Professor Steven Rose & Arthur Janov

Two books by Arthur Janov, the founder of Primal Therapy, describe biochemical research conducted in conjunction with Professor Steven Rose of the Open University in the UK. In The New Primal Scream (1991) and The Biology of Love (2000) Arthur Janov implies that the results confirmed his claims about the effectiveness of Primal Therapy. Readers may have searched in vain for a relevant journal citation among the references. That's because the research findings appeared in a student thesis.

Professor Steven Rose wrote about his research with Arthur Janov in "Lifelines" (1997). The book is Professor Rose's response to genetic fundamentalists who insist that all aspects of human biology are invetiable consequences of natural selection.

These are Steven Rose's comments about Arthur Janov
[page 55 in the UK paperback edition]:

“A few years ago I was approached by Art Janov, the founder of a form of psychotherapy known as Primal Screaming. Janov was convinced of the validity of the theory on which his therapeutic method, a form of 'rebirthing', was based, and was further convinced that depressed clients who underwent his therapy should show biochemical and immunological changes which indicated that they were improving. Could I test this idea? I agreed to make measurements on blood samples taken from clients both before and up to a year after they went through their screaming therapy. One of the measures I chose was of the quantity of receptor molecules for the neurotransmitter serotonin present on the surface membranes of a particular class of blood cells (platelets). These are the receptors which are the target for the class of drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs); Prozac is one of the best known examples.

As Janov had hoped, it turned out that before therapy, the quantity of these particular receptors in his client's platelets was considerably below normal. Within six months of therapy, clients' depression had lifted, and the biochemical and immunological measures I was making approached the average for 'normal' non-depressed people of the same age and sex. Janov was (and I believe still is, for he has cited this finding in books he has subsequently written) convinced that this proved his therapeutic theory to be valid. But while there is a weak correlation between the biochemical measures I was making and standard psychiatric rating scales for depression, there is no way of knowing whether (a) his clients would have recovered even without therapy, or more importantly, (b) whether the therapy Janov offers works because his theory about it is correct, or because he is a charismatic figure whose clients recover because they believe that they will get better if they scream appropriately [the placebo effect]. Indeed, I obtained similar biochemical results when, a couple of years later, I did a similar study with depressed clients going through other, less dramatic forms of psychotherapy, so I suspect that in such cases the therapist matters more than the therapeutic theory.24* The therapies thus meet the criterion that they 'work', inasmuch as clients going through them show behavioural and biochemical changes in accordance with prediction. However, these changes apparently occur irrespective of the therapeutic theories on which the treatments are based.”

* Chapter note #24 is a reference to a student Thesis:
Willis, Sarah (1992)
'The influence of psychotherapy and depression on platelet imipramine and paroxetine binding', Thesis, Open University.
See also:
There's a website, to which I contributed some book quotes, including this one.