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Applied Relaxation Training

This long-standing, highly effective treatment teaches individuals to quickly relax in increasingly stressful situations. It was developed by Lars-Göran Öst in the 1970s initially for phobias and panic and later for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

While newer GAD treatments also show successful outcomes, AR is a deceptively simple, yet powerful, treatment. AR teaches the individual to reduce anxiety in anxiety-provoking situations, keeping the anxiety from interfering with the activity. It consists of two components: 


Clients first engage in self-monitoring to recognize early signs of anxiety and to learn to cope with the situation by practicing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) techniques. The premise is that by reducing muscle tension and achieving a relaxed state, they are also decreasing the intensity of the anxious response.

Relaxation methods are both led by therapists in session and practiced regularly (ideally twice a day) at home. Experiencing a state of relaxation provides strong motivation to continue. 

As the relaxation habit is formed, techniques are shortened to develop a coping skill that more closely approximates encounters with anxiety as part of daily life.


In addition to learning relaxation techniques, AR emphasizes the importance of making relaxation a portable skill to reduce anxiety whenever encountered in natural settings. 

To further promote the adaptation of relaxation practice to real life situations, therapists teach differential techniques to promote relaxation in situations that involve movement and other activities. 

This explicit attention to the application of coping skills in daily life can help individuals achieve rapid relaxation (in 20-30 seconds) in the moment to reduce physiological reactions and therefore halt the cycle of anxiety–and eventually curtail all anxiety reactions. 

Learn more about Mind-Body Therapies offered at CFI…



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