The brains of human beings seem built to process stories better than other forms of input ... - Thomas B Newman, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics
Here are the handouts and recordings for the eighth and final session of this basic Autogenic Training course. The initial "Autogenic relaxation training" page introduces the method and gives access to the previous seven lessons in the training sequence.
There are two main themes for this last session. One is to encourage course participants to review what they have learned over the previous weeks of the training, and to become clearer what feels right for them to do now. The second theme is to introduce some ideas about the importance of relationships and how this can overlap into Autogenic Training.
Often I will have asked course participants to track their progress using assessment questionnaires like the "Target symptoms sheet" and other more general depression, anxiety, wellbeing and mindfulness measures (see more on this in the "Autogenic training, session 1" description). I will take time now to get trainees to complete these questionnaires again to help clarify what progress has been made.
The key tool I use to encourage personal review of what has been learned is the "End of course reflection sheet". Initially I get participants to spend some time responding to the two questions on the first side of the sheet: 1.) Looking back over the Autogenic course, what for you personally have been the best things about it? In what ways has your life improved? What new skills or abilities have you developed? Have you had any insights or new ways of seeing things that feel valuable? Are there other positive things you have experienced doing the course? 2.) Looking back over the course, what for you personally have been the main difficulties that you have experienced? Are there useful lessons you can learn from these problems? Are there any implications that are important for you to remember? Is there anything further you want to do about these difficulties now or in the future? I give them a fair amount of time to think and write about these questions. Good learning tends to involve reflection as well as taking in new knowledge and experience. I'll then get them to discuss what they have been writing, first in pairs or small groups and then bring it back to an open forum in the full group.
We talk as well in the full group about "where from here" issues. I've taught Autogenic Training for well over two decades and, over the years, I've experimented with various ways of building "follow-up" into the course. I say that course "graduates" probably fall into one of three categories. Some (hopefully only a few) feel that the course was interesting and introduced useful ideas and practices, but now it's time to move on without actively continuing to do much with all this information. A largish group will practise sporadically, but mainly the methods taught will become a kind of psychological first aid kit. They are "put on the shelf" and left to gather dust until life becomes particularly choppy and the techniques are brought back and restarted. This is fine, but I am particularly interested in supporting people who want to continue to practise fairly regularly. In my experience, Autogenics is a very good method to learn and use.
I suspect this 16 hour training course is full of riches, support and good new experiences for many participants - possibly even richer and more digestible than many meditation trainings. Where Autogenics can fall down - in contrast to an ongoing supportive meditation practice group - is that there isn't likely to be a local practice community that meets regularly over the long term. It's hard to keep going through all the highs and lows of a personal practice without forms of support. I know. I've practised methods of inner focus/relaxation/meditation most days of the week since first learning about these approaches in 1970 - now nearly four decades. Human beings are great at adapting - practice can lose its freshness. See the blog post on "Goal renewal boosts wellbeing" for more on this. It may be worth exploring other related approaches to Autogenics. I, for example, often combine Autogenics with Mindfulness practice. There are likely to be Buddhist groups that meet fairly locally to many locations around the world. Some such groups will be doctrinaire and invasive, but many will be spacious and provide support for individuals to practise in their own ways. Retreats too can be a blessing - maybe in Buddhist environments, but many Christian retreat centres allow and encourage visitors to find their own ways to peace and quiet.
Books too can be a fine resource - I provide a short reading list - and the internet as well is full of good (and also toxic) things. I say that if you're inspired by a particular book or writer, it can often be helpful to just dip in and out - for example, reading a couple of pages or so most evenings. Personal support is very precious too when it's available. I sit quietly before breakfast most mornings with my wife. She's a yoga teacher and we do different silent practices, but the support and quiet and connection is very special and anchors our lives. I also meet with a dear friend - a meditation teacher - every three months or so for a day, and we review our lives and look ahead to clarify our intentions for the next three months. These intentions certainly include issues like meditation practice.
After all this I ask the course participants to look at the second side of the "End of course reflection sheet" and respond to the third question: 3.) Remembering both the good things that have come from this course and any difficulties that you have faced, what do you feel it would be most helpful for you to do now? What kind of Autogenic practice do you want to keep up? Are there other issues that you would really like to do something about? Also on the second side of the reflection sheet are suggestions on how to construct more effective intentions - as there are as well on last week's handout "Goals - ACT WISeST". To give them a flavour of how mutual support can continue to help, I suggest that once they have written down their intentions they write a brief second copy. They then pair up with another member of the group. I ask them to exchange phone numbers or email addresses and copies of their intentions. They explain their intentions more fully and agree to check in with each other after another month or so to talk about how it's been going. This pair support is optional, but I encourage everyone to seriously consider trying it. Sometimes small groups or two, three or four people may continue to meet up face-to-face.
