CBT and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Image from Psych Central. 

Did you know that therapy can help with autism spectrum disorders? 

It's true! 

I read a research article in 2011 about children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who suffered from anxiety. Researchers broke the participants into two groups: one group tried out CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and one group tried a social recreational program. At the end of 16 weeks, they tested anxiety levels in both groups of children. 

Results were significant, and very promising: children in both groups showed lessened anxiety levels at 6 month follow-up. Factors such as regular sessions in a structured setting, social exposure, the use of autism-friendly stategies and consistent therapists were mentioned as components of effective management of anxiety in children and adolescents with ASD. 

More and more researchers are testing and implementing therapies that can help manage anxiety for children with ASD. Check out this quote from an article by the Autism Speaks foundation:

"Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely accepted psychological approach for breaking severe cycles of anxiety...for children with at least some verbal abilities," said Jeffrey Wood, a psychologist at UCLA. "The first step in this process teaches children to identify the root of their fears."

Wood goes on to give an example: a child with ASD and separation anxiety may be too afraid to attend school, thinking he'll never see his mother again. The therapist identifies the fear and then gathers evidence. The therapist guides the child through baby steps, say, to spend a few minutes in a room without his mother. When the child's mother reappears, help the child affirm that they were still safe even while his mother was gone, and then help the child spend increasing periods of time apart from his mother. 

"This can provide the evidence he needs to put his anxieties aside and feel safe," Wood said. 

We've written about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) here before. It's a great system of treatment that can help with multiple disorders, and we're proud to practice it at Hope Mental Health. 

Author
Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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