Empowering People

101-2145 W. Broadway 
Vancouver, BC V6K 4L3 
(604) 323-6669

about Organic Process Therapy - Orientation for Clients


  •  Introduction
  • Pain
  • Implicit Beliefs about Feeling/Emotion
  • When Primal?
  • What the Organic Process Is
  • Before Beginning
  • The Course of Care
  • Coming to Organic Process Sessions
  •  The Primal Room
  • The First Session
  • Touching
  • Organic Process Sessions, In General
  • What to Expect
  • Signs of Change as a Result of the Process
  • When to End Care



    The Organic Process is one of the many forms of therapy known as primal. Primal may have begun with Freud. It's been reported that early in his career he experimented with a form of primal before abandoning it for the psychoanalysis with which we are familiar. True or not, Wilhelm Reich, a protégéé of Freud, appears to be the first person to have focused on and made explicit the role of the body in the understanding and resolving of emotional difficulties. Reich can truly be called the father of primal Reichian methods are still practised, mostly in the northeast U.S. Since Reich’s death in 1954, a number of persons who were involved with him have devised their own methods. These are called Neo-Reichian. Among these are the Bioenergetics of Alexander Lowen and the Radix Body-Education of Charles Kelley.
    Although related, primal is a different path. Many people were practising various primal processes for many years before Arthur Janov made primal a household word with the publication of his book, "The Primal Scream." Dr. Linn was trained in Organic Process Therapy--a unique form of primal--in 1977, by its creator, Daniel Miller, Ph.D. Dan describes it as a "multidisciplinary approach, drawing upon methods of Primal, Gestalt, and Bioenergetics."



    For the most part, the Organic Process deals with "pain." Pain is comprised of more than such physical distresses as a headache or broken bone. It also comprises disappointment, anger, hurt, scare, shame, guilt, and so on. Pain is any sort of distress, any perceived interference with one’s hope for fulfilment of one’s desires (for comfort, safety, ease, love, success, wealth...).
    One of the hallmarks of the Organic Process is the focus on true acceptance/non-coercion. In guiding you in the Process, your primaler does not attempt, through explanation, to dissuade you from what you feel or reassure you that there is nothing to worry about. Nor does he or she attempt to force or badger you into feeling any particular way. You will find that no matter what your pain, e.g., stuck, guilty, ashamed, discouraged, enraged, hateful, scared, Your primaler will not tell you what to feel but will endeavour to acknowledge and accept you, to encourage and guide you in being just as you are.

    Implicit Beliefs about Feeling/Emotion

    There are a number of implicit--but inaccurate--beliefs about feeling and emotion that clients often bring to the Process. Among these are:


    If I feel, I’ll die. Strong emotion is dangerous In fact, unless your body has already been damaged, (e.g., you have diabetes or a damaged heart), being fully emotional is not dangerous, it is healing.
    If I cry, I’ll never stop In fact, no matter how wounded you are, no matter how intensely you cry, it will not last forever. It is not likely to last more than five to fifteen minutes.In reality, the more fully you embody your grief, the briefer it will be.
    If I get angry, I’ll
    destroy the world.
    In fact, if you embody your unfinished anger in the primal room, although you may destroy someone in effigy, all you will do is get beyond that anger and find relief.
    If I let go, I’ll go crazy
    and never come back.
    In fact, in letting go in the primal room, you’ll discover that it is not the source of craziness, but of sanity.You will thereby gain confidence that you will not go crazy, while discovering how to maintain your sanity.
    Giving yourself over in these ways in the primal room will enhance your ability to be assertive in your dealings in the world and will actually diminish your risk of being socially inappropriate.


    When Primal?

    One common experience that brings people to primal is the feeling of being choked up, of there being something "inside" (possibly a scream, but not necessarily) that seems to want to come out, but doesn’t seem able. Another is the experience of being unable to contain emotional expression (often, tears). Whether it is something they cannot get out or something they cannot keep in, they are likely to believe that there is something wrong with them for not being able to put it behind them once-and-for-all.
    Other indicators include a sense of depression that never seems to leave for long, anxiety, low self-esteem, a sense of not belonging or of being stuck or lost. In addition, crises, such as the ending of an important relationship or a death, are primal opportunities. At these moments, we are usually less guarded and more available to openly and deeply express ourselves.


    What the Organic Process Is

    The Organic Process is based on the thesis that whenever emotional expression is withheld in our lives (e.g., for fear of hurting someone,  or of  being punished or otherwise rejected), this expression continuously "strives" to be realised. As a result, it must be actively, concretely and persistently withheld (often, through subtle adjustments of breathing or the tensing of various muscles, such as clenching the jaw or masking held-back tears with a frozen smile) The Organic Process facilitates completion of this perturbed "movement," this interrupted expression.


