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How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Can Help Adults With Autism

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Can Help Adults With Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder with symptoms that appear in the first two years of life. ASD can affect how people communicate, learn, behave and socialize with others. ASD is spectrum based, and because of that, some people might need little to no support while others might require intense therapy. While ASD has no cure, some approaches can improve learning, how they interact within society, and quality of life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psychology- based therapy that has shown to be effective in helping adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). CBT techniques take on approaches that focus on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

As the name suggests, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy stems from "behaviorism" which is a psychological approach that works with the assumption that you can learn any behavior. It is based on the belief that most negative or undesired behaviors can also be unlearned. The focus of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to change certain behaviors that are repetitive and that encourage negativity. It also challenges those thoughts that prevent a person from reaching more positive results.

embrace differences

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy's primary focus has been on dealing with anxiety. But other symptoms that have also been addressed include depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

CBT can help individuals learn how to read social interactions more precisely. This is due to learning a better understanding of certain behaviors or reactions of other people. CBT can also help a person with autism adjust their behaviours and regulate their emotions more easily.

The delivery of CBT

An advantage of CBT is that its delivery can vary. This means there can be sessions with only the therapist and the individual. Alternatively, if preferred, a combined session with family, a group, or both can be beneficial. Family sessions are usually opted for when the individual with autism is a child or adolescent. This CBT also provides an opportunity for parents to better understand what part they play in encouraging the use of CBT in real-life situations with their child.

Group CBT lets individuals meet others and learn that there are other people like them with similar thoughts, feelings or experiences. Choosing group CBT allows for open conversations and provides social support and the opportunity to develop new friendships.

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Self-acceptance and CBT

While there are things that just cannot be changed, CBT helps individuals with autism come to terms with this fact and allows them to move towards self-acceptance. It can help people with autism process factors that contribute to stress, depression, and anxiety by adjusting and recognizing unhelpful patterns.

CBT can help people with ASD become aware and accept their thought patterns and can ultimately guide them to recognise their goals and see their potential.

Building resilience through CBT

Lack of resilience can make someone feel victimized, turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms or become overwhelmed. Resilience gives individuals the ability to uncover and unleash their inner strengths. This helps them maneuver and adjust to difficult or stressful situations.

On the other hand, negative thinking can stunt and interfere with resilience. Negative thinking can lead to patterns of negative thoughts and self-doubt. Individuals with ASD need to break away from these negative thinking patterns to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Resilience is the key to helping people thrive, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps achieve this. It has been used since the 1960s and continues to provide evidence of improvement in most autistic adults. It helps reach the diverse needs of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

To sum up

Currently, there is no cure for autism. However, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help adults with autism. It is a psychological approach that focuses on ones behavioural and thinking patterns. By regularly practising CBT techniques, individuals with autism can learn to manage their behaviors and reactions to others. The delivery of CBT can be done solely with a therapist or in a group session. It can help adults learn to accept their diagnosis and help them realize their amazing potential.


This guest post article was written by Crist Roy. Crist suggests to talk to your local therapist about CBT techniques and options. For more information about CBT, head to Australia's Better Health Channel, or for those in the United Kingdom, click here to find a UK therapist.