Psychologist Who Captured Zeitgeist With 'Primal Scream' Dies

Arthur Janov was 93
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2017 1:20 PM CDT
Psychologist Who Captured Zeitgeist With 'Primal Scream' Dies
Arthur Janov   (

Arthur Janov, the California psychotherapist whose development of primal scream therapy in the 1970s garnered him both celebrity patients and celebrity, died Sunday in Malibu at the age of 93, the New York Times reports. Primal scream therapy, which Janov claimed could "cure" everything from alcoholism and asthma to homosexuality, holds that all adult neurosis is based in repressed trauma caused by a patient's parents during childhood. To access those traumas, Janov provided patients with dolls, rattles, teddy bears, playpens, and more. The titular scream, which Janov described as "like what you might hear from a person about to murdered," was a byproduct of the treatment.

Janov is credited as capturing the zeitgeist with primal scream therapy. John Lennon was a patient and said John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band resulted from Janov's therapy. Vice reports James Earl Jones credited primal scream therapy with curing him of hemorrhoids and smoking. And Tears for Fears originally formed as a scheme to pay for the therapy, naming themselves and their songs after Janov's teachings, according to Forward. The pianist Roger Williams lumped Janov in with Galileo, Socrates, Freud, and Darwin "as one of history's five greatest men." Janov himself called primal scream therapy "the most important discovery of the 20th century," believing it could bring world peace. But while primal scream therapy is still performed at the Primal Institute and Janov Primal Center, one decorated psychology professor calls it a "discredited theory." (More obituary stories.)

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