What scientific evidence can be offered for Primal Therapy’s capability to benefit people’s lives?

Science demands some level of evidence. The usual practice is to develop one or more explanations – hypotheses – of a situation, and experimentally test them.

An experiment’s findings are usually presented as evidence that each explanation of the tested situation may be either true or false. Findings often numerically express probabilities of committing two types of errors – either what’s true isn’t accepted (type I) or what’s false is accepted (type II).

There are many points to consider when evaluating the truth of an hypothesis. A scientist’s analogy in a podcast An overdependence on P-values shows a common problem with using numbers as a proxy for understanding truth:

“There’s this very fundamental disconnect between the question the scientist is asking – what’s the strength of the evidence – and the answer that the frequentist statistician gives: the P-value.

Those things have much less to do with one another than anybody realizes.

We can think about what we mean by evidence. For example, when you see dark storm clouds overhead, that’s strong evidence that it’s about to rain. If you smell a certain scent, that’s maybe weak evidence that it’s about to rain. If we see dark storm clouds and then we smell the scent, the evidence doesn’t get weaker: if anything, it gets stronger.

But P-values in a circumstance like that, where you have a very small P-value in one dataset and a not-so-small P-value in a second dataset, you put the data together and the P-value will tend to sort of average.

So the P-value is not behaving like evidence.”

All explanations of Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy that I’ve mentioned on this blog have been termed hypotheses, views, fundamentals, or principles. None of them have been expressed with numerical levels of significance.

Let’s use as an example one hypothesis on the Welcome page – the origins of a person’s need to feel important. I described how Primal Therapy provided a view that perhaps better explained the referenced study’s data than did the study’s explanation. I cited research that had supporting evidence for part of the hypothesis, and gave reasons why standard scientific methods such as:

  • Replicating the original situation,
  • Using surveys of responsible parties,
  • Using questionnaires of subjects, and
  • Devising animal experiments

may not be suitable for developing evidence for other parts of the hypothesis.

What’s the risk of adopting a Primal Therapy explanation of origins of a person’s need to feel important?

  • If the explanation is true and you adopt it, you potentially enrich your life with feeling and understanding of not only your own behavior and history, but also empathy for other people.
  • If the explanation is false, there’s little effect on you or someone who does or doesn’t adopt it. Just don’t make it false by exaggerating or otherwise twisting the explanation.
  • If a Primal Therapy explanation is true yet you reject it, you at least don’t suffer from exposure to it. You’ll just remain in our world’s default mode of existence:
      1. Unaware of your own unconscious act-outs to feel important;
      2. Unaware of what’s driving such personal behavior; and
      3. Uninformed of other people’s behavioral origins as a consequence of 1 and 2.

Addressing the title, Primal Therapy’s capability to beneficially affect people’s lives differs from the usual treatment. A common medical definition of efficacy is:

“The ability of an intervention to produce the desired beneficial effect in expert hands and under ideal circumstances.”

The usual idea about therapy is that it’s something designed and done to the patient by the expert therapist.

However, it’s the patient in Primal Therapy – not the therapist – who determines the treatment parameters. How often the patient goes, how long each session lasts, etc. are up to each patient. The therapist assists the patient with feeling and pain levels as the patient proceeds with what they need.

From Dr. Janov’s 2011 book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” p.166:

“Primal Therapy differs from other forms of treatment in that the patient is himself a therapist of sorts. Equipped with the insights of his history, he learns how to access himself and how to feel.

The therapist does not heal him; the therapist is only the catalyst allowing the healing forces to take place. The patient has the power to heal himself.

Because Primal Therapy depends on what each patient feels, re-experiences, and remembers:

  • It would be difficult to set up experimental conditions of Primal Therapy’s benefits to produce quantitative evidence for changes in a patient’s feelings. Per the above weather analogy, numerical measures don’t always behave like evidence.
  • The use of control subjects in experiments may not make sense. Every person has a different history. Each patient’s self-determined therapy will be different.
  • Performance measurements such as externally determined behavioral milestones wouldn’t apply because the patient self-monitors their own progress.

Notwithstanding the above, standard experimental studies of aspects of Primal Therapy have been done in the past, such as here.

To conclude:

Our usual response to pain is avoidance. A principle of Primal Therapy, though, is that a way to improve human lives goes through the pain of feeling early unmet needs. Primal Therapy’s beneficial effects come after each patient feels personal applicability of this principle.

Each individual’s therapeutic experiences and feelings are the primary qualitative evidence. And it’s challenging to recognize when our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior provide evidence of pain that’s driving us. Each of us will balk at feeling the pain of becoming aware that our unconscious act-outs – driven by early unmet needs – are sources of misery, both to ourself and to those around us.

But the impacts of early unmet needs don’t go away by themselves over time. The painful conditions persist with enduring physiological changes. Is that what you want for your one precious life?

Here’s a June 3, 2015 blog post by Dr. Janov on the subject: How Do You Prove Primal Therapy?

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