Autogenic Training: High Intensity Relaxation

Did you know that you can train yourself into a near-hypnotic state of relaxation? Have you ever heard of Autogenic Training?

Stress has been described as the body’s response to the never-ending demands of daily living. Moreover, it also has mental and emotional aspects. Basically, stress is what we experience internally as a result of external pressures.

Our bodies tend to equate negative things that happen in our lives to physical threats. Things like losing a loved one or ending a relationship can provoke physical responses on top of the emotional turmoil. Stress, however, is not exclusively caused by negative life events. Some positive experiences are also known to induce the stress response.

High levels of stress can result in physical, mental or emotional symptoms and it affects different people, differently. Our instinctive stress response is characterized as immediate and we normally have little control over it. With Autogenic Training, our bodies are taught to resort to their natural relaxation response to work against unwanted physical or mental symptoms.

Autogenic Training: What is it?

Autogenic training, or autogenic therapy, is a relaxation therapy that was introduced by the German psychiatrist Johannes Schultz in 1932.

This theory came to life when Schultz started noticing that people undergoing hypnosis experienced feelings of warmth and heaviness in this relaxed state. This brought him to realize that recreating this state in people could possibly have the effects of tension release and anxiety reduction.

From his findings, he began formulating a way in which people could induce this relaxation response in their bodies to enhance their health. This came to be known as Autogenic Training.

In modern times, Autogenic Training is used to teach people to self-produce feelings of warmth and heaviness throughout their bodies to experience an intense state of relaxation, health, and mental peace.

Autogenic training is a very powerful, yet simple approach to stress management. The word Autogenic is a Greek composition meaning “self-generating” and with Autogenic Training, we learn how to teach our bodies to respond to our commands.

We learn to control body functions that we have no control over in normal circumstances like blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, digestion, and body temperature control.

Autogenic Training Theory

Seeing as Autogenic Training has a relaxing effect on the body, it has it has been compared to therapies like yoga and hypnosis. All of these therapies have an effect on the autonomic nervous system. However; in contrast to hypnosis and yoga, Autogenic Training is based solely on autosuggestion.

How Does Autogenic Training Suggest the Mind Works?

The key purpose of Autogenic Training is to train individuals to use the relaxation response of the body as needed. People, who participate in this type of training, learn to manage the emotional responses and physical symptoms they have in reaction to stress. They are, for instance, taught to keep their heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate under control.

Basic exercises are used to influence physical bodily processes. The idea is to let the patient concentrate on the feelings that these exercises generate for a while. Through this process, the person senses these feelings and the body begins to react.

Involuntary body functions like breathing, heart rate, and digestion, are under the control of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Autogenic training induces a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system to bring about relaxation.

How Does Autogenic Training Cause Change?

The goal of an Autogenic Training session is to help the patient feel calm towards the end and to give them a sense of control over their unwanted reactions to stress. They should feel able to overcome unnecessary emotional, physical and physiological responses to negative stimuli.

People, who use autogenic training regularly, may reap the benefits of the amazing effects it can have on a wide range of mental and physical health problems.

What Happens in an Autogenic Training Session?

Autogenic training is focused on a series of statements that the patient makes about warmth and heaviness experienced throughout the body. This process induces a favorable effect on the autonomic nervous system.

At first, you will be encouraged to get into a position that is comfortable for you. You may choose to sit upright or lie down.

The therapist will then begin the session by using verbal cues to guide your breathing and to direct your attention to certain parts of your body. From here, you need to concentrate on sensations of warmth and heaviness and this will send you into a state of deep relaxation.

Some verbal cues that are generally used include phrases like:

  • “I am completely calm”
  • “My right arm is warm”
  • “My left arm is heavy”
  • “My breathing is calm”
  • “My heart beats calmly”

These phrases can be repeated or used in specific patterns. The therapist may decide to lead the cues or alternatively, you will be requested to repeat them or say them silently. This will depend on the level of training that you have received.

At the end of a session, the therapist will help you “cancel” the session by using a specific phrase. Examples of such phrases include:

  • “I feel supremely calm.”
  • “Arms firm, breathe deeply, open eyes”

After the session, you will be encouraged to practice what you have learned at home. Each session will expand on what was learned during the previous session until you and your therapist feel confident that you can manage on your own.

Techniques Used in Autogenic Training

Every Autogenic Training lesson concentrates on a different sensation that is felt in the body and the six established techniques include:

  • Using verbal cues to suggest bodily sensations of heaviness
  • Verbal cues that point to feelings of warmth in the body
  • The use of verbal cues to focus attention on the heartbeat
  • Verbal cues to direct attention to breathing
  • Using verbal cues to make the person aware of abdominal sensations
  • The use of verbal cues to guide attention to the coolness of the forehead

Does Autogenic Training Work?

By utilizing the natural relaxation response of our bodies, Autogenic Training works with the body to counteract unwanted responses to stress that may lead to various mental and physical symptoms.

Autogenic Training helps people who want to reduce their stress levels and those who seek ways to relax their minds and bodies.

By practicing Autogenic Training regularly, instead of using it as a quick fix in stressful times, you may be able to deal more effectively with day-to-day stressors. You may also be better equipped to handle higher levels of stress.

People who practice Autogenic Training maintain that they have developed positive attitudes toward life. They feel more empowered and they also have a greater sense of control over their lives.

What Kinds of Concerns is Autogenic Training Best For?

Once you have mastered the techniques, you can utilize Autogenic Training to end addictive behavior, change bad habits, resolve phobias or improve physical symptoms.

Sensitive people, who tend to be overwhelmed by disturbing environmental factors, can learn to handle situations more effectively by dismissing these disruptive stimuli from their attention.

Autogenic training may be effective in treating conditions like migraines, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and even insomnia.

Furthermore, Autogenic Training can have beneficial effects for mental as well as physical health concerns like panic attacks, chronic pain, phobias, heart palpitations and stomach problems.

In fact, Autogenic Training can be used to beat nearly every physiological or psychological problem.

How Are Autogenic Training Specialists Trained?

The International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ICBCH) has certification programs in Autogenic Training and practitioners can also gain continuing education credits from them. The ICBCH sets the standards for various forms of therapy including Autogenic Training.

Concerns/Limitations of Autogenic Training

A great deal of research has supported the effectiveness of Autogenic Training since it was established as a relevant type of therapy.

Many people argue that they can practice Autogenic Training by themselves and it may be effective for some. However; by practicing this type of therapy without the assistance of a certified professional, you may risk performing it incorrectly. This may lead to increased emotional concerns and you may find yourself back at square one or worse off.

Qualified practitioners can help to ensure that you learn the techniques properly for successful results. It is also important to remember that a therapist will be able to decide whether Autogenic Training is the most appropriate type of therapy to address your specific concerns.

It is also of vital importance to note that Autogenic Training may not be recommended to people who have severe heart problems, psychotic symptoms, paranoia, dissociation, delusional behavior or people with diabetes.

Important Practitioners in Autogenic Training

Autogenic Training was developed by Johannes Schultz during the 1920’s in Germany. Schultz studied under Oscar Vogt, a neurologist, for many years and he was greatly influenced by some of the innovative ideas of Vogt.

Schultz was intrigued by the relaxing effects of hypnosis and sleep on the body. He then began formulating ideas to induce a similar relaxation response in people to improve their health. In 1932, he introduced Autogenic Training.

How to Find a Therapist

Autogenic Training therapists can be found in many countries all over the world. The techniques may be taught to individuals, groups, companies, organizations, or at universities and hospitals.

There are directories available online to help you find a therapist who can help you with Autogenic Training.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

A practitioner who uses Autogenic Training in therapy should be certified with The International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ICBCH).

The “Medical Meditation and Stress Management Certification” is an example of a certification program used for autogenic training. This program includes courses in various stress reduction therapies of which autogenic training forms a part.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

If you are considering using Autogenic Training to enhance the way in which you handle stress or for any other reason; get in touch with a therapist who can give you more information about the therapy and its benefits. They should be able to give you advice about whether Autogenic Training is suited to your situation and if you can safely make use of it to perform at your best.

Learn to relax with Autogenic Training

Isn’t it wonderful to know that there is a way to train your stress response? The Autogenic Training approach can be extremely beneficial for controlling stress in all the aspects of your life and to improve your overall health.

Think about the endless possibilities if stress were no longer a factor that affected your life. Don’t you think it is worth taking some time out of your life to learn the techniques of Autogenic Training?

Here at ThriveTalk, we’re all about providing honest therapy for everybody. We understand therapy can feel like a big commitment and that it can feel scary or shameful. That’s why we’ve created this blog, to talk about tough subjects and demystify the world of mental health and therapy. And that’s also why we try to be straightforward and upfront in everything that we do. We have our pricing here, and you can meet some of our therapists here.

Through all of this, our job is to help you in whatever way we can, whether that’s answering your questions or helping walk you through the hard times in your life. So if you think therapy could be helpful, just have a few simple questions, or just plain don’t know what to do, get in touch with us here, and we’ll do everything we can to help you make the best choice for your life. We’re here to help you take care of you.


author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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