by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2019, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease health condition.
Definition. Distraction therapy consists of removing all or most of a person’s distractions for several days. This causes basic issues and traumas to move to the surface of consciousness, where they are easily accessed and often easily resolved.
It is an excellent, inexpensive, fast, safe type of mental/emotional healing work. It is also quite easy on the therapist, who does not have to figure out a person’s neuroses, psychoses, issues and traumas.
In fact, in most cases, the therapist does very little. He or she functions much more like an administrator rather than like a coach or helper. Dr. Arthur Janov, PhD developed this therapy and we used his information to write this article. References are at the end of the article.
Is It Biblical? We think it is highly Biblical. Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days, for example. Moses went up to the top of Mount Sinai for the same amount of time. The Bible contains a number of other stories about people who went off by themselves to commune with God. Monasteries and convents regularly use a very similar procedure to ours and find it extremely helpful.
II. THE ADMINISTRATOR
Does it require a PhD psychologist or other licensed or professional therapist? For most cases, it is not needed. We have trained many who are not mental health professionals and they do well.
Extra training is helpful in the very rare case of an emergency. In these cases, however, one could call upon a professional. For example, a pastor could run the entire therapy by himself or herself.
Males versus females. We have trained many more men than women to do the therapy. The therapy seems more suited to the temperament of men. Perhaps women are more social creatures and the idea of leaving someone all alone in a bare room for three or more days sounds cruel or just unusual to many women. This is the only explanation we have as to why men are drawn to this type of therapy more than women.
Responsibilities. The administrator must:
- Set up the accommodations.
- Inspect and strip the hotel room before the session.
- Do the preliminary interview.
- Be available at all times during a session.
- Obtain the meals and serve them, empty the garbage each time
- Make the phone calls every few hours during the day. This we find necessary. Calls are not needed at night, except for emergencies. These do occur at night, at times, which is inconvenient for the administrator, but necessary.
How much money must one charge for a session. The fee must cover the cost of the hotel rooms (usually one for the client and one for the administrator), and the cost of an assistant if you use one.
Other expenses include buying the meals, spring water, a hair mineral test and development program, and purchasing the vitamins. The hotel may charge a little extra to have special telephone orders such as blocking all outgoing calls from the client’s room except to the administrator.
There are two components to calculating the cost of the administrator’s time:
A. Active time. This includes the preliminary interview, setting up everything with the hotel, room preparation, meal delivery and cleanup, the phone calls every few hours, and follow up time. Add a little more to cover emergencies, since these will require extra phone calls or possibly a visit to the client’s room.
B. On-call time, which is during the whole session.
When you add this all up, the cost for a three-day session if you use a decent hotel is about $500 to $1000.00. This may seem like a lot, but compared to psychotherapy it is not that much. Distraction therapy is often much faster and much easier for the administrator or therapist.
III. THE PROCEDURE
The preliminary interview. We recommend doing a preliminary interview before the session to get an idea what to expect. Questions to ask are:
- If the client is a woman, is she or will she be on her period when the session is to occur?
- Has the person been an alcoholic?
- Was there a rape?,
- Was there childhood abuse or is there abuse right now?
- Is the person used to living with others, or perhaps with a pet?
- Are there children in the family and are they taken care of adequately
- Will the person miss a lot of work or school
- Does the person have a chronic illness that could flare up during the session.
- Are there food allergies or other issues with food?
- Is there anything else the client wants the administrator to know before the session?
The room. The therapist rents a hotel room or obtains a room for the client. He or she usually stays close by, perhaps in another hotel room or other nearby location in case of emergency. However, these rarely occur.
The room needs to be clean, quiet and safe. The person cannot be distracted by noise or any interruptions. There needs to be a telephone in the room and the therapist needs to be able to control the use of the telephone.
We strip the room before the client arrives, removing all paper, writing implements, books including the Bible, televisions, radios, magazines, extra clothing and other things that are not needed. We leave one bar of plain soap and no shampoo. The client brings their own toothbrush, hairbrush, shaving equipment and medical prescription drugs, but only if needed.
