Autogenic Training For Profound Relaxation And Stress Management
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dr Alice Greene
1st February, 2011
Autogenic Training is a method that teaches you how to consciously relax your body and mind at will. Much research over 70 years shows that Autogenic Therapy can provide a flexible approach to a wide variety of physical and mental problems with surprisingly favourable results, and in counteracting the effects of bodily and mental stress. Moreover, when used by well people (in sports, education, and industry) improvements observed in peak performance, creative output, intellectual work and interpersonal relationships have all been reported.
The main results of regular practice are greater well being and self-confidence with improved sleep and reduction in anxiety.
An Autogenic Training course involves attending for one hour a week for approximately 8 – 10 weeks. You will need to practice the simple exercises at home three times a day for about 10 minutes throughout the training. However, the practice quickly establishes itself as a very relaxing and pleasant thing to do, and so becomes naturally integrated into your life.
The system of Autogenic training and therapy was pioneered by the neuro-psychiatrist, Prof. Iohannes Schultz in 1932 in Berlin. He designed a way to induce deep mental and psychological relaxation at will, and subsequently went on to research and publish six volumes on ‘Autogenic Therapy’ in 1969, which constitutes the backbone of this fascinating subject.
We are besieged by information about stress on all sides these days, not only emotional, but also toxic stress from our living environments. The pollution of nature has become so widespread that we have been somewhere re-named “The Effluent Society”. Clearly, more sophisticated drugs and biological engineering are not the whole answer. The modern scientific approach takes little account of the profound integrity of the human being with its natural powers of self-healing. We need our health models to also address the mental and emotional aspects of illness:
In contrast to other mental methods of psychotherapy, Autogenic Therapy (AT) is a simple therapeutic system of profound relaxation, which affects the whole mind-body mechanism in an extremely sophisticated way. It brings about normalising and self-healing results by giving the brain full opportunity to perform its own auto-regulation.
The core of AT involves mentally repeating six simple body-aware statements in a passive way, with a casual, non-striving attitude. The body is in a comfortable seated or lying position to avoid distractions.
The practice of these core exercises leads to a state of altered consciousness, the Autogenic State (which is not identical to hypnosis, self- hypnosis or sleep). In this state the EEG changes closely resemble alpha wave meditation shifting into the deep healing area of mind characterized by Theta waves. This deep relaxation accesses information from deeper levels to allow all kinds of brain-directed, self-regulatory processes of a normalising nature to spontaneously take place – promoting and supporting healthier mental and physical balance.
This freed-up access to both feelings and memories, and intellectual and creative processes helps resolve factors like unbalanced personality development, the effects of a selectively intellectual type of education, traumatic events, and suppressed emotions and reactions. Whereas preventing this free flow of information between the more emotional right brain and the more analytical left brain leads to chronic tension and distress.
Whatever sort of therapy or drugs we use, we can say that the final common pathway of all these different approaches lies in the full restoration of our natural self-regulatory processes. No one can heal a fractured bone, a disturbed mind or a broken heart… they heal themselves – if allowed to. While many drugs today interfere with this precise biological wisdom, AT helps both mind and body to get on with doing their own job.
Approximately half of all clients spontaneously report that they dream more frequently. Dream and memory material is more readily produced, and also, the gradual off-loading of accumulated painful material, leading to better emotional balance and mood. Over periods ranging from a few weeks to a few months, clients have reported that their anxiety, insecurity and neurotic reactions ‘smoothe out’ and gradually lose their significance. Generally, there occurs an increase in emotional and physiological tolerance, with a considerable decrease of the previous need for emotional release. Social contact becomes more natural and less inhibited. Personal relationships can become warmer and more intimate with certain persons, and yet less emotionally involved or identified with others that previously caused distress.
AT is also used to enhance performance, and has been used in Sports, in Business, in Industry and Education. Its use has been researched in Airline Pilots & Cabin Crews, in Olympic Athletes, in Space Astronauts, School Children, the Metropolitan Police and the London Ambulance Service to name a few.
Many clients report that intellectual efficiency and creativity have spontaneously increased with resistance to all kinds of physical or psychological stress. We might say that the autogenic process involves a gradual and significant shift of identification from the ‘experiencing self’ to the ‘witnessing self’. The client can move from ‘feeling driven’ to regaining the ‘driver’s seat’. The therapist’s role is to facilitate safely and effectively this journey with the client.
There have been many editions of the six volumes of “Autogenic Therapy” published in German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, French, Swedish, Japanese and English. During the last five decades, Autogenic Therapy has become very widely known and used in Europe, America and Japan, and today is practised in many countries around the world as a valuable form of treatment in the various fields of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.
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