Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that our emotional well being is determined by the interaction of thoughts, feelings, and actions. The goal of CBT is to disrupt negative or unproductive emotional, behavioral, and cognitive cycles that are responsible for depression, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors that are often experienced by children, adolescents, teenagers, and adults on the autism spectrum. CBT assists a person in challenging their irrational and self sabotaging beliefs, and develop a strong sense of meta cognition, allowing them to interrupt negative patterns through self instruction, affirmations, and other strategies to reconceptualize upsetting situations.

Sensory Integration. CBT can be a particularly powerful tool for kids and young adults on the Autism Spectrum in particular with sensory integration issues. The process of CBT, which emphasizes meta cognition, can be a powerful way of overcoming the patterns of disengagement that kids on the Autism Spectrum develop in response to sensory overload. A counselor may use gentle exposure therapy to desensitize the child to upsetting stimuli. 

Social Anxiety. People who have experienced traumatic or extended exposure to social rejection will often stop seeking out interaction all together. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be used to provide a child with the tools to reconceptualize their self sabotaging and irrational thought patterns ("nobody likes me", "I am useless") and develop strategies for observing, understanding, and successfully joining social interaction.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy borrows heavily from Albert Eliis' Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy which uses a helpful "A B C" heuristic.

A: An activating event occurs setting off a chain of thought processes.

B: This brings up one of our irrational beliefs such as "I must not make mistakes".

C: The consequence is a negative emotion.

The key to both CBT and REBT is a conscious reframing of thought patterns and an increased ability to challenge our own irrational and self destructive thought patterns.  

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