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What is Autogenic Therapy?

Last Updated Mar 14, 2022

What is Autogenic Therapy?

Are you looking for a way to effectively decrease the amount of stress that you have in your life? Autogenic therapy may be a great option for you. Autogenic means "generated from within", and this deep relaxation technique is so simple to do that you can carry it out yourself once you have learnt the techniques. Read on for more information.

What is Autogenic Therapy?

Autogenic therapy was developed in the early twentieth century by Dr Johannes Heinrich Schultz, a psychiatrist and neurologist. He found that people could achieve a state of wellbeing by directing their attention to sensations of heaviness and warmth in the limbs. Autogenic therapy uses some very interesting techniques to produce a relaxation response in order to reduce stress levels and treat anxiety disorders. This could be done by using passive concentration combined with verbal formulae that implied heaviness and warmth. There are six Standard Autogenic Formulae, which form the basis of autogenic therapy. Today, autogenic therapy is practised all around the world.

The Fight or Flight Response and Autogenic Therapy

Autogenic therapy is designed to turn off the body’s "fight or flight" response, its natural response to stress. In place of this response, it turns on the body’s natural relaxation responses. The fight or flight response causes stress hormones to surge within the body, causing symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, tensing of muscles, and an increase in breathing rate. In today’s world, much of the stress we endure is mental or emotional. This can lead to us being always alert, and this constant alertness can affect the immune system and lead to chronic disease. The deep relaxation response invoked by autogenic therapy reverses the stress response, allowing the muscles to relax, breathing to slow, and the heart rate to return to normal.

Benefits of Autogenic Therapy 

Autogenic training teaches you how to control your body's stress response better in order to treat psychological distress, emotional disorders or chronic health conditions. It is important to remember that autogenic training is all about becoming aware of what goes on in your body, so paying attention while doing this exercise is crucial in getting the most out of it. Autogenic therapy has many beneficial effects. Some of these include:

  • Increasing confidence and self-esteem
  • Improving the quality of the sleep that you get
  • Increasing your concentration and focus
  • Reducing the amount of anxiety that you feel
  • Improves stress management, making it easier to relax
  • Reducing mild to moderate depression
  • Helping you to feel more in control of what is happening
  • Relieving tension
  • Helping with jet lag
  • Increased creativity and imagination

Clinical outcome studies have also shown that autogenic therapy is a form of psychosomatic medicine that can help to reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, factors that can cause heart attacks. Regular practice of this holistic therapy, in combination with other psychological interventions and progressive muscle relaxation, has also been demonstrated to have positive effects on the following conditions:

  • migraine
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • asthma
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • eczema
  • PMS
  • infertility in which high levels of the stress hormone prolactin are involved (prolactin is a natural contraceptive)
  • coronary heart disease

What Happens in Autogenic Therapy

Many mental health professionals specialise in autogenic therapy, so you can easily find one in your local area. Before the initial assessment with the therapist, you might be required to complete an informed consent form. After this, you learn the techniques or undergo relaxation training either one-on-one with the therapist or in a small group. There are usually 8 to 10 weekly sessions. You will be required to practise the exercises for ten minutes three times a day, and keep a brief record so that you can discuss your experiences with the therapist.

You can do your autogenic training while lying down or sitting in a comfortable position. An autogenic training requires you to be in loose, comfortable clothing so that you can breathe with ease while focusing on the verbal formulae. 

The exercises are made up of the silent repetition of simple formulae, while you focus on a specific area of the body. These formulae focus attention on sensations that are associated with relaxation, such as warmth and heaviness in the limbs, warmth in the solar plexus, a regular heartbeat, and so on. For example, one formula may be "my right arm is heavy". All exercises are done in a state of passive concentration. This is where you are detached but aware. This allows the natural regulatory systems in the body to work at their best.

Source: YouTube/Time Management and Productivity

Autogenic therapy is easy to practise as there are no special clothes or equipment needed. You can do it just about anywhere – sitting in a chair, lying down, or even in a busy area such as in an office or on a train.

While anxiety and stress reduction are the primary outcomes of the daily practice of autogenic therapy, an experimental study discovered that it also has secondary outcomes in patients with medical disorders. Researchers saw emotional stability and an improvement in quality of life in people living with diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other physical health conditions. There haven't been any reports of adverse effects from this type of treatment.

Originally published on Mar 03, 2009

FAQs About Autogenic Therapy

How long does autogenic training take?

The duration of autogenic therapy depends on the frequency of practice. It usually lasts four to six months, but patients who work closely with a trained therapist on a regular basis saw faster improvements.

How often should you do autogenic training?

Whether you're suffering from anxiety or a chronic disease, practising autogenic therapy daily for eight minutes can improve your health in leaps and bounds. One of the primary outcome variables that must be considered, according to researchers who focus on the statistical significance of the treatment, is the amount of time a patient devotes to the therapy.

Does autogenic training constrict blood vessels?

No. It does the opposite. According to a systematic review of the effects of autogenics on blood vessels, biofeedback-assisted autogenic training, as well as other relaxation and psychological interventions, can help reduce muscle tension and dilate blood vessels, which is important for improving a variety of physical health conditions.

Related Topics

Stress,  Meditation,  Psychotherapy,  Anxiety

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