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Delivering CBT with autistic clients to improve mental health

Valerie Gaus, Lawrence Fung

14 Nov 2023


Autistic people have a higher likelihood than non-autistic people to experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, especially anxiety or depressive disorders (Lai et al., 2019).  Many will present for treatment of those co-occurring disorders in “mainstream” mental healthcare centers (Maddox et al., 2021; Maddox & Gaus, 2018).  Practitioners who are not autism experts can treat these problems using the same evidence-based CBT approaches they use for their non-autistic clients.  Recognizing some unique factors and adapting techniques where necessary can make effective treatments available to autistic clients across the lifespan and in a variety of settings.

The event will be equivalent to 2.3/4hrs of CPD.


This workshop will:
• List the most common mental health problems reported by autistic clients
• Review barriers to autistic clients’ accessibility to mental health services
• Provide a rationale for using CBT to improve mental health
• Present a working model for conceptualizing therapy cases
• Discuss relevant evidence-based CBT approaches for treating anxiety and depression
• Use case examples to demonstrate applications and modifications for autistic clients

Learning Objectives

You will learn:
• To recognize the unique needs of autistic clients
• How to use an individualized case formulation to design a CBT treatment plan
• To determine when and how modifications to CBT are needed
• To consider mindfulness-based CBT for building emotion regulation skills

Training Modalities

Didactic content, case examples, Q&A.

Key References

Fung, L.K. (2021) Neurodiversity: from Phenomenology to Neurobiology and Enhancing Technologies. American Psychiatric Association Publishing, Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Gaus, V. L. (2019). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adults with autism spectrum disorder. Guilford Publications.

Lai, M. C., Kassee, C., Besney, R., Bonato, S., Hull, L., Mandy, W., & Ameis, S. (2019). Prevalence of co-occurring mental health diagnoses in the autism population: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(10), 819–829.

Maddox, B., Crabbe, S., Fishman, J., Beidas, R., Brookman-Frazee, L., Miller, J., & Mandell, D. (2020). Factors influencing the use of cognitive–behavioral therapy with autistic adults: A survey of community mental health clinicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(11), 4421–4428.

Maddox, B.B., Dickson, K.S., Stadnick, N.A. et al. (2021). Mental health services for autistic individuals across the lifespan: Recent advances and current gaps. Current Psychiatry Reports, 23(66).

Maddox, B. B., & Gaus, V. L. (2018). Community mental health services for autistic adults: Good news and bad news. Autism in Adulthood, 1.

Spain, D., Milner, V., Mason, D. et al. (2022). Improving Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Autistic Individuals: A Delphi Survey with Practitioners. Journal of Rational-Emotive Cognitive-Behavior Therapy.

Spain, D., Sin, J., Chalder, T., Murphy, D. & Happé, F. (2015). Cognitive behaviour therapy for adults with autism spectrum disorders and psychiatric co-morbidity: A review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 9, 151-162.

About the presenter

Valerie Gaus, Ph.D., is Dr. Gaus is a psychologist, licensed by New York State, who has been a practicing psychotherapist since 1994. She specializes in individual psychotherapy for adults of all ages, from 18-98, with extensive experience serving people with disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, depression, trauma and stress-related problems. She approaches therapy using a cognitive-behavioral framework. She has written numerous articles, chapters and books on these subjects, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2nd Edition, published in 2019 by Guilford Press and Living Well on the Spectrum: How to Use Your Strengths to Meet the Challenges of Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism, published in 2011 by Guilford Press.

Dr. Lawrence Fung an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He is the director of the Stanford Neurodiversity Project, director of the Neurodiversity Clinic, and principal investigator at the Fung Lab. His work, which focuses on autism and neurodiversity, traverses from multi-modal neuroimaging studies to new conceptualization of neurodiversity and its application to clinical, education, and employment settings. His lab advances the understanding of neural bases of human socio-communicative and cognitive functions by using novel neuroimaging and bioanalytical technologies. Using community-based participatory research approach, his team devises and implements novel interventions to improve the lives of neurodiverse individuals by maximizing their potential and productivity. His work has been supported by various agencies including the National Institutes of Health, Autism Speaks, California Department of Developmental Services, California Department of Rehabilitation, as well as philanthropy. He received his PhD in chemical engineering from Cornell University, and MD from George Washington University. He completed his general psychiatry residency, child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship, and postdoctoral research fellowship at Stanford.

Who should attend

This webinar is most suitable for practitioners (psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, counsellors) delivering psychotherapy interventions for autistic clients in mental health care settings.

Low Intensity clinical contact hours survey - BABCP Low Intensity Special Interest Group

Please click below if you are interested in contributing to the survey.


The BACP Low Intensity SIG are interested in the impact of clinical contact hours on Low Intensity/Wellbeing Practitioner wellbeing. This questionnaire contains six multi-choice questions and a free text box for you to share your experiences. The answers to these questions will help the BABCP SIG plan how to meet CPD topics and other developments within the SIG.  The SIG hope to produce a write up of the answers to this questionnaire to be shared with SIG members and to be used in training.

View Survey

This FREE conference is for Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners working in Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression services and is brought to you by Bespoke Mental Health in collaboration with the NHS England Talking Therapies National PWP Leads Network

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