    Before Beginning

    It will be necessary for you to check with your physician to determine whether it is safe for you to engage in strenuous physical exertion. Heart damage, epilepsy, diabetes or high blood pressure may be contraindications. Since psychoactive substances can impede the Process, the work will not be undertaken with anyone who is abusing drugs or alcohol. Likewise, it is rarely engaged in with anyone who is taking psychiatric or narcotic medication (Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis). If accepted, you will need you physician's permission to discontinue such medication.
    Before actually engaging in the Process, you will need to spend a number of treatment sessions interacting with your primaler in more traditional ways in order for you to get to know one another and to build a ground of trust for the work ahead.


    The Course of Care

    Organic Process sessions usually occur weekly. But they might take place more often during periods of crisis (or during weekend workshops, which consist of four sessions during a weekend; or "intensives," which usually involve 5 to 10 sessions a week for a one-, two- or three-week duration). They might also occur less often, usually during the later stages of care. Generally, the course of treatment is shorter than in "talking" processes; it is usually more intense and tends to plumb issues that are more at the "core" (hence, primal), issues that are less likely to be discovered in "talking" processes.
    There is no forcing, demanding, or compelling. You will always retain the right and the ability to refuse to proceed further. Should you do so, your therapist will stop and discuss it with you, then and there, in order to determine whether you might be willing to continue on. If you’re still unwilling, the Process the be stopped (hopefully, only for the present session), without criticism.
    While your work in some sessions will be more intense than in others, there is no such thing as a good primal or a bad one. Nor is any one primal more important than another. We each have our own style of working, our own mode of coming to terms with our painful pasts; we must journey down our own unique paths. Therefore, comparisons are meaningless. Today’s seemingly lacklustre session is the basis for tomorrow’s intense and obviously freeing experience.
    Over the course of care, you will become increasingly skilled in the Process, as you learn to trust your body/self. You’ll learn that it’s okay to be you: You’ll become more open and vulnerable and, at the same time, you’ll become more competent at dealing with your life. You will have ample opportunity to talk about these experiences and to explore ways to integrate what you discover into your everyday life. You will probably choose some sessions to be "talking" sessions.


    Coming to Organic Process Sessions

    You will come to these sessions dressed in loose, non-constricting clothing (e.g., jogging clothes) and will work without shoes or stockings. You will remove all jewellery, glasses, false teeth, and the like, which could cause you injury. You will be asked to not use alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or other drugs (which we consider to interfere with authentic emotional expression), at least during the day of your session. In addition, you will be instructed to not consume any food during the three hours before the beginning of the session. (Folks who test this quickly discover that consuming food within this time period significantly and painfully interferes with the Process.)

    The Primal Room

    The room in which you will work is soundproofed, so that you can be loud without fear that others will hear. For your safety, the room is also padded, both floor and walls (four inches of foam on the floor and on the walls). Most likely, you will begin to work lying down, on your back, on the mat. The room will be dim and your eyes will be closed throughout the session.


    The First Session

    After you and your primaler greet one another, you will change into what you will wear while you work. When you present yourself in the primal room, the ins and outs of the work wiill be explained (e.g., keeping your eyes closed, breathing with your open mouth, not swallowing, etc.). Then, the focus will be on you: on the distress that you experience, on your understanding of its roots, on your hopes and expectations, and so on. (You may be asked to bring a six or seven page autobiography to the first session--to be written no more than three days prior.)
    For you, the client, the first session--like the first of anything--is primarily an orientation. It necessarily involves your beginning to learn "how" to primal, and to trust the process. As with anything new, you will inevitably "make mistakes" and struggle with not being "perfect;" as time goes on, you will become more at-home with the Process. For your primaler the first session is particularly a process of discovering you, and how to work with you; to discover "how" you choke down feeling, how you came to do so, and how to guide you back to yourself.



    Another significant departure from most talking processes is the presence of touching. Whereas touching is characteristically absent in talking sessions, it is of central importance in the Organic Process. It often serves to reassure and encourage. It may also function to guide you to breathe properly and to facilitate the release of the muscular contracting that you use to inhibit feeling awareness and expression. There is  no sexual or other inappropriate touching.