The room must have a window that opens and a good heating and air conditioning system that operate well. We do not like porches and balconies, which can be distractions because the person sits there for hours, watching the people go by or other things. The lock on the door needs to be secure and we like the manual chain lock, as well. The room must smell clean and fresh, ideally.
Telephone calls. The therapist keeps in touch with the client using the telephone, usually about once every 3 or 4 hours. In serious cases and with children, one keeps in closer touch.
If one had access to a room with a one-way mirror, this would be even better because the therapist could skip the phone calls, or most of them, and this would speed up the process.
The clients often focus on the upcoming phone calls, and this detracts from the process. The phone calls, in other words, become a new distraction for the client. They prepare mentally, they decide what they will say, how they will say it, and more.
The telephone has one other use. If the client has an emergency and needs immediate attention, they can use the telephone. Of course, if an emergency occurs, they can also leave the room. We do not lock people in the hotel room, even if they request it. This would require much more supervision, which would add a lot of cost to the therapy. We find locking people in is not necessary for excellent results.
Meals. The therapist or an assistant needs to bring food to the client three times daily. It needs to be healthy food and no junk, no alcohol, no drugs and balanced meals. We find that most people are malnourished and excellent meals are helpful. We use the development diet as our guide. This means we do not serve fruit, raw vegetables, vegetarian, sugar or sweets. We feed only whole, natural food, ideally organically grown. Spring water is the only beverage. There is no stimulating food and the food is quite bland, by design.
People use mealtime as another distraction. They look forward to their meals, they wonder what they will contain, and so on.
The therapist needs to tell the client what will be served at each meal to reduce this guessing game. The other reason for discussing the upcoming meal is in case the person is allergic to a food or really repulsed by a food such as sardines and won’t eat it. We are not trying to change people’s eating habits in this therapy, so the meals must be acceptable to the client. Meals are generally prepared in the hotel kitchen by their staff to save time and trouble for the therapist or his assistant.
We use paper plates, paper napkins and plastic silverware. We instruct the client to rinse off everything when they are done and then throw everything in the trash basket. We collect the trash at the next meal. We tell them please do not save the knife or fork and play with it.
Vitamins and snacks. We give the clients vitamins with each meal based on a development program. This adds cost and work, but definitely helps enhance the effectiveness of the sessions. We do not allow snacks. The only possible exception is if a person has a severe blood sugar imbalance.
Clothing. The client is allowed to bring three days worth of underwear and socks, and two pairs of pants and two shirts. The reason is that we don’t want people bringing a suitcase worth of clothing, which is common.
Bras. Women are encouraged not to wear a bra, mainly because it breaks a common habit of women. The bra also protects a woman from the world, more than you might think. We want her more “exposed”, not physically but mentally. She will be more physically exposed, but she will be alone and safe.
If a woman is menstruating, she needs to bring enough pads or tampons to last the duration of the session, although we could bring her more, if needed. We find the therapy works best when a woman is not having her period, for some unknown reason. The bleeding may be another distraction.
Sleep. Many people spend the first day or two mainly sleeping. This just tells they are very tired and had not been taking the time they need to rest. Usually, by the third day, they are much more perky and happy.
Emergencies and safety. These are rare, but occasionally someone experiences extreme anxiety, extreme fear or something else. Very rarely, a physical problem occurs. In about 50 years of practice, we had one case of suicide. This was a person who was unstable before.
Bathing. We tell the client that showers are not allowed. This is for safety, a major concern since the client will be alone for an extended period of time. Baths are fine – as many as one wishes. In fact, bathing seems to help the session move along. It is possible, the person eliminates toxins during the session that are washed away during a bath.
We allow the person one small bar of soap and no shampoo. Shampoo is too smelly and loaded with chemicals. Some complain about this, but most have no problem with it.
Procedures. We recommend that people rub their feet every few hours and we give the person a reddish heat lamp and tell them to use it for two hours each day. Take off their top and shine it on the abdomen and back, getting as close to the bulb as possible, but not burning oneself. We explain that one needs to keep moving the lamp or move the body during that time to avoid burning oneself. We are concerned about the lamp, since it can break, but this has never occurred with several hundred people and it definitely helps the sessions.
