Autogenic Training

Autogenic Training

Autogenic Training (AT), also known as Autogenic Therapy, is an effective and scientifically validated self-help technique for stress management and deep relaxation. Over an 8 to 9 week training course, the patient learns to practise simple relaxation and body awareness exercises that switch off the body’s ‘fight or flight’ stress response and switch on the ‘relaxation response’. This simple mind-body technique, akin to meditation, becomes a skill for life to relax the body and calm the mind at will. It enables the patient to tap into their body’s self-healing processes.

The relaxation response is a physical state of profound rest that reverses the stress response. It induces rest, repair and recuperation, boosts the immune system and restores emotional balance. The autonomic nervous system is restored to a state of harmony and balance. Research has demonstrated that regular activation of the relaxation response is the most effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders.

Autogenic Training was developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s by Dr Johannes Schultz, a German neurologist and psychiatrist who was researching the physiology of deeply relaxed states. He found that, if he taught his patients to make auto-suggestions that they were experiencing the physical sensations of deep relaxation, e.g. heaviness and warmth in the limbs, they would quickly enable their autonomic nervous system to switch from the stress response to the relaxation response.

Autogenic means self-generated. Schultz developed a series of six autogenic standard exercises which form the basis of an AT course. Each week one learns simple formulas which one silently repeats while focusing attention on different parts of the body and the sensations associated with a relaxed state. One learns to practise the exercises with ‘passive concentration’, a meditative state of mind, in which one becomes an alert but passive observer, unconcerned with results. This enables the body and mind to restore harmonious functioning.

AT has been called a Western form of meditation. It appeals to the Western mind for, unlike many forms of meditation and yoga, it has no religious or cultural overtones and requires no special clothing, unusual postures or practices. It is body orientated, simply structured and, crucially, it cultivates personal growth and autonomy.

AT is probably the most effective simple stress reduction technique ever developed in the West. Once learned, AT enables one, within minutes, to reverse the stress response. One is not dependent on any therapist or equipment and can practise almost anywhere – on a train, bus, or at work.

One can take the course as an individual or a member of a small group. The patient is encouraged to practise the exercises for about 10 minutes three times daily and keep a brief record of their experiences to discuss with the therapist.

AT provides a non-drug approach for many stress-related physical and emotional conditions. It has been available on the NHS for over 20 years and on the Continent and Japan for much longer. Many research papers have shown the efficacy of the clinical applications of AT. Conditions which respond well to AT include anxiety, panic attacks, Phobias, insomnia, asthma, migraines, headaches, high blood pressure, depression, muscular pain and tension, irritable bowel syndrome and several others.