Problems with Relaxation
Relaxation, and Guidelines
MARK S. SCHWARTZ
NANCY M. SCHWARTZ
VINCENT J. MONASTRA
Relaxation therapies and biofeedback-assisted relaxation procedures commonly lead to positive therapeutic results. Most people use these therapies without problems. Nevertheless, a few people do experience strong negative reactions and other problems. These difficulties can alarm both patients and therapists unnecessarily, and can result in stopping potentially useful therapy. Even if a patient experiencing such difficulties remains in therapy, they can reduce compliance with recommended relaxation and thus can reduce the patient's chances for improvement (Borkovec et al., 1987).
Fortunately, significant negative reactions are uncommon and can usually be avoided. Practitioners who are aware of these and other potential difficulties and their possible causes can often prevent or lessen these effects. Bernstein and Borkovec (1973), Bernstein and Carlson (1993), and McGuigan (1993) identified several possible problems and negative side effects of progressive muscle relaxation. Schultz and Luthe (1969) and Linden (1993) discussed potential problems and negative side effects associated with autogenic therapy. Poppen (1998) discussed potential problems associated with Behavioral Relaxation Training. The reader is referred to these excellent discussions and their suggested solutions.
A partial list of the potential negative reactions reported includes the following:
1. Musculoskeletal activity. Examples of such activities are tics, cramps, myoclonic jerks, spasms, and restlessness.