Psy­chol­o­gist be­came celebrity with ‘pri­mal ther­apy’ method

Arthur Janov’s no­table clients in­cluded John Len­non and Yoko Ono

The Barrie Examiner - - LIFE - ROBERT JABLON

LOS AN­GE­LES — Arthur Janov, a psy­chother­a­pist whose “pri­mal ther­apy” had celebri­ties scream­ing to re­lease their child­hood trau­mas and spawned a best­selling book in the 1970s, has died. He was 93.

Janov died Oct. 1 at his Mal­ibu home from res­pi­ra­tory ar­rest fol­low­ing a stroke, said his wife, France Janov.

Janov, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, be­came renowned for his idea that adults re­pressed child­hood trau­mas, mak­ing them neu­rotic and lead­ing to prob­lems such as mood dis­or­ders, drug ad­dic­tion and even epilepsy.

He be­lieved that what he termed “Pri­mal Pain” could ex­tend as far as birth.

“Com­ing close to death at birth or feel­ing unloved as a child are ex­am­ples of such Pain,” he wrote.

“When the Pain is too much, it is re­pressed and stored away. When enough un­re­solved Pain has oc­curred, we lose ac­cess to your feel­ings and be­come neu­rotic,” he wrote. “The No. 1 killer in the world to­day is not can­cer or heart dis­ease, it is re­pres­sion.”

His ther­apy method in­volved hav­ing peo­ple re­live their trau­matic mem­o­ries by “re­gress­ing” to in­fancy or child­hood in or­der to con­front and ex­or­cise their demons. His South­ern Cal­i­for­nia cen­tre pro­vided props such as cribs and stuffed an­i­mals. Pa­tients, who might pay thou­sands of dol­lars, would scream or shout as their sup­pos­edly pent-up trau­mas were re­vealed.

“Once you feel it, peo­ple just be­come them­selves,” his wife said. “Peo­ple don’t need the drugs, the smok­ing, the act­ing out ... not to feel that pain.”

Janov con­tended that the ther­apy could cure ev­ery­thing from stut­ter­ing to drug ad­dic­tion to epilepsy, and might even lead to an end to war.

He in­cluded ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a cur­able con­di­tion, although the Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion took it off the list of psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders in 1973. His Jan­uary 1970 book, The

Pri­mal Scream, also made him an in­ter­na­tional celebrity. His pa­tients in­cluded John Len­non and Yoko Ono (the ex-Bea­tle’s solo ef­fort John Len­non/Plas­tic Ono Band, re­leased later that same year, was largely in­spired by ses­sions with Janov) as well as ac­tor James Earl Jones.

In a 1975 book, Janov called his ther­apy “the only hope if mankind is to sur­vive” and sug­gested that what he called pri­mal con­scious­ness “cer­tainly means an end to war.”

As with many other emo­tional re­lease ther­a­pies of its time, pri­mal ther­apy now is widely re­jected by men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als as un­sci­en­tific and in­ef­fec­tual.

How­ever, Janov’s widow said it still is prac­tised around the world.

“It changed so many peo­ple’s lives,” she said.

When the Pain is too much, it is re­pressed and stored away. When enough un­re­solved Pain has oc­curred, we lose ac­cess to your feel­ings and be­come neu­rotic. The No. 1 killer in the world to­day is not can­cer or heart dis­ease, it is re­pres­sion.” Arthur Janov

FRANCE JANOV/AP

Arthur Janov, a psy­chother­a­pist whose “pri­mal ther­apy” had celebri­ties scream­ing to re­lease their child­hood trau­mas and spawned a best-sell­ing book in the 1970s. Janov died Sun­day at his home in Mal­ibu, Calif., from res­pi­ra­tory ar­rest fol­low­ing a stroke, said his wife, France Janov. He was 93.

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