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Psychotherapy for People with Autism

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Dr. Mari Bennett discusses associated conditions relating to children with autism and the potential benefits of utilizing psychotherapy as a treatment option. Psychotherapy also supports the parents, who suffer profoundly when they face challenges reaching their child.  

Often individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with depression, anxiety, relationships, and engaging in activities not part of their restricted interests.  Ongoing difficulty interpreting and responding to social cues, relatively low social motivation, and isolation frequently interfere with relationships throughout the lifespan.

Research shows that individuals diagnosed with ASD are also at increased risk for depression beginning in adolescence when they develop increased awareness of their difficulty establishing peer relationships, a pivotal developmental task during the adolescent phase.
Anxiety is often associated with ASD and can be problematic in many settings.

Strong preference for highly restricted interests and activities further interfere with socialization and daily functioning. In these cases, counseling and psychotherapy can provide ASD individuals and their families with much-needed intervention to reduce negative mood and facilitate increased comfort and effectiveness in socializing and engaging in daily activities.

If you think counseling may be helpful to you or a family member, you can find a qualified clinician through speaking with your pediatrician and locating specialists through reputable professional associations such as the American Psychological Association, Florida Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association.

Some things you should look for in a clinician include specific training and experience in providing therapy for ASD individuals and their families and a treatment model utilizing evidence-based interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the provider’s background and qualifications – a competent clinician should be able to answer any questions and address any specific concerns you may have. 

Sometimes counseling and psychotherapy can present unique challenges for the ASD individual including requiring increased time and clinician skill to establish rapport and a solid therapeutic alliance, and an increased need to engage family members and other supports within the therapeutic process even for adults. 

A skilled provider understands these unique challenges and can work effectively with the ASD individual and family to address presenting symptoms and improve daily functioning and quality of life.

You should use independent judgment and request references when considering any resource associated with diagnosis or treatment of autism or its associated medical conditions. The information in this Autism Advisor tool kit is solely for educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice.