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Wolfgang Luthe, developer of cathartic autogenics

Dr Wolfgang Luthe (1922-1985) was born in Lubeck, Germany and attended Kiel and Hamburg Universities to qualify in medicine in 1947.  He specialised in respiratory diseases, with a focus on asthma.  As a junior doctor he met Dr Johannes Schultz, and later told London Autogenic Training students in 1982:

‘I was a sceptic – how could closing eyes and relaxing do anything significant for the asthma patients in my care? But Schultz visited the ward, invited by the chest physician consultant who was my boss, and I too joined in with the ‘heavy arms’. The results were astonishing. After only a few weeks, many patients reduced their medication. I saw firsthand how Autogenic Training reduced anxiety so effectively that damaged respiration could recover. I was a convert!’

Luthe emigrated to Montreal, Canada in the late 1940s with his young family.  It is generally understood that he sought to live in a neutral country unlikely to engage in war.  By 1951 he had been appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Montreal. Luthe described himself as ‘active in experimental physiology, psychology, internal medicine, psychiatry, and psychophysiology’.  In 1959 he became a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada in Psychosomatyic Medicine and ten years later he took on a post as Scientific Directyor of the Oskar Vogt Instutue, Faculty of Medicine, Kyushu University, Japan.  By 1977 he was also Visiting Professor of Psychophysiologic Therapy at Hans Selye’s International Institute of Stress in Montreal.

Among his many contributions to Autogenic Training is the development of the Intentional Off-loading Exercises.  Luthe’s premise was simple: our social conditioning interferes with what we do naturally when in distress, we use our body and mind awareness to acknowledge and accept, and then to manage emotional release safely and constructively.  These Intentional Exercises teach people to connect safely to emotions and they are an integral part of the British way of teaching AT.

Luthe also developed Autogenic Neutralisation and Creativity Mobilisation Technique.  He pioneered AT in Japan where AT is now taught within a Transactional Analysis frame in hospitals and privately, and without the Intentional Off-loading Exercises.  And he established the International Committee for the Co-ordination of Clinical Application of Autogenic Therapy (ICAT) and the International Committee for the Co-ordination of Teaching the Creative Mobilization Technique (IC:CMT).  With Luthe’s blessing the British Association for Autogenic Training and Therapy, which is now the British Autogenic Society, was founded in 1984.

After Luthe’s untimely death in 1985, Johann Stoyva, PhD, a leading expert in biofeedback, wrote:

‘Although Luthe had received a long exposure to psychoanalytic therapy, he was much more favourably impressed by the psychophysiological treatment approach embodied in the Autogenic Training of J H Schultz… he began a programme of active research and writing that was to grow into a lifetime of commitment.’ Stoyva, J. 1986. Wolfgang Luthe: In Memoriam, Biofeedback and Self-regulation, June, 11(2), pp 91-93.