Jeffrey Masson, Alice Miller & Stettbacher

In the paperback edition of Jeffrey Masson's book, Against Therapy, there is a new Afterword, dated 1992. He refers to the first edition of Banished Knowledge by Alice Miller and discusses her recommendation of J. Konrad Stettbacher's version of primal therapy as a self-help method.

It should be noted that Alice Miller later withdrew her advocacy of primal therapy after adverse reports from her readers and a lawsuit involving Stettbacher. In 1997, Banished Knowledge was completely revised and all references to J. Konrad Stettbacher were removed. The same with several other titles. See: A Summary of Alice Miller's changing views on Primal Therapy.

In 1995, Alice Miller read a newspaper report that J. Konrad Stettbacher had been accused of sexual abuse towards patients. As a consequence, she published an announcement retracting her support of Stettbacher and his therapy method on the internet: Communication To My Readers.

From the 1992 Afterword to  Against Therapy:

"I have also had to come to terms with the fact that people with whom I am in almost complete agreement, for example Thomas Szasz, part company with me when it comes to the value of therapy. When I decided to publish my unpopular views about child sexual abuse, it was Alice Miller who first came to my aid, encouraging me to stand up against the combined might of the psychoanalytic establishment. In many conversations, however, it became obvious to me that while Alice Miller could break decisively with orthodox psychoanalytic theory, it was not possible for her to include psychotherapy in general in her criticisms.

This has become increasingly clear in her last three books, the most important of which, Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries, is recently published. In that book she tells how she was finally able to be 'healed' and face her own childhood abuse (though what, precisely, it consisted of we are never told) by seeking out a Swiss psychotherapist who practices a form of primal therapy which he calls Primre Therapie. This man, J. Konrad Stettbacher, is only known in the United States through Alice Miller's references to him.

Indeed, he was more or less unknown in Switzerland as well until Alice Miller wrote about him in her last books. (I understand that his schedule is full for life now.) He has just published a book, still only available in German, entitled Wenn Leiden einen Sinn haben soll: Die heilende Begegnung mit der eigenen Geschichte [English title: Making Sense of Suffering] with a foreword by Alice Miller. In her four-page Introduction, Alice Miller cannot praise the book enough. She says, for example, that it is 'a breakthrough to an entirely new concept of help and self-help, without any trace of pedagogy, and at the same time a breakthrough to a new view of man, to an anthropology with as yet unimagined perspectives.'

Such extravagant praise is completely out of place. The small book is filled with prescriptions about what to do and not to do when undergoing his form of psychotherapy (which he warns is very expensive). The therapist, of course, is to be obeyed, as long as the therapist is 'well-trained' and, lo and behold, how does one know if a therapist has been 'well trained'? If he has been trained in the Stettbacher method! It is a modified version of primal therapy crossed with Miller's own views about childhood (which, in and of themselves — that is, divested of their therapeutic cloak — I find unobjectionable). The dust-jacket of the book in German tells us little about him: J. Konrad Stettbacher was born in 1930 and since 1972 has had a private practice in "primary" psychotherapy, something he himself developed. It would seem that neither Alice nor Stettbacher have engaged in any fundamental re-evaluation of therapy, the underlying structure remains the same."

See also: