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Autogenic training

[Related techniques: Relaxation, self-hypnosis]


Autogenic training refers to mental exercises involving relaxation, visualization and autosuggestion. The objective: to teach patients to recognize the origin of their disorders in order to use their own resources to help themselves. Autogenic training developed in the last decade of the 19th century by people who had previously undergone hypnotic sessions. They were able to readily put themselves into a state which appeared similar to hypnosis. The regular use of this state reduced stress and improved efficiency. In the 1930’s, Schultz explored these ideas adding autosuggestion with the aim of developing a routine which avoided the passivity and dependency of hypnosis. Schultz taught patients to think about heaviness and warmth of a particular anatomic region which could then by extended  to the entire body. These are the first two exercises of autogenic therapy. Four other instructions relating to heart rate, breathing, warmth in the stomach, and coolness of the forehead were added to form the six standard exercises. In the 1940’s, Wolfgang Luthe expanded the technique by adding “intentional” exercises, tailored to the individual which involved repetitions of autosuggestions. One such application included elimination of negative patterns of thought. Later, a series of meditative exercises was added.


The treatment is usually carried out in a quiet room with dim light. The patient learns to concentrate on heaviness of the dominant arm and to generalize this sensation to the rest of the body. This is followed by instruction in the other standard exercises. They were practiced three times daily for approximately ten minutes each time. Eight to ten sessions are required to learn the technique.