How Does Psychotherapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders Benefit Individuals?
written by: Debbie Roome
• edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom
• updated: 12/22/2010
A look at how psychotherapy for autism spectrum disorders can be used to help people with autism cope with daily life and social interaction. No matter where they are on the spectrum, there is potential for improvement.
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What is Psychotherapy in Relation to Autism
Psychotherapy is a broad term that applies to a number of therapies. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, play therapy and music therapy. Psychotherapy is based on communication between a trained therapist and a person who has behavioral and emotional problems. It is often intensive and ongoing.
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How is Psychotherapy Used to Help People with Autism
Psychotherapy for autism spectrum disorders is a common treatment that can help a child or adult to progress in several areas. The following therapies have shown success when used with autistic people:
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to treat anxiety and fear. A qualified therapist works with the person with autism and teaches them to relax. If the fear concerns a certain object like mannequins or dogs, the therapist will encourage them to think about this thing as being some distance away. Over time the person will become desensitized and exposure to the feared object can increase. This type of psychotherapy works on changing incorrect behavior patterns and helping the person to improve their behavior and emotional control.
Music therapy is arranged by a qualified therapist and has proved to be effective in helping autistic people. Musical games like tossing a ball back and forward to music can help develop social interaction. In other cases, autistic children with speech problems have learned to sing and pronounce words through working with music. The rhythm and flow of music can also help reduce the tendency to speak in a monotone.
Play therapy is designed to help autistic children address and resolve their problems. All children learn by play and specially designed play sessions can help to change thought processes as well as modify behavior. Other benefits include the development of better social skills and the ability to solve problems. Play therapy may include the viewing of videos where a child performs certain actions with a toy. The autistic child is then presented with the same toy and encouraged to play with it in the same way.
Group therapy is guided and arranged by a qualified expert. The people in the group may all have communication problems or there may be a mix of people with autism and those without. Role play is part of group therapy and the person is taught social basics such as introducing themselves, asking a few simple facts about the other person and using appropriate body language. This has been proven to increase social interaction and the ability to make friends.
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The Long Term Effects of Psychotherapy in People with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Psychotherapy for autism spectrum disorders is used widely and comes in many forms. An increased ability to communicate, socialize and control emotions are the result of effective psychotherapy and progress is possible, no matter how severe the autism disorder.