Autogenic therapy

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • AT, autogenic training, BFRT, biofeedback, biofeedback-assisted relaxation therapy, body awareness, deep relaxation, Dr. Johannes Schultz, Dr. Wolfgang Luthe, hypnoid relaxation, passive concentration, Prof. Oskar Vogt, respiratory autogenic training, self-hypnosis.

Background

  • Autogenic therapy (AT) is an approach that encompasses both mind and body and teaches skills for self-healing and self-development.

  • Autogenic therapy (AT) uses visual imagery and body awareness to promote a state of deep relaxation. A detached but alert state of mind called “passive concentration” must be achieved for autogenic therapy exercises to be carried out. People participating in autogenic therapy are taught relaxation and body awareness techniques. It is believed that these approaches can then be used indefinitely to promote a healthier lifestyle, allowing people to call on their own capacity for self-healing and stress reduction.

  • Autogenic therapy was developed in the 1930s by the psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Johannes Schultz. Dr. Schultz had been influenced by the research of Prof. Oskar Vogt, who had studied psychosomatic medicine. In the 1940s, Dr. Wolfgang Luthe modified the autogenic technique by the addition of repetitive therapeutic suggestions.

  • Good scientific evidence supports the use of autogenic therapy for the treatment of anxiety. Benefits have been reported in the treatment of headache, asthma, heart disease, and insomnia. However, strong evidence supporting the use of autogenic therapy to treat any condition in humans is lacking.

Tradition/Theory

  • Autogenic therapy (AT) encompasses both mind and body and aims to teach skills for self-healing and self-development. It is unclear exactly how autogenic therapy may affect the body. It has been suggested, but not proven, that it may work in a manner similar to biofeedback, meditation, or hypnosis.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Anxiety

Limited research suggests that autogenic therapy may aid in the treatment of anxiety. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made

Alcoholism

Autogenic therapy may help alcoholism. However, more research is needed.

Athletic performance

Autogenic therapy may help improve performance in professional athletes. However, more research is needed.

Breathing (hyperventilation)

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may aid in the treatment of hyperventilation. Additional research is needed in this area.

Bronchial asthma

Preliminary evidence suggests that autogenic therapy may be beneficial for treatment of bronchial asthma. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

Cardiovascular conditions

It is unclear if autogenic therapy may be beneficial in the treatment of heart or blood vessel disorders, such as palpitations, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, or cold hands or feet. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Depression

Autogenic therapy may help improve symptoms of depression in patients with cancer. Additional research is needed in this area.

Eczema

Sufficient scientific evidence to support the use of autogenic therapy to treat eczema is lacking. Further research is needed in this area.

Epilepsy

Sufficient scientific evidence to support the use of autogenic therapy to treat epilepsy is lacking. Further research is needed in this area.

Fibromyalgia

Limited research suggests that autogenic therapy may aid in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Gastrointestinal conditions

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may be beneficial for gastrointestinal conditions. Additional research is needed in this area.

Glaucoma

Limited research suggests that autogenic therapy may aid in the treatment of glaucoma. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Headache

Early evidence suggests that autogenic therapy may help alleviate headaches. Additional research is needed in this area.

HIV/AIDS

Study suggests that autogenic therapy may be beneficial for HIV/AIDS. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Infertility

Limited research suggests that autogenic therapy may aid in the treatment of infertility. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Insomnia

Improvement in insomnia in cancer patients has been reported with autogenic therapy. Additional clinical research is required before a conclusion can be made.

Labor pain

Limited evidence suggests that autogenic therapy may decrease labor pain. Additional research is required before a conclusion can be made.

Multiple sclerosis (quality of life)

Early evidence suggests that autogenic therapy may increase energy and vigor and decrease physical and emotional problems in patients with multiple sclerosis. Although these results are promising, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Behavioral therapy is often used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In human research, autogenic therapy has been used as a placebo treatment for comparison to the effects of behavioral therapy.

Pain

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may improve symptoms of pain in limbs that have been amputated. Additional research is needed in this area.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Study suggests that autogenic therapy, in combination with other therapies, may aid in the treatment of PTSD. Further research on the effect of autogenic therapy alone is needed before a conclusion can be made.

Psychological conditions (pediatric behavioral disorders)

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may reduce stress and psychosomatic complaints in children and adolescents. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Raynaud’s disease

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may be useful in Raynaud’s disease. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Sports or other physical injuries

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may reduce injuries in ballet dancers when used together with other coping skills, but not when used alone. Further research is needed in this area.

Stutter

Early research suggests that autogenic therapy may be effective for stuttering. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.

Syncope (neurocardiogenic)

Limited evidence suggests that biofeedback-assisted relaxation, which involves aspects of autogenic therapy, may help manage the most common form of fainting. More research is needed in this area.

Thyroid disease

Autogenic therapy may be beneficial for thyroid disease. However, well-designed human research is needed before conclusions can be made.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Addiction (tranquilizers), arrhythmia (ventricular), biliary/gall bladder disease, bladder disorders, cancer, cerebral palsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, circulatory disorders, degenerative joint disease/osteoarthritis, diabetes, dyspepsia, eating disorders, facial spasm, food allergy diagnosis/treatment, grief, heart attack recovery, high cholesterol, hot flashes (blushing/flushing), improving concentration, infections (recurrent), jet lag, longevity, low back pain, muscle spasm, muscle tension, myofascial pain, nervousness (cough), neuralgia (nerve pain), neurologic disorders (tremors), night sweats, obesity, panic disorder, Parkinson’s disease, phobias, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, quality of life, rheumatoid arthritis, sexual dysfunction, stress (hormone levels), traumatic brain injury, wound healing.

Safety

Los profesionales de la salud que tienen instrucción formal practican muchas técnicas complementarias, de acuerdo con los estándares de organizaciones nacionales. No obstante, este no es el caso universal; es posible que se presenten efectos adversos. Debido a la limitada investigación existente, en algunos casos solamente hay poca información disponible sobre la seguridad del tratamiento.

  • Autogenic therapy is likely safe for healthy adults and adults with medical conditions who have received clearance from their healthcare provider, although its safety has not been thoroughly studied.

  • Autogenic therapy should not replace proven treatments for potentially serious illnesses.

  • Autogenic therapy may cause increased phantom limb pain.

  • Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia or those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Autogenic therapy may cause adverse effects. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Autogenic therapy may cause low or high blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients with cardiovascular conditions or those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood pressure.

  • Use cautiously in patients with autoimmune disorders or those using immunosuppressants, as, according to human data, autogenic therapy was found to improve immune function.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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  6. Hidderley M, Holt M. A pilot randomized trial assessing the effects of autogenic training in early stage cancer patients in relation to psychological status and immune system responses. Eur J Oncol Nurs 2004;8(1):61-65. View Abstract
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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.