primal therapy: does it work?

Does primal therapy work?

You might be wondering does primal therapy work? The profound healing possibilities of primal therapy are many and varied, however, there remain some misconceptions about the process itself.


One misconception is that primal therapy is scream therapy and that people will walk into a session and start screaming. Although having a good scream or cry can feel good at the time it does not fix why you want to scream or cry. It is not how primal therapy works.


So if you’re considering doing primal therapy, you might want to understand some essentials about what it is and is not before you begin.

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Primal therapy is not a quick fix.


Primal therapy is a thorough and precise form of treatment, but it’s slow. Despite Arthur Janov saying in his book the “Primal Scream” that it takes a year to cure neurosis, we’ve found that it takes longer than this.


How long it takes varies from person to person and will depend on the type of pain and trauma, you experienced. It will also depend on your ability to engage in the feeling process. The ability to allow yourself to feel is the basis of primal therapy.


Other reasons that make primal a slow therapy is that it takes time to learn how to go into your feelings. It also takes time to feel safe with a therapist and with the process itself.


Another aspect that affects how long therapy takes is that certain feelings are harder to get into and feel than others. Such feelings can take longer to access and to work through. But once you've worked through them, the force of the pain diminishes substantially and in some cases disappear. Often without your conscious awareness.


Primal therapy is long-term.


The above rationale alone makes primal therapy a long-term treatment, but other reasons can affect the extent of the therapy. For example, what you want to get out of primal directly affects its duration.


Some people come to primal with a specific goal in mind and stop when they reach this goal. Others want to understand why they feel and behave the way they do and will do whatever it takes to get well.


Primal therapy is not only about resolving the pain and trauma of your childhood. It's also about personal growth as a human being. For many people, the PROCESS itself is essential. It facilitates a deep understanding of what it is to be human.


Using primal in this way, it becomes a part of life. That means you can continue living your life while you slowly do the therapy. The process is slowed down. That provides the time needed for integration to occur while you work through the different feeling layers.


As the damaged ego of the child heals and integrates some people might also require education, especially if specific skills did not develop in childhood.


So depending on what you're looking for primal therapy can be as short as 18-24 months or as long as 8 to 10 years and longer.

Primal therapy doesn't work for all?


Primal therapy does not work for everyone. Some people cannot fully engage in the primal process which limits the lasting benefits they can receive.


As we’ve all developed biological and psychological defence systems to help us survive, these protection systems can sometimes make it harder to participate in the primal process.

Nevertheless, there are ways to safely working with every defence system, but once again it takes time and commitment to the process. And not everyone wants to commit the time and effort.


Below are a few reasons that someone might not gain the full benefits from the primal process or why they might find it challenging to engage.


- being anxious makes primal harder to do...

If you're highly anxious, you can find primal therapy challenging. Technically speaking, when you're anxious you're already in a lot feeling. And when you feel anxious, the thought of feeling any more uncomfortable feelings (especially from a painful past) is often too much. The idea of more pain in an already overloaded system only increases anxiety levels.


If however, you can allow yourself to feel the painful feelings that drive the anxiety there is potential for you to resolve or diminish your anxiety over time.


It can be helpful to consider taking certain supplements or medications for a short while as an adjunct to therapy. By reducing anxiety in this way it creates the opportunity for you to go back and process unfelt feelings from the past. Feelings other than your current anxiety.


It's the processing of feelings that were stuck in the past that conducts healing.


Once again not everyone wants to take supplements or medication (this tends to be so especially if you already have anxiety). Equally, supplements and/or medication don't always work. Finding the right supplement or medication is crucial for aiding this process.


Alternatively, people who are highly anxious can do better in primal by going slower. For example, by having regular sessions that are further apart or by alternating a feeling session with a talking session. Until the underlying causes of the anxiety are felt and integrated.


- a life crisis makes primal hard to engage...

Other things that can make it difficult to engage the primal process fully is being in a life crisis. Especially if you are struggling to survive with little money or resources.


When you’re in a life crisis, it becomes almost impossible to let go of control in your therapy. Life already feels out of control. But not letting go of control in the feeling process makes it difficult to feel some of the deeper early pain. Feeling the repressed early pain is essential as this is what heals the emotional wounds of childhood.


Please be aware though that the 'letting go of control' that we're talking about is a conscious letting go. You choose to let go of control to access the deeper feelings. You know you can pull out of the feeling at any time, but you decide not too.


- dependency on others makes primal difficult;

Living with or being dependent on your parents or anyone else can sometimes make it tough to engage the primal process fully. Some people who live with one or both parents or are financially dependent on parents or others will stop when they reach a certain point in therapy.


Therapy tends to end when the anger or rage at parents or others starts to rise. Anger can threaten dependency by making it impossible to tolerate unhealthy or toxic relationships.  If you're not ready to deal with this or leave, therapy ends up stopping.


People can remain stuck at this point believing that primal did not work for them. They might seek out other treatments to help them feel better about their situation. Other individuals can work through this to move out and live independently.


It's also important to note here that many people who have left home and are living by independent means can and do remain emotionally dependent on one or both parents.


It can be just as hard for them to feel the angry feelings towards their parents in therapy. Instead, they anger at mum, and/or dad is usually projected onto others or turned in on themselves.

Tried other therapies without success?


If you’ve tried a lot of different therapies and have found no real relief, then primal therapy might be the next step for you. Most therapies are talking therapies which are not helpful when it comes to healing the emotional pain and trauma of childhood.


Understanding what happened or why it happened does not take the painful feelings away. These feelings must be felt and integrated to be lessened or eliminated.


For some people, though, going through a few different therapies and therapists, is not a bad thing.They need to go through this to prepare them for primal therapy. In this way, they have laid some foundations and now need to process the pain. 


Nevertheless, you can spend years and years in therapy with little or no improvements. By the time you discover primal, you don't want to spend any more time or money on another process. Especially if you're unsure, it will work for you.


If you have experienced this, it makes sense that you just want to live your life. But it will be a life where the underlying pain is diverted rather than diminished, and that might be okay for you. Some people accept this. 


You have a right to live life the way you want. Everyone does. A part of living life the way you want is choosing the path that is right for you. Primal therapy might be the path for you or it might not.


Primal therapy as a lifestyle.


Individuals who choose this path know that life is continual evolution and growth. This choice does not mean that they are addicted to the therapy or in feelings all the time. On the contrary, people who reach this stage have finished the significant part of their therapy.


Instead, they choose to engage in the primal therapy process intermittently. They know it's a fast and efficient way to deal with the challenges of love and life.


Such people tend to be less emotional and more rational. Their feelings, thinking and behaviours are congruent. They have access to all their feelings but are not controlled or driven by them. They tend to be less dramatic; requiring less drama to feel alive.


People who choose primal therapy as a lifestyle can “feel on their feet”. They can get to the core of their feelings very quickly and communicate from this place. The beauty of this is it minimises projection, manipulation, and games.


People who choose primal as a path tend to make more decisions that are right for them. They find their direction and answers from within themselves. It does take commitment and effort to reach this place, but it’s well worth the effort.


So if you're looking for a quick fix or very short-term solution to your problems, then primal therapy is probably not the right process for you.


If however you are looking for a useful tool that can be used well after the major treatment part is complete you cannot go past primal therapy.

Read more or make contact.


If you've read through the above and you’re curious about primal therapy as a therapeutic process, then you might like to visit our sister site Primal Therapy Australia and read the frequently asked questions FAQ's or read the FAQ's on this site.


If you want to take the next step and inquire about making an initial appointment to discuss your personal situation, please email or call us.


© 2015  Jamillon Centre Primal Therapy - updated May 2019

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