The Primal Scream

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The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis
The Primal Scream (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorArthur Janov
CountryUnited States
SubjectPrimal therapy
PublisherDell Publishing
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)

The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (1970; second edition 1999) is a book by the psychologist Arthur Janov, in which the author describes his experiences with patients during the months he developed primal therapy. Although Janov's claims were questioned by psychologists, the book was popular and brought Janov fame and popular success, which inspired other therapists to start offering primal therapy.


In the book Janov describes the experiences he had with 63 patients during his first 18 months (starting in 1967[1]) discovering and practicing primal therapy. He claims a 100% cure rate.[2] The experiences he describes include a scream emitted by one of his patients, after Janov encouraged him to call out, "Mommy! Daddy!". According to Janov, the patient subsequently announced that he could "feel". Janov writes that primal therapy has in some ways returned to the early ideas and techniques of Sigmund Freud.[3]

Publication history[edit]

The Primal Scream was first published in 1970. A revised edition was published in 1999.[4]

Influence and reception[edit]

The Primal Scream was a popular success.[5] It reportedly sold more than one million copies internationally,[6] and was read by tens of thousands of people in the United States.[7] Albert Goldman reported in The Lives of John Lennon (1988) that Janov sent pre-publication copies of The Primal Scream to celebrities such as John Lennon and Mick Jagger, and that Lennon subsequently underwent primal therapy with Janov.[8] According to The New York Times, The Primal Scream "attracted wide attention in newspapers and magazines" and made Janov a celebrity.[9] The fame and success it brought Janov inspired many therapists who had not met him to offer imitation primal therapy, and led to the proliferation of programs offering happiness through radical personal transformation.[7]

Early reviews in the popular press were mixed. The book critic Robert Kirsch cautioned about Janov's "hyperbole" and "evangelic certainty" in the Los Angeles Times, but nevertheless called him an impressive writer and thinker and concluded that The Primal Scream was "worth reading and considering."[9] The Primal Scream was praised by the Chattanooga Times and the Berkeley Gazette, both of which compared Janov to Freud.[10] However, psychologists immediately questioned the assertions Janov made in the book, pointing out the "unverifiability of its central claim of the existence of primal pain and the lack of independent, controlled studies demonstrating the therapy’s effectiveness".[9]

Erin Shoemaker criticized Janov's ideas about homosexuality in the gay magazine The Body Politic, noting that clinical studies contradicted Janov's view that girls become lesbians through being seduced by older women and that Janov did not have a clear idea of what constituted "real" behavior.[11] The psychoanalyst Joel Kovel argued in A Complete Guide to Therapy (1976) that The Primal Scream shows that Janov is one of several figures in the history of psychotherapy who have come to be seen as savior figures. He credited Janov with tapping a "bedrock of great emotional power."[10] The Primal Scream was reviewed in BMJ in 2012.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Back-to-Back Fires Damage Analyst's Primal Institute, L.A. Times. 1989
  2. ^ Primal Therapy this year´s rage, Boca Raton News, 16 June 1971
  3. ^ Janov, Arthur (1977). The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis. London: Abacus. pp. 9–10, 206. ISBN 0-349-11834-5.
  4. ^ "Books from the author of The Primal Scream and developer of Primal Therapy Theory". Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  5. ^ Laing, Adrian (1994). R.D. Laing: A Life. London: HarperCollinsPublishers. p. 165. ISBN 0-00-638829-9.
  6. ^ Williams, Paul; Edgar, Brian (2008). "Up Against the Wall: Primal Therapy and 'the Sixties'". European Journal of American Studies. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b Mithers, Carol Lynn (1994). Therapy Gone Mad: The True Story of Hundreds of Patients and a Generation Betrayed. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. p. 54. ISBN 0-201-57071-8.
  8. ^ Goldman, Albert (1988). The Lives of John Lennon. London: Guild Publishing. pp. 381–2. ISBN 978-0688047214.
  9. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (2017). "Arthur Janov, 93, Dies; Psychologist Caught World's Attention With 'Primal Scream'". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Kovel, Joel (1991). A Complete Guide to Therapy: From Psychoanalysis to Behaviour Modification. London: Penguin Books. p. 188. ISBN 0-14-013631-2.
  11. ^ Shoemaker, Erin (1976). "Shrink Shopping". The Body Politic. – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  12. ^ Jeyapaul, P. (2012). "The Primal Scream". BMJ. 344: e696. doi:10.1136/bmj.e696. S2CID 72690954. – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)