Autogenic Training was developed in the early 20th century by the neuro-psychiatrist Dr Johannes Schultz (1884 – 1970) from the reports given him by patients describing their experience of relaxation during hypnosis. He appreciated the potential of not interfering with his patients’ experiences, and realised they had their own natural resource to restore balance and heal themselves. As a method of moving at will into a state of calm, today AT fits into positive psychology and self-help approaches to therapy. Between 1894 and 1904 he studied with Oscar Vogt, a physician and hypnotherapist. It was Vogt’s, his colleague Brodmann’s, and Schultz’s research into hypnosis, in particular, that formed the basis for Schultz’s development of Autogenic methods, which were his lifelong work. Schultz developed AT with the goal of eliminating people’s reliance on a therapist in favour of teaching people to actively regulate their own experience by entering and coming out of deep relaxation by themselves. Schultz carried out a large number of studies on the effects of AT. Whilst most of these involved taking measurements from individuals, such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, Schultz also did some studies with groups of people who were learning AT. Many of these studies are documented in Schultz’s writings of the 1950s and 1960s. Given its effectiveness, its ease of learning, ease of use, and the low cost of teaching it in groups, AT quickly spread throughout Europe and to North America and the Far East by the 1940s. AT was first used in the British National Health Service in the late 1950s (Haward, 1965). By the 1970s, Dr Herbert Benson, an American cardiologist and founder of the Mind-Body Medical Institute at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, had AT listed in his influential book “The Relaxation Response” (1974). He recognized AT as one of the calming processes / practices that can trigger the natural state of rest and recuperation. He stated that by learning AT and practising it regularly it becomes possible to calm your mind and body at will. In 1984, the same year as the British Autogenic Society was founded, Medlik and Fursland, clinical psychologists in the NHS, reported in The British Journal of Medical Psychology on its use as a cost effective treatment for stress and anxiety.
In the 1940s Dr Wolfgang Luthe became a student of Schultz, studying psychosomatic medicine and Autogenic Therapy. In the late 1940s, Luthe emigrated to Montreal, Canada where he continued to develop Autogenic Therapy as Assistant Professor of Psychophysiology at the University of Montreal. Schultz and Luthe collaborated in writing and collating research into all aspects of Autogenic Therapy. In 1969, a year before Schultz’s death, they published the first three of the six volumes on Autogenic Therapy which now constitute the seminal work on the subject. Since then, several editions of these volumes have been published in nine languages. In 2001 the BAS acquired the copyright of these six volumes which were reprinted in the UK. In 1978 Dr. Malcolm Carruthers and psychotherapist Vera Diamond studied Autogenic Therapy with Dr. Luthe in Montreal and brought the method to Britain. The first Autogenic Training courses were held in Queen Anne Street in London in 1979. Later, Dr Luthe contributed to the therapist training courses of 1982 and 1983, introducing his innovations of the Intentional Off-loading Exercises. In addition, British AT therapists experienced Luthe’s methods in Autogenic Neutralisation and Creativity Mobilisation Technique. The British Association for Autogenic Training and Therapy was founded in 1984, with Luthe’s approval and blessing. This became the British Autogenic Society (BAS) in 1999. The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (formerly the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital) has offered AT to patients suffering a wide variety of illnesses for over 20 years with very positive results. (See AT within the NHS.)
Autogenic Therapy is now practised in several countries around the world, but especially in Europe and Japan and Australia. Centres such as the Schultz Institute in Berlin and the Oscar Vogt Institute at Kyushu University, Japan, are pre-eminent in the field of AT research, development and training. AT is taught / facilitated by registered practitioners throughout the UK.