“…In the last few years I have come to the conclusion that primal therapy is not always free of dangers, that it is imperative for it to be embarked upon under expert guidance and not as a form of self-therapy. This conclusion is tantamount to a retraction of my earlier ideas on this subject.
In my preface to the paperback edition of Jean Jenson’s Reclaiming Your Life (Meridian, 1996) I have set out my queries and doubts in connection with primal therapy; I would refer the reader to that text for a more extensive discussion of the subject. Shortly after the publication of the way version of The Drama of the Gifted Child by Basic Books in January 1994, letters from readers and subsequent research on my part made me realize that my recommendation of primal therapy as a form of self-help had been premature. The swift initial successes were unfortunately not of lasting duration, and many correspondents reported that the anguish aroused in the process was too great to be borne alone. So it became obvious to me that it is all but impossible to live through and dissipate these anxieties without expert guidance. At the same time, the awareness was borne in upon me that in a state of regression it is not possible to judge the competence and integrity of the person one has turned to for such guidance. This opens up all kinds of opportunities for abuse. The intensive phase with which primal therapy begins is an immediate obstacle to the formation of a balanced, critical, independent assessment of the therapist’s abilities by the client. The fact that the attendant uncritical and irrational expectations of healing and “salvation” can lead to the establishment of totalitarian sects is borne out by the crass example of mass abuse at the hands of the exponents of “feeling therapy” as described in detail by Carol Lynn Mithers in her book Therapy Gone Mad: The True Story of Hundreds of Patients and a Generation Betrayed (1994). But this study was possible only after the community she describes had disbanded, something that frequently takes decades. Today we know that such groups exist and that members of sects are done irremediable harm before they become aware of the fact. And when their dilemma finally does dawn on them, it is frequently too late to do anything about it because they have lost all contact with their original social background and hence have no sources of moral support or financial assistance outside the sect, to which they are then frequently shackled by the debts they have run up.