained spouse to give the kind of support a deep journey into one's unconscious might need but a supportive environment is always helpful during therapy.

How damaged, and how strong is this person are the key questions one should ask before considering self therapy. Strength may enable return from the depths [of neurosis], and it may prevent entry in the first place.

I have written in my book how therapists are very necessary as providers of a safe holding environment, and good catalysts. I have cautioned over and over again that only if there is no other way should people work alone.

Chapters Twenty-Six and Twenty-Seven discuss the importance of being gentle with oneself in this journey. I can't help but feel that it is essential to have a complete preview of this kind of therapy before you enter it. I really urge anyone thinking of self primal work to read my whole book slowly at least twice before attempting such a journey. The book is extremely simple and gives a very detailed view of the work.

I urge you to find a therapist familiar with this type of therapy, and to also be in a group supportive of this work.

I really don't understand how anyone can do this alone, but the fact remains that people talk about doing it all the time on the internet.

The bottom line is that I don't know who will be successful at therapy and who will fail until I have watched them struggle with the instructions for several months. Defenses are unconscious, most of the time. Sometimes defenses allow you access and sometimes they don't. Sometimes defenses reassemble themselves, so you can get off the mat and function well and sometimes a person may become dysfunctional.

Perhaps the most difficult part of all this is to understand that once a person's defenses are lowered, it can take many years to clear out the psychological traumas and pains stored underneath. A successful journey requires determination and focus, and acceptance of the process that is truly complete.

Inevitably, self primaling is a big risk as is any depth therapy work. Some will forge on through their goal with amazing determination. They will defy any cautions and be successful.

I personally would never have had that kind of courage. Would you take the risk?

What I might do, would be to save up enough money to find a good therapist for a one to three weeks' introduction to deep regressive therapy; one who places an emphasis on teaching the principles and theory of the work. This could be accompanied by further follow up sessions a few months later, which would serve to help refine the developing skills of the client.

Paul Vereshack

Dr Vereshack is the author of an online book entitled Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad

Other pages on this website about Dr. Vereshack's writings include:

Book Review of Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad
The Primal Page's Favorite Quotations from Help Me -- I'm Tired of Feeling Bad
The Primal Psychotherapy Page Interviews Paul Vereshack, M.D.

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