Autogenic Training: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Outcome Studies

Autogenic Training: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Outcome Studies.

Stetter, Friedhelm1
Kupper, Sirko2

Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback. Mar2002, Vol. 27 Issue 1, p45-98. 54p.

Autogenic training (AT) is a self-relaxation procedure by which a psychophysiological determined relaxation response is elicited.

A meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of AT.

Seventy-three controlled outcome studies were found (published 1952–99). Sixty studies (35 randomized controlled trials [RCT]) qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Medium-to-large effect sizes (ES) occurred for pre–post comparisons of disease-specific AT-effects, with the RCTs showing larger ES.

When AT was compared to real control conditions, medium ES were found.

Comparisons of AT versus other psychological treatment mostly resulted in no effects or small negative ES. This pattern of results was stable at follow-up.

Unspecific AT-effects (i.e., effects on mood, cognitive performance, quality of life, and physiological variables) tended to be even larger than main effects.

Separate meta-analyses for different disorders revealed a significant reduction of the heterogeneity of ES.

Positive effects (medium range) of AT and of AT versus control in the meta-analysis of at least 3 studies were found for tension headache/migraine, mild-to-moderate essential hypertension, coronary heart disease, asthma bronchiale, somatoform pain disorder (unspecified type), Raynaud’s disease, anxiety disorders, mild-to-moderate depression/dysthymia, and functional sleep disorders. 


Document Type:

Subject Terms:
AUTOGENIC training
MENTAL suggestion

Author-Supplied Keywords:
autogenic training
controlled clinical studies

NAICS/Industry Codes:
541712 Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)


Notes from Ethan:

The following are additional quotes from the study’s full text, worth noting:

Although AT had a positive effect on frontal lobe epilepsy, the more specific biofeedback training of slow cortical potentials seems to be more promising (Rockstroh et al., 1993). As there are promising results from one study each concerning AT therapy for inflamatory bowel disease, atopic eczema, glaucoma, and preparation for childbirth, further research may prove (or disprove) the properties of AT94 Stetter and Kupper in these disorders.

For the interpretation of the results it is crucial to keep in mind that in nearly all of the studies a basic medical treatment was applied for all patients in all groups.  However, the results indicate that AT can play a serious role as one part of “psycho-somatic”

As a result of this meta-analysis, AT proved to be an effective relaxation method
being about as effective as other relaxation methods. This replicates the general findings
of Linden (1994) and contradicts the results of Grawe et al. (1994). However, perhaps all
relaxation methods should not be considered as stand-alone therapies especially in severe
forms of the disorders.

In the psychosomatic area, relaxation, of course, should be an add-on therapy to medical treatment. Its combination with behavioral and cognitive as well as with psychotherapeutic components should be worth further investigation.