The History & Meaning of Sophrology

by | Blog

The history of Sophrology is fascinating: Sophrology is the brainchild of an extraordinary individual, Professor Alfonso Caycedo.

Professor Caycedo, a neuropsychiatrist, saw the need for a gentler and more holistic approach to mental health, and it was through his lifelong dedication that a new therapeutic method emerged. Its primary aim was to create a more harmonious state of consciousness to help patients enjoy a better quality of life.

Since its development, the Sophrology method has been applied in various medical fields, including pain management, sleep, birth preparation and cancer treatments, as well as sports, education and self-development.


Sophrology was created by Professor Alfonso Caycedo in Spain in 1960 and in the same year, he founded the first Sophrology clinic in Madrid.

Born in Colombia in 1932, Caycedo worked under the guidance of psychiatrist Professor López Ibor at the Provincial Hospital of Madrid, where he was often tasked with administering electroshock treatments and insulinic comas to mental health patients, a practice he found disturbing and emotionally scarring.


This experience made him realise that there must be a better and gentler way to deal with depression and mental illness. He concluded that more research was needed into human consciousness and he embarked on a lifelong journey into consciousness, self-awareness and learning about different therapeutic and transformational approaches from around the world.


Sophrology derives from Plato’s ‘sophrosyne’, a concept that includes a state of harmony in mind, body and soul, bringing a sense of tranquillity. Sophrology is a combined word from the Greek roots: harmony (Sos), consciousness (Phren) and study or science (Logos). Therefore, Sophrology means ‘the science of consciousness in harmony’.


In Sophrology we define consciousness as a power, an energy that animates us. This energy integrates and organises all the physical and psychic elements responsible for human existence. The state of our consciousness is directly linked to how we experience our life and how we perceive and interact with ourselves and the world around us. Through awareness, we can access this energy and support it in revealing its full potential to transform the way we live our life.


Professor López Ibor encouraged Caycedo to go to Switzerland to meet psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger to study how he applied existential phenomenology in his treatments. Binswanger later became Caycedo’s second mentor.


Caycedo continued his research around Europe to learn self-hypnosis and autogenic training as devised by German psychotherapist Johannes Heinrich Schultz and familiarising himself with the work of philosopher Edmund Husserl, the founder of the study of phenomenology.


Phenomenology is very complex, but what is important to know here is how it relates to the philosophy and practice of Sophrology. In its broadest sense phenomenology is the study of the structures of experience and consciousness – in other words, the ‘phenomena’ of how we experience things.


In Sophrology we use it to feel, note and observe what is happening during our practice (the phenomena emerging from our consciousness) and later what is happening outside the practice, in our daily life, without interpreting or transforming it.

We remain as non-judgemental as possible, without preconceived ideas of what these phenomena are or mean. In this way, phenomenology supports a way of discovering the essence of everything.

While the journey so far had equipped him with plenty of theoretical knowledge of mental illness and medical treatments, Caycedo was still searching for practical tools that he could use for his patients. Binswanger advised Caycedo to travel to Asia to study consciousness in healthy individuals, particularly yogis, to understand how they can reach higher states of consciousness through ancient techniques and practices.


Caycedo spent some years in Asia from 1965 onwards, immersed in Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Zen and this led him to develop Caycedian Sophrology. He looked at how Indian doctors and yogis used breathing and bodywork, met the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala and went to Japan to study meditation.


The method that Caycedo founded combines and adapts the essence of all these different philosophies and approaches, to expand consciousness and promote harmony of body and mind.


When Caycedo returned to Spain he settled in Barcelona and started working on developing the structure of the Sophrology method and applying it with clients. In the late 1960s, Caycedo was appointed Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Barcelona Faculty of Medicine.

In the 1980s he also travelled to Colombia to start a Sophrology charity for disadvantaged people and an international Sophrology school.


In the 1990s Sophrology schools were set up in various European countries and during this time Professor Caycedo regularly updated and completed his method, which now includes 12 gradual degrees (levels) of practice. Each level has its own theme, purpose and exercises to gently develop more awareness of ourselves and the world around us and access our inner resources. With regular practice Caycedian Sophrology allows us to progressively master these levels, to reach a true state of balance in daily life and being in tune with our deepest values and resilience.


It was thanks to Caycedo’s vision, continuous learning, scientific approach and commitment to his patients that we can enjoy Sophrology today.


Sophrology Today

From the 1970s onwards Sophrology started spreading outside of Spain to France, Belgium and Switzerland notably thanks to Dr Raymond Abrezol (1931-2010), who trained doctors and sports coaches, broadening its application to different fields.


As a stress management technique, Sophrology is gentle and effective. It is intuitive to learn and doesn’t require special skills, making it a useful tool for hectic lifestyles and notably in the corporate world to increase productivity, decrease anxiety and prevent burn out.


As a complementary approach to allopathic medicine, Sophrology is used in many European hospitals in maternity units and sleep clinics, and it is often recommended in IVF clinics and in palliative care. In France and Switzerland, Sophrology treatments are reimbursed by insurance companies.


Sophrology is also used in the education and sport environment, to help children and adults gain confidence, prepare for important events such as competition and exams, increase focus and support the development of each individual’s ability and potential.


Practising Sophrology is a transformational experience. The practice of Sophrology creates transformation by positively engaging body and mind, noticing sensations without judging them, using movement to release tension and to ground ourselves in the moment and positive visualisations and meditation techniques to develop positive and creative attitudes towards ourselves, our daily lives and relationships. It gives every individual a simple and effective step by step method to know themselves better and to cultivate a happy mind in a relaxed body.


If you would like to benefit from Sophrology with someone that has experienced its effectiveness first hand and personally trained with both Professor Caycedo and Doctor Abrezol, please contact us at [email protected] for a consultation.

And you are interested in starting your Sophrology journey, you can access a whole range of Sophrology practises online at which are suitable for anyone.

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