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What Are the Benefits of Psychotherapy for Autism?

Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The benefits of psychotherapy for autism depend on the types of psychotherapy offered to people on the autism spectrum as well as the age and specific needs of the individual who is offered the therapy. In some cases, psychotherapy can be a way for an individual to receive a diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum. Other times, psychotherapy can provide assistance in both encouraging positive social interactions in a child with autism and helping the child to express and process his feelings and experiences. Parents of children with autism may also benefit from counseling as they work to understand their child and process their own feelings. Adults on the autism spectrum, particularly those who are high functioning or who have Asperger's syndrome, may also benefit from psychotherapy for autism, as it may help them maintain their functionality and address common co-morbid disorders such as depression or anxiety.

One of the main benefits of psychotherapy for autism is that it provides an opportunity for a mental health professional to observe her client and possibly diagnose an autism spectrum disorder. While many pediatricians are urged by medical associations to perform autism screenings on children, there are many people who have never undergone a screening. As such, when individuals who do not show signs of significant cognitive delay display autism symptoms, these may be interpreted as defiance, depression, or odd behavior. By seeking psychotherapy, an individual not only receives support but a diagnosis that can help him or her receive appropriate treatment.

Some types of psychotherapy are more suitable for those with autism spectrum disorders than others. For example, some people with autism are nonverbal and cannot participate in so-called talk therapy. Children with autism may benefit from play therapy that can assist them in developing positive social skills. Another option is behavioral therapy, such as applied behavior analysis, which reinforces positive behaviors.

Psychotherapy for autism may also address the emotional aspects of caring for someone with autism or being autistic. People on the autism spectrum who are verbal may find it beneficial to have a therapist or counselor with whom they can share their feelings and experiences. The therapist may also be able to screen the autistic person for symptoms of other mental illnesses so as to provide good treatment that can help keep the patient functional. Parents of children and adults who have autism may also benefit from psychotherapy that can help them manage stress and guilt while also meeting other commitments to work and family.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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