    Organic Process Sessions, In General

    Not withstanding the different context, primal sessions generally begin in much the same way as do more traditional sessions: with attempts to reconnect-usually necessary after a week’s absence/distancing-through greetings and inquiries about how things are going. However, the contract between you and your primaler involves an intention and expectation of "authentic" and often intense expression on your part.
    (By contrast, in other processes there are almost always at least implicit limitations demanded by office walls through which others can hear if one is loud, caregivers who are frightened by and do not encourage or facilitate intense catharses, and chairs and dressy and tight clothing--such as belts, brassieres and buttoned collars--which constrict free expression.)
    At first during these sessions, you are likely to employ the variety of strategies you have probably learned early and practised long to evade experiencing your distresses (e.g., joking, changing the subject, thinking of pleasures, swallowing, holding your breath, trying hard). Your primaler's task is to "track" you, in order to help you stay "focused." If successful, at some point you will become "triggered;" that is, you will become "emotional."
    As your primaler continues to track you and to help you keep breathing and stay focused, you will experience yourself falling into what is called a primal space, a more-or-less-sudden and spontaneous (that is, you don’t will it) outflowing of intense emotion, of a sort that you are unlikely to have ever experienced before. Generally this will seem at once very surprising to you and yet absolutely appropriate. During this phase of the session, as you are emoting, you are likely to be curiously observing yourself. You are also likely to be seeing "movies," that is, scenes in your life during which you were affected in the particular way that you are now being affected, but held back from fully expressing it. All of this is part of your process of healing.
    In addition, during this outflowing, you are likely to express yourself in the voice (as well as the movements and breathing patterns) that was yours at the age you were in the particular scene. (Believe it or not, at times you may well sound like an infant or a three-year-old or a ten-year-old, etc.) You may spend a whole primal session at one particular age or you may "skip" from one to another to another. Similarly, you may dwell with a single emotional theme (such as anger or dread) or you may "flip" from one to another.
    The process is a collaboration. It is not something that your primaler does "to" you. Since deep breathing, sound and movement facilitate it, you will frequently be reminded to breathe. Your primaler will likely to ask you to speak to various people in your life (as though they were actually in the room), as well as to make sounds (expressing what you are feeling at the moment). In addition, your body will move, often without your realising it. At such times, your primaler will call your attention to it and encourage you to let it happen.
    More than anything else, what makes this possible is your willingness to let it happen, to give yourself over to it. By contrast, you might try to make it happen in a particular way, strive for a particular kind of experience; or you might attempt to keep it from happening. These efforts will obstruct the Process. You needn’t worry about this, though. It is your primaler's job to guide you.
    Usually, the session will continue until you arrive at what is called a clear space. When people are clear, they describe themselves as feeling "peaceful," "calm," "relieved," "empty" (of their pain), "mellow," "good."



    What to Expect

    You can expect to feel anxious and/or scared as you begin a session. (As Janov says, everyone has to be prodded.) After all, you choked yourself down in the first place because you were too anxious and frightened to express yourself. You can expect to feel very intensely, and to discover that you can safely do so; first in the session, then "out there." You can expect to discover lots that you knew, but had forgotten, as well as much that will surprise you, about you and your life and about other people in your life. You may also find yourself temporarily experiencing old maladies, such as the shyness that you thought you had surpassed. You can expect to notice changes in the way you deal with your life and with others, and in how you feel about yourself.

    Signs of Change as a Result of the Process
    Noticeable and desired changes generally take place very early, often even after the first session. At first, although you might notice the changes, you may be scared to believe it and will tend to ask a lot whether it really is happening. These changes are apt to include diminished anxiety and depression, and increased confidence, esteem and sense of being able to handle burdens and confrontations.
    Sometimes, as you become more aware of how you feel during the early stages of the Process, it may appear to you that you are feeling more distressed. (Actually, you are not more distressed, simply more aware of how distressed you are and have been.) At the same time, however, you will also acknowledge the changes just mentioned.


    When to End Care

    The aim of the Organic Process is to help you complete your presently unfinished and disowned past in order for you to rediscover and reclaim it, alleviate confusion, and stop living out others’ dreams of who you are; it is also to gain relief, esteem, hope, insight, and a passion for life. While there will always be issues to work through, as you feel better and better about who you are and about the life you are creating for yourself, you will feel less and less in need of care. There is no hard and fast rule about when to terminate; however, as you become ready, it will begin to be a question for you. You are likely to wonder how much longer you will have to remain in care, first to yourself and then aloud. You and your primaler will probably discuss it and arrive at a mutual decision about when it will be best to end care. This is not an irreversible decision. The option to return is always available. In fact, we all need periodic "tune ups," and some primalees opt to come back for a few sessions from time to time.


    Empowering People • Stephen E. Linn, Ph.D.   101-2145 W. Broadway
    Vancouver, BC V6K 4L3
    (604) 323-6669

         Coordinator: Deb Denman 

    Copyright ©2000 Stephen E. Linn
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