Independent Practice: Professional, or Non-Professional?
by Herman Weiner, Ph.D.
The International Primal Association
is beginning to flourish and spead though the States, Canada and abroad. Very
good! However there are some negative developments which can seriously blemish
Primal. In one case, a dozen letters have arrived from primalees and facilitators
which bitterly catalogued alleged derelictions of a professional primalist.
In another case, a primal commune of 25, who felt victimized by another credentialed
professional, dwindled to an agonized 10 members.
These primalees are now financially and the therepeutically adrift. They seek
strong, positive professional leadership. Obviously, primal success does not
come easily, with or without professional leadership. Leaderless groups may
ultimately flounder as do certain groups led by professionals. The surest solution
lies in having more adequately trained and seasoned professional primalists,
not more primalees turned professional without heavy training and experience.
The superior efficacy of pimal is clearly patent to those of us who have both
experienced and practised the older therapies. Yet, we encounter familiar kinds
of problems and dangers: diagnostic selection of applicants, problems of transference
and counter transference; long term responsibility and the dangers of suicide,
psychosomatic illness, and psychosis.
These dimensions seem to be hardly, if at all, seriously considered by the
enthusiastic newcomer. Indeed, there seems to be an irresistable tendency
for many primalees to promote themselves to the status of independent, fee-chaging
practitioners. The danger in this can hardly be over estimated--danger for
the primal applicant, for the fledgling primalist, and for the entire primal
1. Suicide, Psychosomatic Exacerbation and Psychosis are distinctive
possibilities which may occur even under the best of auspices. However, they
are beginning to multiply more and more frequently among the less seasoned
practitioners. That makes sense, even though degrees and all kinds of accreditions
cannot substitute for talent and feelingness. Nevertheless it remains generally
true that the dangers of suicide and psychosis tend to be more fully comprehended
by those primalists who have had training and expeience in the helping professions.
It is frightening to contemplate independent practice by enthusiasts who have
little capacity to detect and deal with the prodromal signs of illness, psychosis
or suicide. For these reasons alone, any who would undertake the primaling
of others should work under the close supervision of experienced practitioners.
If they do not, the primal method will soon be blackened by their tragic failures.
2. On Going Responsibility for another human requires many of the
character traits and virtues so endemically lacking among parents in our culture.
When someone pays you to help him grow, and you accept his money and trust,
you become responsible for his life in a profound sense. It is quite another
matter to primal each other, or to assist a senior primalist who accepts full
responsibility. Whether you like it or not, the primalee comes to you with
the hope that you will be his omniscient, omnipotent and ideal parent. Disabusing
him of this hope will not eliminate his transferential wishes and expectations.
Indeed, in order to help him, you will need to have a good measure of the
knowledge, strength and benevolence he is looking for. Even if you have very
little of these qualities, of course you may be able to start him primaling.
But there is much more to it than triggering a few primals and reveling in
the short-term dramatic gains. A life-time of self-destruction is not so easily
undone. The underlying repetition compulsions may continue to undo all the
good work invisibly, as you and your primalee congratulate each other.
If the nuances and vicissitudes of the complex ongoing process are not sensitively
felt and appropriately responded to, great tensions and resistances are mobilized
in the primalee. In this regard, even a "feeling" person may be insufficient
if he lacks wide experience in helping others. The varied life experience,
which may include marriage, divorce, death, and children, may have enormous
utility for the practitioner. When you have experienced how difficult it is,
despite your best intentions, to be a really good parent or spouse, you experience
some of the humility needed for the healing role. Applicants expect more of
us than we can give them, and hopefully we won't confound this dilemma with
our own arrogant and unrealistic expectations in the work. The more talented
and experienced primalist will recognize sooner than later when he is laying
his own trip on the primalee. However, the novice will tend to wreak his inexperience
upon the primalee who, in turn, will avenge himself with costly failure.
3. Diagnostic Selection can be crucial for primal outcomes, for despite
Primals' remarkable wide applicability, not every applicant is ready or able
to engage in primal work. There are those whose characterological brittleness
or porosity gives way to frangmentation when strong feelings are touched off.
