Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a specific model of psychotherapy that includes a wide range of techniques for a variety of psychological disorders including anxiety and depression. The Knapp Center uses this method of treatment for our patients on the autism spectrum, who have a co-existing diagnosis of anxiety or depression, and who are also enrolled in the STEPS program.
CBT has existed for over 40 years. Through research, CBT has been shown to have a positive impact on a child’s functioning and handling distress through learning necessary emotional regulation skills to improve their lives. CBT is based on the assumption that how we think, affects how we feel, and in turn, affects how we behave. Through sessions, the therapist works together with the child to identify the relationships between unhealthy thinking patterns, disruptive behavior, and negative emotional responses in upsetting situations. The child can learn to monitor and change their thinking patterns in order to create a change in mood and behavior. Treatment also necessitates active participation of the child during the session with exercises for exploration and homework assignments in between sessions.
Some of the techniques that are utilized in session can include but not limited to:
- Assessment- An evaluation of ASD symptoms along with co-occurring difficulties such as anxiety, compulsive ritualizing, and depression to identify specific cognitive and behavioral skills to teach.
- Education-The child is included as an active participant in their treatment. This may include education on the child’s diagnosis, symptoms and treatment techniques. Additionally this includes the facilitation of self-acceptance.
- Advocacy and Resources- The therapist works with the child and parent to teach strategies to decrease or prevent symptoms of co-morbid mental health difficulties such as depression or anxiety and identification of available resources for the child for generalization and maintenance in their natural environment.
- Social Skills Training-This includes teaching the child social rules and practicing social principles that includes higher level skills such as emotions and perceptions of others.
- Cognitive Restructuring –This refers to helping the child identifying unhealthy thinking patterns and changing them. Strategies could include written and verbal exercises, behavioral experiments, examining past evidence and identifying cognitive distortions.
- Exposure Therapy and Behavioral Activation – This includes the child creating a hierarchy of events (related to fear or enjoyable activities) and systematically participating in the event while including self monitoring and assessment of mood to increase the understanding of the relationship between actions and emotional consequences.
- Additional Skill Training – This can include assertiveness training, goal setting, problem solving, and time management, sleep hygiene, increasing positive daily activities and relaxation training.
The Knapp Center provides both CBT in an individual format and group therapy format. Your child will join a trained therapist for a one-on-one session. Session frequency and length of treatment are discussed at the onset of treatment. As progress is made, session frequency reduces to strengthen the learned skills in the natural environment. Group therapy provides the child with real-life feedback and interaction among same age peers.