3 1 The History of Progressive Relaxation Training The story of progressive relaxation training (PRT) unfolded in two distinct phases. The first phase began with the pioneering work of the American physician and physiologist Edmund Jacobson who, in 1934, developed a physiologically oriented method of combating tension and anxiety. The second phase began two decades later, when South African psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe (1958) modified Jacobson’s procedures and applied them in a systematic program of treatment for anxiety disorders. EDMUND JACOBSON’S PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION Edmund Jacobson began his work in 1908 at Harvard University. His early investigations led him to conclude that tension involved the effort manifested in the shortening of muscle fibers, that this tension occurred when a person reported “anxiety,” and that such anxiety could be removed by eliminating the tension. Relaxation of muscle fibers—that is,
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