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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In CBT, the therapist and client work collaboratively and sessions are problem-focused and goal-directed in addressing the challenges the individual is facing. Research has shown that individuals with ASD can benefit from CBT in the development of coping skills and decreasing maladaptive behaviors including anxiety, depression, rigidity, and emotion dysregulation. The therapeutic environment is also a place where an individual with ASD can explore, better understand, and cope with their diagnosis.

When using a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach with an individual with ASD, it is important the clinician make certain modifications to treatment to address the unique and specific presentation of ASD in order for therapy to be more successful.

Such modifications include:

  • Treatment materials including the implementation of social stores and visual aides when introducing a new concept or topic
  • Emphasizing the behavioral aspects of treatment including deep breathing, relaxation, and social experiments
  • Targeting core deficits of ASD  including social coaching, independent living skills, and peer monitoring
  • Inclusion of an individuals' restricted and preferred interests into treatment to increase interest and motivation
  • Implementation of rewards to increase motivation
  • Family involvement to ensure generalization of skills across settings

Mindfulness-Based Therapy (MBT) is closely related to CBT however the focus is on  accepting thoughts and feelings as they appear as a way to reduce anxiety and depression. MBT utilizes simple exercises where the individual concentrates on the bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings that  are occurring in the present moment and accept them as they appear. Research studies with ASD children and adults has  found this technique to be successful in helping  them have improved social interaction, concentration, awareness, impulse control and happiness.