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How to Use Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Autism

Updated on November 20, 2017
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Cognitive Behavior Therapy with Autism

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a therapy to help people re-frame their thoughts and feelings regarding their lives or certain situations in their lives. This can be a very useful tool for someone who has autism if used properly.

One of the biggest challenges that people with autism will often run into when it comes to cognitive behavior therapy is that of not having a counselor who fully understands the way that people on the autism spectrum can think.

This has caused me a lot of issues because my counselors in the past have tried to approach cognitive behavior therapy from the same perspective as they would when working with a client without autism who is neurotypical.

My brain does not work like a neurotypicals. In fact, my brain is far from neurotypical. It is very hard for me to relate to counselors because I feel that their brain is so different than mine or maybe it is my brain that is so different than theirs.

Most of my counselors have tried to make it sound so simple. They say you take a thought and just change how you are thinking about it. They would say something like if you feel you are a bad person all you must do is tell your brain that you think you are a good person a d your thoughts and feelings about yourself will change.

Changing those thoughts for anyone is very difficult but when you are trying to change thoughts with autism I find it very hard because people with autism often feel very trapped or stuck in life.

Sometimes I feel as if my counselors have been trying to change who I am through counseling and trying cognitive behavior therapy on me. They work very hard to reprogram my thoughts and that had almost made me feel like they did not accept me for who I am.

It took me a long time to understand that even people who are trying to change the way I think and feel about things have my best interest in mind and are not really trying to change who I am as a person. I try to do my own cognitive behavior therapy every day and it is hard to do so on my own. I feel I need a lot of good support in this area.

One area that I struggle most in is in the fact that I feel that I always need physical evidence to back up my thoughts. In other words, I need something to be true before I can believe that it is true. However, the concept of cognitive behavior therapy would tell you that you must believe something is true for it to have a chance at being true.

You hit it right on. My brain thinks about everything backwards. I always think of things backwards in my mind and that really frustrates me greatly. I try to unwind my crazy brain and think about things in the same order as everyone else, but my brain does not work like that.

I struggle because I really need something to be true before I can believe it is true or feel good about it. It took a long time for the idea or concept of cognitive behavior therapy to really grow upon me. I had to do a lot of soul searching to really understand all the components of cognitive behavior therapy and how they applied to me. If I had not been able to find a new counselor in the past year who really understands cognitive behavior therapy more than most of my other counselors, then I feel I would still be lost.

It is important to have a counselor who comes into your world and connects with you as a person with autism as opposed to someone who tries to change who you are by making you think like a neurotypical.

I need the counselor to understand that my thoughts and feelings are real and to me they are accurate and changing them is hard because it feels like I am letting go of a part of who I am. I don’t like changing who I am because it is very difficult for me to recover from the sadness of losing who I am. When I do have to change my thoughts and feelings it takes a lot of energy and is almost like being hit with two things at once.

One, I am always constantly hit with having to adapt or change my social skills so that I can do better in social situations. Now on top of trying to change and improve my social skills, I also need to try and change my thoughts and adapt to a more positive way of thinking. This is particularly hard for me because I have spent so many years fixating and obsessing over the same thoughts and feelings repeatedly. My beliefs about myself are so real that it is hard to change them.

The first step in changing my beliefs is to accept that I am not perfect and will never be perfect. That right there in itself takes a lot of pressure off me. I am now able to think clearer because I don’t have the anxiety of trying to be a perfect person.

Autism has meant two things for me. One, learning social skills to adapt to the social norms of our society and two, learning to re-frame my thoughts and form positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts. Perhaps the second is the more challenging thing for me.


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