FAQs: AT questions and answers
Q. What is AT?
AT stands for Autogenic Therapy. Autogenic means ‘generated from within’. AT offers a non-drug approach to preventing and treating a wide range of both organic and psychosomatic illnesses and psychological issues. It is a self-help technique that brings about profound relaxation and relief from the negative effects of stress. Quite simply, it re-trains the mind to calm itself. AT was developed 85 years ago by the psychiatrist and neurologist Dr Johannes Schultz, and has been available in the UK for over 25 years. It is one of the most scientifically proven complementary therapies, but remains one of the least known.
Q. Who is AT for?
AT is suitable for people engaged in all areas of life, including those in the world of sport and creative arts. It is particularly useful for busy managers and business executives, and just about anybody who may find himself or herself in a stressful life situation, including parents of young children. AT has even been proven useful in facilitating less stressful pregnancies, childbirth and accelerating post-delivery healing.
Q. How is AT learned?
A typical AT course run by a trained and qualified Autogenic Therapist comprises 8-10 weekly, one-hour sessions. Each individual is always monitored in case any variations from the standard form are necessary. Following an initial assessment, individuals are taught a series of simple, easily learned mental exercises that allow the mind to calm itself by switching off the body’s stress responses. Once learned it is a skill for life, and simple to do almost anywhere: on planes, at work, whilst at the dentist’s.
Q. How effective is AT?
A huge number of scientific papers document the effectiveness of AT. It is known to have numerous psychological applications including anxiety states, insomnia, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as medical applications such as skin conditions, asthma, hypertension, colitis, arthritis, migraine, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), amongst others. People who have learned AT commonly report better health and emotional balance, greater coping ability, increased well-being, improved quality of sleep and reduction of anxiety levels.
Q. How can you become an autogenic therapist?
First, you should be in one of the following roles: doctor, nurse, counsellor, psychotherapist, complementary therapist or have the equivalent life experience. Second, you must have completed your own personal AT course of 8 weeks. You can then undertake the British Autogenic Society’s one year, part-time professional training course, towards the Diploma of Autogenic Training. You are then eligible to become a full member of the British Autogenic Society. The Society also offers further training at Level 2 towards the Diploma of Autogenic Psychotherapy.
Q. What is the British Autogenic Society?
Formed in 1984, the British Autogenic Society (www.autogenic-therapy.org.uk) is the professional and regulatory body for autogenic practitioners in the UK. It sets the education and qualification standards, acts as an information resource for practitioners and the public, and liases with counterparts around the world. The Society has over 90 members and aims to increase its membership. A registered Charity, its main sources of revenue are professional training programmes and membership subscriptions.
Q. What is the difference between AT and meditation?
There are indeed close similarities between AT and various systems of meditation. The state of passive concentration attained during AT is the same or very similar to that described in various systems of meditation, where it might be called ‘mindfulness’, ‘witness consciousness’ or ‘self-remembering’. The difference really lies in origins and in the philosophical framework. AT arose in the west, out of research into ways in which the restorative abilities of the body and mind could be optimised. It does not have any framework of spiritual or metaphysical belief, although of course it does not preclude them.
Q. What is the difference between AT and hypnosis?
Both hypnosis and AT involve a change in consciousness. The hypnotic state is essentially the drifting, slightly dreamy state that is sometimes encountered on the edge of sleep, when memory and imagination are particularly vivid. The focus of attention is usually inwards and quite narrow, and the subject is very much involved in the flow of events. After hypnosis, the subject may have a distorted sense of how much objective time has passed, and amnesia for much of what has occurred.
In the autogenic state, the focus of attention is both inwards and outwards: there is usually a strong sense of where one is and what is going on, combined with a deep attentiveness to changes in one’s own body and mind. The subject feels detached from the process, a passive observer, and can usually recall in detail what has happened. There is also a characteristic balancing of EEG output between the left and right brain hemispheres during AT which has not been noted during hypnosis.