Training Clients in Relaxation

Relaxation is reduction of intensity, vigor, energy or tension, resulting in calmness of mind, body, or both.

  • The body and mind are free from tension and anxiety
  • the state of being free from tension and anxiety.
  • Recreation or rest, especially after a period of work.

Training is a systematic instruction and practice by which an individual acquires competence in a specific discipline, talent, or vocational or recreational skill or activity. Client is a person receiving treatment or services, especially in the context of counseling or social work.

Relaxation training often is used in behavior therapy as a means to reduce anxiety, tension, and stress.

Relaxation in psychology is the emotional state of 

    • A living being, 
    • Of low tension,
  •  In which there is an absence of arousal that could come from sources such as 
    • Anger
    • Anxiety, or 
    • Fear
  • It is a form of mild ecstasy coming from the frontal lobe of the brain in which the backward cortex sends signals to the frontal cortex via a mild sedative.
  • Research has shown it to be effective in a variety of disorders and conditions, 
    • Primarily those related to anxiety, fear, and stress e.g., specific phobias, 
    • But including those in the realm of behavioral medicine and dentistry, such as acute and chronic pain (e.g., tension headaches),
    • Hypertension, and
    • Coping with nausea related to chemotherapy.


Benefits of relaxation.

    • Slowing heart rate
    • Lowering blood pressure
    • Slowing your breathing rate
    • Improving digestion
    • Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
    • Reducing activity of stress hormones
    • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
    • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
    • Improving concentration and mood
    • Improving sleep quality
    • Lowering fatigue
    • Reducing anger and frustration
    • Boosting confidence to handle problems

Relaxation Popularized by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in his published book- Progressive Relaxation, you must relax.

Johannes Schultz & Wolfgang Luthe (1932) developed a method of relaxation  Autogenic Training. – emphasized using the power of suggestion, 

Herbert Benson & Mirium Z. Klipper published a book The Relaxation Response (1975), which correspondingly gives instructions on tying meditation techniques into daily activities the average person could do.

Relaxation Methods.

1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation(PMR):

      • Dr. Edmund Jacobson‘s method of Relaxation.
      • It involves sequentially tensing and relaxing the large skeletal muscle groups. 
      • This also helps you release physical tension, which may ease stress and anxiety.
      • Muscle relaxation is achieved by noting the contrast between the state of tension and relaxation as well as by increasing discernment of muscle groups that are prone to carrying tension.
      • Research has also shown that PMR offers a range of benefits, including pain relief and better sleep.
      • The relaxation response causes the body to transition from an alert, active state into a more restful one. It causes physiological changes, such as:
          • slower breathing
          • slower heart rate
          • lower blood pressure
          • lower cortisol levels
      • To try PMR:
        1. Firstly, find a peaceful and quiet place to do the exercise. Sit in a chair or lie down on the floor or a bed. If it feels comfortable, close the eyes.
        2. Secondly, keeping the mouth closed, inhale deeply and slowly through the nose. Exhale slowly through the mouth and imagine tension leaving the body.
        3. Later, repeat these deep breaths three or four more times. If it causes dizziness, breathe normally instead.
        4. On the fifth inhale, squeeze the muscles in the toes and feet and count to four. Then exhale slowly through the mouth, gradually releasing tension from the feet.
        5. Repeat step four, this time for the calf muscles. Tense the calf muscles while breathing in, then release when breathing out.
      • Continue to repeat a pattern of tensing muscles while inhaling and then relaxing them while exhaling for muscles all the way up the body. This includes the:
        • knees
        • thighs
        • buttocks
        • abdomen
        • hands, by making fists
        • arms
        • shoulders, by shrugging them toward the ears
        • jaw, by clenching the teeth and releasing
        • face, by scrunching the facial muscles and releasing.

2. Autogenic training.

    • It is a desensitization-relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz (first published in 1932).
    • Autogenic Training – a Psycho-physiologically determined relaxation response is obtained.
    • As a matter of fact, the technique consists of a series of six mental exercises used to elicit the bodily sensations of warmth and heaviness.
    • Correspondingly, has the effect of producing the physiological changes of the relaxation response.
    • However, studying the self-reports of people immersed in a hypnotic state, J.H. Schultz noted that physiological changes are also accompanied by certain feelings.
    • An example of Autogenic Training:
      • Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My abdomen is warm.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.” Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “My forehead is pleasantly cool.” Then quietly say to yourself, “I am completely calm.” Enjoy the feeling of relaxation, warmth, and heaviness.
    • There are six established lessons (techniques) included in autogenic training whereas, each lesson focuses on a different sensation in the body:
        1. Inducing heaviness. Verbal cues suggest heaviness in the body.
        2. Inducing warmth. Verbal cues induce feelings of warmth.
        3. The heart practice. Verbal cues call attention to the heartbeat.
        4. Breathing practice. Verbal cues focus on breath.
        5. Abdominal practice. Verbal cues focus on abdominal sensations.
        6. Head practice. Verbal cues focus on the coolness of the forehead.

3. Visualization.

In this relaxation technique, you may form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation.

To relax using visualization, try to include as many senses as you can, such as smell, sight, sound and touch. If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves and the warmth of the sun on your body.

You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot, loosen any tight clothing, and focus on your breathing. Aim to focus on the present and think positive thoughts.

6 relaxation techniques by Harvard Medical school

In relaxation state, the heart beat and the respiration rate start returning to normalcy, and muscle tension begins to loosen. Nonetheless, Six relaxation techniques that can help you evoke the relaxation response and reduce stress.

  • Breath focus.
  • Body scan.
  • Guided imagery.- the client is asked to imagine herself/himself in a place or situation that is associated with pleasant memories. The pleasant imagery helps the client to move into a state of relaxation. When the client is in a state of relaxation, the physiological changes that happen are opposite to the physiological responses induced by anxiety.
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga, tai chi, and qigong – Shavasana is yoga posture that can be practiced for relaxation. In this yoga posture, the client is asked to maintain the posture of a corpse and instruct the body to relax gradually from toe to head. Vipassana is a meditation technique which can be used for relaxation. Pranayama , the breathing technique which many of us are familiar with, is another relaxation technique.
  • Repetitive prayer

Relaxation activity has to be done in a calm environment and in a comfortable posture in a chair or mat.

click here for MCQ test, to check your understanding on the topic


Gladding, S. T. (2018). Counselling: A Comprehensive profession (9th Edn). Pearson.

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