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What Is Autogenic Training?


  • Autogenic Training (AT) – a form of treatment to help people help themselves.
  • A non-drug method of mindful self-help using structured and specialist relaxation.
  • A method you carry out by yourself, for yourself, with yourself and because of yourself!

(Dr Ann Bowden)

These are not complete definitions of AT but they do get close to what it is about.

With its roots firmly in medicine, AT is a long established form of treatment which addresses imbalance in mind and body. Many symptoms caused by inappropriate stress reactions over a long period of time, can be significantly helped or even eliminated by using this simple method.

ATpos2The autogenic methods of mental exercises are practised by using:

  • special sitting or lying postures, to minimise disturbance
  • an attitude of mind which is passive (observing / being aware)
  • silent repetitions of phrases associated with the body’s experience of relaxation.

Despite its unusual name, Autogenic Training (AT) really does describe the treatment.

The word ‘autogenic’ means ‘self-generated’, from the Greek ‘auto’ (self); ‘genus’ (from within).

Although AT is not a talking therapy (psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or counselling), the outcome can certainly carry psychotherapeutic benefit; if any analysis occurs, it emerges spontaneously, through the changed cognitive awareness the client experiences; AT is not a mind-altering substance, and yet it really does ‘change the mind’; AT is not meditation, but the meditative state which can be induced is often very deep and brings key insights to the surface; AT uses relaxation and the gentle habit of practice (training). This is the start of a unique process.

In summary, AT is a mind-body therapy, taught to, and then practised by, the client.

The passive observer attitude which is adopted during practice, opens us to perceiving the mind and body objectively so that we can take the position of witness.

Dr Johannes Schultz, AT’s developer in the early 20th century, described the move into the passive observer, witnessing stance as the “Concentrative Experience of Switching Process” (Schultz, 1973, p322). Umschalten can be translated into English in many ways: we shift, switch, change the channel, switch over. Thus we see that as we move to a witness stance, this may be described as being on a spiritual pathway.