Applied OST relaxation: characteristics, phases and components

Applied relaxation of OST it is considered, according to treatment efficacy guidelines, to be a likely effective treatment for treating panic disorder. In addition, this treatment is also used for other anxiety disorders, such as dental phobia.

It is one of the most used techniques in the treatment of stress. In this article, we will know its characteristics, phases and components.

    Context: previous relaxation techniques

    Applied OST relaxation is a variation of Berstein and Borkovec’s adaptation of Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) training.

    1. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

    Jacobson’s RMP is a very complete relaxation technique that allows the patient to distinguish feelings of tension and distension, In addition to decreasing their afferences.

      2. Berstein and Borkovec relaxation technique

      For its part, the adaptation of Berstein and Borkovec consists of a variant of the RMP of Jacobson; it is differential relaxation, in which the muscles associated with an activity remain active and the rest are relaxed.

      The adaptation of Berstein and Borkovec consists of train the patient according to three types of variables: Position (sitting / standing), activity (active / inactive) and place (calm / not calm).

      Applied OST relaxation: characteristics

      In applied OST relaxation, all muscles will be tense and relaxed at the same time. Then the process will be repeated at least once, tensing each muscle group for five to seven seconds, then releasing it for twenty to thirty seconds. The patient will focus on feelings of tension and relaxation, respectively.

      Throughout the process of applied OST relaxation the patient is taught to identify signs of anxiety and to implement relaxation techniques.

      To engage in this technique, the environmental conditions must be favorable, namely: a calm environment, remaining comfortably seated with eyes closed, without excessive external noise and without interference from stimuli that disturb good concentration.


      The components or techniques of treatment are two in number: relaxation and practice; hence its name: “relaxation” (RMP) + “applied” (live practice):

      1. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

      This technique was originally designed by Jacobson, Already commented.

      2. Live practice

      Applied OST relaxation includes live practice of hierarchically presented anxiety situations to the patient.


      Applied OST relaxation consists of four phases that gradually decrease with the time spent in the relaxation process. They are as follows.

      1. First phase: progressive relaxation

      The first phase of relaxation includes learn to relax muscle groups separately. It starts with a previous tension, as the tension facilitates subsequent relaxation. The different muscle areas are tense and relaxed, while it is necessary to identify the sensations associated with the two exercises.

      The duration of each tension will be about 3-4 seconds, and a pressure of 70% should be exerted to avoid the risk of muscle contractures.

      The relaxation periods should be increased to 20-30 seconds. At the end of the tension and relaxation process (which begins with the hands and continues from head to toe), three diaphragmatic breaths are performed to relax your whole body a little more.

      2. Second phase: relaxation without tension

      In this second phase, you will learn to relax by letting go of tension, trying to feel relaxation without the need for tension.

      3. Third phase: differentiated relaxation

      After about 15 days (at least) of practicing muscle relaxation, the goal will be to be able to obtain only relaxation focus on diaphragmatic breathing and the general feeling of relaxation.

      The main goal here will be to achieve complete relaxation with your eyes closed. All three breaths will be performed and the body will be completely relaxed. Once we achieve this, we will open our eyes and try to maintain a state of relaxation.

      The goal will ultimately be to be able to selectively release muscle groups that are not involved in the movements that we perform.

      4. Fourth phase: relaxation by signals

      In this fourth and last phase of applied OST relaxation, the patient must be able to relax quickly and in all circumstances, Without needing a great concentration.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Newman, M. and Anderson, N. (2007). A review of basic and applied research on generalized anxiety disorder. Argentine Journal of Psychological Clinic, 16, pp. 7 – 20.
      • Pérez M .; Fernandez, JR; Fernández, C. I Amic, I. (2010). Guide to Effective Psychological Treatments I: Adults. Madrid: Pyramid.
      • Clark, DA and Beck, AT (2012). Cognitive therapy for anxiety disorders. Madrid: Desclée de Brouwer.

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