What is
Autogenic Training?

Background

Dr Johannes Schultz, a German neuro-psychiatrist, was AT’s developer, during the 1920s. He devised the method from his own patients’ reported and subjective experience of being hypnotised. Later he realised his questions and observations, and his self-administered technique was not hypnosis at all. It was something other: ‘autogenic’.

Autogenic Training can be described in several ways:

  • 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)

AT treats the whole person, not ‘just’ the problem.

First of all, we might think about what AT is not:

  • “AT is not psychotherapy, yet the outcome can certainly be psychotherapeutic.

  • If any analysis occurs, it emerges spontaneously, through the changed cognitive awareness and experience of the client.

  • AT is not a mind-altering substance and yet it often does ‘change the mind’. 

  • AT is not meditation of the type we might normally associate with the name, but the meditative state which can be induced is often very deep and brings key insights to the surface.

  • AT can bring about physical change as tension is released.

  • AT uses relaxation and the gentle habit of practice [training], and this starts a unique process.” From ‘I could do with some of that! – the Power of Autogenics’ by Jane Bird pub. Legends 2015 

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 AT.


AT involves:

  • Comfortable sitting or lying postures

  • A passive observer attitude

  • Silently repeated specific phrases.


Despite its unusual name, Autogenic Training (AT) really does describe the treatment. The word ‘autogenic’ comes from the Greek word autogenetos (αυτοπαραχθείσα), which means “originating from within the body”, “self-generated”, “self-produced”, “self-born”.  ‘Autogenous’ is a word commonly used in life sciences.


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 casual witness.

Schultz described the move into the passive observing, witnessing stance as the ‘Umschalten’: the “Concentrative Experience of Switching Process” (Schultz, 1973, p322).
This can be translated into English in many ways: we shift, switch, change the channel, switch over.
Some people, through the move to a witness stance, describe this as akin to a spiritual experience.

“The goal of Autogenic Psychotherapy is that the patient acquires the necessary skill as far as possible uninfluenced by the therapist, and is in this way able to form his own auto rhythm.” – Dr Heinrich Wallnöefer.