Over the years, I've experimented too with providing an occasional "course graduates" half day review. More successfully still, I've run a number of "Autogenic support groups" that are advertised in the following way: The Autogenic Training support group is a five session monthly follow-up for those who have, at some stage in the past, already completed an initial Autogenic Training course. James writes: "I feel the standard eight session Autogenic Training course is a great way of learning calming skills, developing mindfulness, and reviewing more general aspects of stress management. A weakness of the standard course is the lack of follow-up. It's often hard to keep up regular practice on one's own. Even when one does keep going pretty well, the quality of the practice can become less satisfying and less helpful. The monthly Autogenic Training support group aims to counteract this tendency." Most recently I am beginning to explore designing and teaching a longer "Lifeskills & Stress Management for Health & Wellbeing" course that both incorporates Autogenics into a wider training and also aims to more formally build a supportive self-help community into the follow-up.
Rich ... supportive ... by now the group feels like a band of caring, known, good, fellow travellers. We've been on quite a journey together. Although it isn't presented as an obvious key component of the Autogenic course, the participants have learned a lot from each other as well as learning from what I have offered.
I talk a bit about community and relationships at this last session. I've written a lot about these issues on this website. See, for example, the eighth session Powerpoint slides (below), the handouts on aspects of relationships (below) and website pages on "Relationships general" and "Relationships, families, couples & psychosexual".
I give participants a final couple of Autogenic practice recordings (see below). They are both variants on the full standard Autogenic sequence taught at the seventh session. However one is a - typically morning - "Energising" practice, and the other a long - typically in bed at night - "Quieting" practice. I also introduce them to the possibility of linking compassion practice to the standard Autogenic Training sequence (something I go into more fully on the follow-up "Autogenic support group"). There are a further 12 practice recordings as well as explanatory information on the "Compassion & criticism" webpage. Plenty to be going on with. I encourage people to vary which recordings they use - and to continue to practise often (or maybe always) without recordings. I very much hope all this information and sharing has been useful to you. The "Four aspects of helpful inner focus" are a treasure trove for relieving suffering and enhancing wellbeing and joy in living. If you find these approaches feel right for you, do explore them. They can become lifelong friends - in the good times and the bad.
Autogenics 8a: Forehead, Energising, 12 minutes - 4.0 Mb MP3 file.
Autogenics 8b: Forehead, Quieting, 28 minutes - 8.1 Mb MP3 file.
Autogenic slides 1-6 - Powerpoint slides for this eighth session of the course.
Autogenic slides 7-13 - further slides.
Target symptoms final severity sheet - this simple 0-10 assessment questionnaire checks back to the symptoms/difficulties that a course participant initially hoped learning Autogenic Training would help with - and asks what change in symptom/difficulty troublesomeness has occurred over the course.
Reflection sheet, end of course - a key worksheet we work with at this final course session.
Relationships are important for our health - I wrote this information leaflet a longish time ago, but it still makes very relevant points. Clicking on the relationships tag or other similar tags in this website's tag cloud will bring up a wealth of more recent relevant material. See for example the blog post "Social integration and a midsummer potluck lunch".
Communication scales - a handout from Carkhuff & Berenson's adaption of the classic Rogerian person-centred triad highlighting key interpersonal qualities in close relationships
Personal community map questions - I ask people to answer these questions as they fill in, and after they've filled in, their personal community map (see below). Their answers help to clarify what they probably need to do to continue building personal relationships that promote health, stress resilience, and wellbeing.
Personal community map instructions - these instructions go with the 'personal community map' (below), explaining how to fill the chart in, and giving background information.
Personal community map - this chart is a helpful way of encouraging people to begin describing their relationships.
IIP-48 questionnaire & score sheet - I use these questionnaires about characteristic interpersonal style a lot. I look out for high score spikes on the score sheet and/or answers in the "3's" and "4's" on the questionnaire. It's then worth exploring whether these responses are linked with relationship difficulties in the subject's life. To paraphrase Alice Miller and others "The walls we build to protect ourselves, become the prisons in which we live." This assessment tool highlights and helps track changes in our interpersonal "prison walls."