We also tell people to do the spinal twists at least three times daily, along with the Pulling Down Exercise. The new Tapping Procedure will be added to these suggestions.
Children. We have done sessions on many children, age 9 and up. Younger than this they do not do well alone without supervision. The therapy works well on children. They need more frequent phone calls, usually every two hours. This adds expense but it needed, we find.
Older people. The therapy sometimes does not work as well for people over the age of about 60. Perhaps these people are more set in their ways and less able to “let down” during the session.
Duration. Sessions are usually for three days, and then the end, no matter what has occurred. This is for administrative purposes, mostly. Rarely, we extend a session a few hours if a person is in the middle of a ‘crisis’, as we call it.
Some clients request a longer session. This is more costly, but can be done if the personnel are available. In fact, longer sessions are more helpful. Problems are arranging the therapist’s schedule and the client’s schedule, and the cost, but it can be done and is frequently more effective.
The shortest session is about two days, and usually this is not enough. Most people spend the first two days sleeping or resting most of the day.
Follow up. We like to have at least one office visit after a session to get feedback and complete processing of any issues that are not completely resolved. This is not often needed, but helps us with research and avoids some dangers. It is about completion. At times, we will discuss whether to schedule another session, for example.
Repeat sessions. Some clients want to do a second or third session. Usually, these are less effective. One client did 20 sessions. These became “vacations”, basically, and did not have much therapeutic effect, although the client enjoyed them.
What occurs is that many clients are surprised and very pleased to learn that they can be alone for several days, with no one to sleep with, eat with or talk to. These people go home and set up a different lifestyle for themselves that is usually less codependent and more independent.
Often, we get a thank you note from the husband or wife, for example, thanking us for making their partner less clingy and more independent.
IV. WHAT CONDITIONS RESPOND TO DISTRACTION THERAPY?
Trauma. This method is excellent for all trauma such as rape and beatings. Here the goal is to revisit and review the incident or incidents and put them in a healthier perspective.
Many people have been running from their traumas for years and this procedure is the decision not to run away any more.
Depression. The method is excellent for most cases of depression. These are sometimes caused by malnutrition and sometimes by a bad marriage or family situation.
Often, after a session, a person is ready to make a change in his or her home situation. The session is an excellent catalyst for many such changes, we find.
A person becomes rested, nourished, more balanced emotionally and therefore much more able to handle the stress of making a major life change.
General anxiety. This often responds well.
Panic attacks. This varies. Some people panic more when alone. Others do better when they are alone and away from people or situations that trigger attacks.
Bipolar disorder. This often responds well.
Hyperactivity or hyperkinesis. This does very well with distraction therapy because one removes triggers for hyperactive behavior.
Extreme anger. This is one of the few conditions that is not helped much be this therapy. We believe it is because the person is so angry that he or she remains destracted by their anger, which is itself often a distraction, and does not get to deeper issues.
Schizophrenia. The therapy is not suited for schizophrenia because of the danger of suicide.
Neuroses. The method can work well for phobias, overeating and other problems.
Not for everyone. A few people simply cannot be alone for three days, even with the phone calls and visits three times daily for meal delivery. These are few in number.
However, once in a while a person tells us after a few hours or one day that they do not want to continue. If we cannot resolve the problem, it is best to end the session and give the person a refund of unused money to avoid legal difficulties.
Considerations for pastors and other church personnel. This therapy does not work as well on some Christian people. The reason is that some Christians use Jesus or God to distract themselves from their traumas and issues.
We warn these people not to do this is they want the best results. Try to just relax and allow whatever feelings are inside to come up for review and release. Prayer is also fine during a session. However, just relaxing is best.
Books by Arthur Janov, PhD, include: The Primal Scream, The Feeling Child, The Anatomy Of Mental Illness, The Primal Revolution, Prisoners Of Pain, Imprints: Lifelong Effects Of The Birth Experience, The New Primal Scream, Primal Man: The New Consciousness, The Biology Of Love, Why You get Sick And How You Get Well, Primal Healing, The Janov Solution: Lifting Depression With Primal Therapy, Life Before Birth, Beyond Belief: Cults, Healers, Mystics and Gurus.