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CBT: An Autism-Friendly Therapy

Posted Dec 25 2009 5:32am

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be of value in addressing many of the coexisting problems experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The term cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is not a distinct therapeutic technique, but rather a general term for a classification of therapies with similarities (e.g., rational emotive behavior therapy, rational behavior therapy, rational living therapy, and cognitive therapy). There is a strong evidence base for the use of CBT interventions for depression and anxiety in both ASD and non-ASD populations. CBT provides a more structured approach than other types of psychotherapy, relies less on insight and judgment than other models, and focuses on practical problem-solving. Thus, it has applicability to children with ASD who typically have deficits and distortions in thinking about thoughts and feelings and therefore, may be considered an “autism-friendly” approach. There is also some research evidence to support the effectiveness of interventions that incorporate cognitive-behavioral strategies in targeting social skills for more capable children with ASD such as Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism. As with all complex interventions, professionals who implement CBT-related strategies should be appropriately trained and experienced. Some cognitive-behavioral approaches may also be too complex for many younger children with ASD and may be more appropriate for intermediate and secondary age students (9 to 12 years). *

The following are useful resources:
Attwood, T. (2004).  Exploring feelings: Cognitive behaviour therapy to manage anxiety. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Attwood, T. (2004).  Exploring feelings: Cognitive behaviour therapy to manage anger. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.
Beck, J. S. (1995).  Cognitive therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: Guilford.
Gaus, V. L. (2007).  Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult Asperger syndrome. New York: Guilford.
* References provided upon request.
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