Schultz emphasized parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation. It is a method for influencing one's autonomic nervous system. Abbe Faria and Emile Coue are the forerunners of Schultz. There are many parallels to progressive relaxation. In 1963 Luthe discovered the significance of "autogenic discharges", paroxysmic phenomena of motor, sensorial, visual and emotional nature related to the traumatic history of the patient, and developed the method of "Autogenic Abreaction". His disciple Luis de Rivera, a McGill trained psychiatrist, introduced psychodynamic concepts* into Luthe's approach, developing "Autogenic Analysis"* as a new method for uncovering the unconscious.
Herbert Benson, MD, a Harvard professor also did significant research in the area. He called it the Relaxation Response and wrote an influential book with that same title.
Effects of autogenic trainingAutogenic Training restores the balance between the activity of the Sympathetic nervous system|sympathetic (flight or fight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches of the autonomic nervous system. This has important health benefits, as the parasympathetic activity promotes digestion and bowel movements, lowers the blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and promotes the functions of the immune system.
ContraindicationsAutogenic Training is contraindicated for people with heart conditions or psychotic disorders.*
Clinical evidenceAutogenic training has been subject to clinical evaluation from its early days in Germany, and from the early 1980s worldwide. In 2002, a meta-analysis of 60 studies was published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback,* finding significant positive effects of treatment when compared to normals over a number of diagnoses; finding these effects to be similar to best recommended rival therapies; and finding positive additional effects by patients, such as their perceived quality of life.
In Japan, four researchers from the Tokyo Psychology and Counseling Service Center have formulated a measure for reporting clinical effectiveness of autogenic training.*Autogenic training was popularized in North America particularly among practitioners by Wolfgang Luthe, who co-authored, with Schultz, a multi-volume tome on Autogenic Training. Luthe was a firm believer that Autogenic training was a powerful approach that should only be offered to patients by qualified professionals.
Like many techniques (progressive relaxation, yoga, qigong,* varieties of meditation) which have been developed into advanced, sophisticated processes of intervention and learning, Autogenic training, as Luthe and Schultz wrote in their master tome, took well over a year to learn to teach and over a year to learn. But some biofeedback practitioners took the most basic elements of autogenic imagery and developed "condensed" simplified versions that were used in combination with biofeedback. This was done at the Menninger foundation by Elmer Green, Steve Fahrio, Patricia Norris, Joe Sargent, Dale Walters and others, where they took the hand warming imagery of Autogenic training and used it as an aid to develop thermal biofeedback.