Discover what psychotherapy is and the variety of psychotherapy services offered at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

What is psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a type of personal counseling used to treat mental health problems, psychological disorders or difficulties coping with life's stressors. The service is provided by a psychologist, clinical social worker or other mental health professional.

What types of psychotherapy are offered at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD)?

  • Individual Therapy: Individual therapy services at CARD typically focus on helping school-age children and adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to manage anger, anxiety, depression, or to cope with issues related to growing up with an ASD.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): A research-based approach that focuses on teaching specific coping skills and on understanding the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This approach is often used during individual therapy sessions. CBT strategies can be modified to enhance the understanding of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors in children and adolescents with an ASD. In addition, caregivers are often active participants in this type of therapy, and are provided with information about incorporating therapeutic strategies outside the clinical setting.
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy at CARD often focuses on helping caregivers to understand and cope with their child’s diagnosis and challenges. These services typically incorporate psycho-education and help parents to recognize and manage the impact of a child’s diagnosis on parent and family functioning.
  • Group Therapy: CARD offers group therapy for school-age children and adolescents. Groups focus on improving social skills and managing anxiety or emotional distress. These services incorporate a variety of strategies, including direct instruction, experiential learning, CBT techniques and parent training.

Why is psychotherapy beneficial?

Psychotherapy can teach children with ASD:

  • How to recognize the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behavior
  • Ways to cope with emotional distress
  • How to understand strengths and difficulties related to their ASD
  • Strategies to improve social awareness and social skills

Psychotherapy can also help family members:

  • Develop a better understanding of ASD
  • Learn to cope with having a family member who has an ASD

What areas are addressed in psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy treatment goals are created and implemented based on individual child or family needs.

Therapy may involve:

  • Emotion identification
  • Relaxation training
  • Identifying maladaptive thought patterns that might provoke and cultivate upset feelings, while generating alternative, adaptive thoughts to assist with coping
  • Learning to face fears and decrease phobias
  • Education about ASD
  • Learning to cope with having an ASD or having a family member with an ASD
  • Social skills instruction