Adapting Psychological Therapies for Autism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (SciVal)
986 Downloads (Pure)


Psychological interventions informed by cognitive behavioural theory have proven efficacy in treating mild-moderate anxiety and depression. They have been successfully adapted for autistic children and adults who experience disproportionately high rates of co-occurring emotional problems. There has been little research into the perspectives and experience of psychological therapists adapting cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as part of routine clinical practice. We surveyed therapist skills, experience and confidence in working psychologically with autistic people, in order to highlight gaps and needs, as well as strengths in terms of therapist skills when working with this group.

Fifty therapists attending a training event completed a survey about their experience of adapting CBT for autistic clients, alongside a measure of therapist confidence.

Almost all therapists reported making adaptations to CBT practice when working with autistic clients. Key challenges identified were rigidity in thinking and pacing sessions appropriately. Therapists were relatively confident about core engagement and assessment skills but reported less confidence in using their knowledge to help this group. Therapist confidence was not associated with years of practice or number of adaptations made, but was positively associated with level of therapy training received.

This study highlights a need for training and ongoing supervision to increase therapist confidence in and ability to make appropriate adaptations to CBT treatment protocols for autistic people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-50
Number of pages8
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Autism
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Psychological therapy
  • Therapist training
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Adapting Psychological Therapies for Autism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this