Essay: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Treat Autism

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is used to teach autistic children or adults with asperger’s syndrome how to manage their emotions. CBT teaches coping skills and deals with mental well being issues such as depression, repetitive thoughts and anxiety. Many people who suffer from autistic spectrum disorder fear working with a psychotherapist. It is difficult for them to even think about analyzing past history, or talking about childhood experiences or dwelling on seemingly pointless emotions.

For instance, a patient who is depressed might say, “I’m worthless,” and a person with a phobia may have the belief, “I am in danger.” While the patient probably believes this statement wholeheartedly with a therapist’s help, the person is taught to view such beliefs as wrong thinking rather than fact, and to test out such beliefs by running experiments. Furthermore, those in distress are encouraged to monitor and log thoughts that pop into their heads as a means of enabling them to see the patterns in their thinking. Seeing these patterns help them to develop more adaptive alternatives to their thoughts. People who seek CBT should expect an active, problem solving and energetic therapist.

Many simply decide to live with their emotional pain rather than talk it out with a doctor or therapist. CBT is based on the idea that cognitions or thoughts, emotions and behavior are all interwoven. Becoming aware of them, by analyzing them and examining them, it is possible to determine how these thoughts trigger or initiate depression, or anxieties or various behaviors. Most autistic people as well as those who suffer from asperger’s are exceptional at logical thinking. Locating the illogical in their thought process would seem to be a snap. In CBT emotions are discussed at length, explained in depth and talked about in a very concrete way that makes sense to the patient.

The point of the exercise is to better understand emotions, how they feel and how they function, to enable people to manage them better on a daily basis. CBT used a goal oriented systematic procedure in order to address and solve the problems concerning the dysfunctional emotions and behaviors. CBT is known to be affective against a number of problems including anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, psychotic episodes, violent mood swings and personality disorder. CBT can be used in individual therapy sessions or group sessions. Some portion of the therapy can be adapted for self help sessions as well.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for autism was developed due to a merging of behavior and cognitive therapy. CBT uses common ground between the two types of therapy by focusing on the present or here and now, in order to lessen symptoms. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends CBT as treatment for a host of mental health problems including PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder, OCD, bulimia and depression. It is also used to treat some neurological conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Studies examining the effectiveness of CBT have shown that it can be used to solve a variety of behavioral problems including anxiety and mood disorders, personality, eating and substance abuse disorders. CBT is also effective in working with patients who have severe psychotic disorders in addition to the many forms of autism. Experts say that CBT is as effective as any antidepressant medication on the market today. Therapists are being encouraged to use an approach that utilizes both CBT in combination with some medications.