These are borderline, ambulatory and barely compensated sschizophrenics who
should not be worked with outside of a protected setting. Even in such a setting,
many of them are incapable of primal work. Many of them are too fragile or
obdurately distrustful. On the other hand, there are those who may be dramatically
rescued by primal from a lifetime of chronic psychosis. But in such bases,
if we can select them, we must avoid extra-mural efforts for both their and
our own protection. Knowledge of the widest range of human pathology should
be featured in every independent primalists' educaion.
In the absense of residency or internship within a diagnostic setting, the
primal aspirant would do well to apprentice himself to the most mature and
experienced practitioner available. This is the most germane way of learning
what is susceptible to learning. In this process, the growth of creative resources
beyond the grasps of mere technique may be developed. The development of diagnostic
acumen is certainly more than a mere knowledge of psychiatric nosology. For
no set of labels is sufficient in the ongoing interactive process between
two people. Empathy, sensitivity, and not least important, humility, must
be enlarged. In the long run, it will become apparent that Primal is not for
everyone and that it is not as unlimited in its benefits as we would like
to believe. In the meantime, we would do well to proceed with caution and
humility in our selection of patients.
4. Transference and Counter-Transference have had limited usefulness
in the more traditional therapies. Its application had been largely on the
intellectual level. Here, Janov scored a powerful hit in his attack upon psychoanalytic
therapy. However, the transferential phenomena (repetition compulsions) do
not disappear. Even though the primalee is directed to address his feelings
to the introjected parent rather than to the primalist, the process of transference
and counter-transference continue to surge in subsconscious channels. In the
most subtle and varied ways the pramalee will provoke reactions in the primalist
which correspond to the ones his parents instigated in him, and the victim
and victimizer will be alternately reversed. In this event, significant connections
will occur rarely, if at all, as the primalist continues to push and the primalee
endlessly circles pain and relief.
While the aggressive primalist, pushes even harder, the passive one may
despair. In either event, it is unlikely that the primal outcome can exceed
the limits of the primalist's counter-transfrence any more than psychoanalysis
could ever transcend the analyst's hang ups and blind spots. Should the primalists
need for "success" exceed the primalee's capacity for resistenace, psychosomatic
flareups and despair may result. Janov's own utopian trip may coincide with
similar unrealistic hopes among many primalists. Although Primal is more curative
than the other methods, it will become apparent that not "cure" but prevention,
based upon the primal view of man, is humanity's best hope.
No techniques, including Primal ones, can far transcend the patterned character
structure built up over a lifetime. Decent primalists have been essentially
decent people before primal. They, thus, tend to treat their clients decently.
Authoritarian personalities conduct authoritarian relationships with thie
primalees. Hostile, mean people, tend to conduct their work in especially
cruel and degrading ways. Psychopaths, hungry for power and money, lay their
manipulative trips upon their primalees. In short, there is as wide a variety
of compulsive trips laid on primalees as there are different kinds of people
There is no final "cure" for this sickness of "civilized" people. This terrible
circularity of the sick treating the sick will be with us for the indeterminate
future. However, we must continue to struggle against these endemic trips
foisted upon others in the name of primal. How? More primal for primalists,
more group practice control over individual primalists, and much more selective
training and accredition of independent practioners.
We will need to institute various study and work groups, to implement these
and other goals for our lusty, infant movement. If we should fail to recruit
a sufficient number of informed and participant primalees for these IPA groups,
history will surely repeat itself: the primalists will "regulate" themselves
and the IPA will become one more self-serving professional organization. Any
primalees listening? What do you say?
Hy Weiner, Ph.D. was one of the founders of the Intenational Primal
Association and its first president. He received his doctorate in clinical
psychology at NYU in 1959 and has been in private practice since 1954. From
1973 to 1981 he directed the Primal Center of Toronto. Returning to New York
City in 1981, Dr. Weiner is now engaged in a wide-range private practice.
He still believes in the efficacy of primal but says that at times being a
primal therapist can be physically taxing and that he prefers to conserve
his energy for his hobby of tennis.