Written by Helen Cooke and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated February 8, 2017

Autogenic therapy

Does it work ?

Although the trials below indicate a reduction in state anxiety, pain, depressed mood symptoms, improved sleep parameters, improved immune function and generic quality of life in cancer patients who participated in autogenic therapy, these studies have not been reproduced and have considerable methodological limitations.

Due to the difficulty in creating appropriate and credible placebo conditions that are not obvious to research participants, double-blind studies can not be carried out for this intervention.

Controlled clinical trials

Three controlled and one uncontrolled clinical trial considered the effectiveness of autogenic therapy for cancer patients5,8,9.

A randomised trial examining the effects of a multi-modal psychological sleep management programme for people with a variety of different cancers (n=229), found that Progressive Muscular Relaxation (n=80) and autogenic therapy (n=71) were equally effective in enhancing various sleep parameters and reducing the need for sleep medication8. The control group (n=78), which received only the standard rehabilitation programme, reported no changes in the use of sleep medication. Patients in all groups improved on all scales of the quality-of-life EORTC-QLQ-30 questionnaire, with the exception of pain which started at a low level and did not alter significantly. Limitations of this study include lack of a non-treatment control group.

A small randomised study (n=14) investigated the effects of autogenic therapy on salivary immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in surgical patients with breast cancer11. The participants were instructed to conduct autogenic therapy by themselves three times a day for seven days following surgery. SIgA levels were significantly higher in the intervention group than the control (usual care) group which suggests autogenic therapy may improve immune function in breast surgery patients. Limitations include a small sample size. The authors note that surgery affects physiological function including sIgA. This may affect the reliability of the results.

A pilot randomised study (n=31) assessed the effects of autogenic therapy on the psychological status and immune system responses over a two month period in women with early stage breast cancer who had undergone a lumpectomy5. Women receiving autogenic therapy in addition to home visit showed a statistically significant improvement in the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) score (inter-group difference: anxiety p=0.0027, depression p=0.0001) compared to those receiving only a home visit. Limitations of this study include the small sample size and subjective evaluation of the participants’ meditative state. 

Uncontrolled clinical trials

An uncontrolled pilot study (n=30) assessing the benefits of a ten week course in autogenic therapy (n=30) concluded that participants experienced significantly reduced levels of anxiety and improved sleep patterns. The participants had a variety of different cancers, but were predominantly women with breast cancer9. This study was limited not only by the small sample size, but also the lack of a control group.


Helen Cooke, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Autogenic therapy [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Autogenic-therapy. February 8, 2017.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in February 2017 by Barbara Wider.
Updated and revised in May 2015 by Helen Cooke.
Assessed as up to date in August 2013 by Barbara Wider.
Revised in June 2012 by Helen Cooke, no new clinical trials identified.
Summary first published in August 2011, authored by Helen Cooke.


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