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Working with autistic clients

Will Mandy, Richard Pender

19 Jan 2023


There is growing recognition of an autism mental health crisis. Autistic people across the lifespan and of all genders experience increased prevalence of a range of mental health conditions, leading to reduced quality of life and premature mortality (Lai et al., 2019). In addition, autistic people have described negative experiences of accessing mental health support (Camm-Crosbie et al., 2019). In recognition of this, the NHS Long-Term plan highlights better care for autistic people, including mental health care, as a priority (2019).

Challenges in routine clinical practice include recognising possible undiagnosed autism, and distinguishing autism characteristics from co-occurring mental health conditions. Autistic people report distinct mental health-related experiences, including masking or camouflaging of autism traits, meltdowns and shutdowns, and autistic burnout (Hull, Petrides & Mandy, 2020). Also, while evidence-based adapted psychological therapies are effective for this client group, clinicians commonly lack confidence in making adaptations (Cooper, Loades & Russell, 2018). To address these needs, sustained improvements must be made across multiple levels of service delivery (Mandy, 2022).

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


This workshop will:
Provide guidance on recognising autism in mental health settings
Consider common co-occurring mental health conditions and overlapping/distinct characteristics
Provide an overview of some key autism-specific experiences relating to mental health
Share tips and guidance on how to adapt clinical practice, including psychological interventions, to work more effectively with autistic clients
Provoke thinking about how mental health services can be developed to better serve autistic clients

Learning Objectives

The session is designed to increase your understanding of:
How to recognise autism in mental health settings
How to differentiate autism characteristics from those of some key co-occurring conditions
How to talk about autism with clients – what language to use, and what to ask about
How to make and explore autism-friendly adaptations to physical environments, communication and interventions

Training Modalities

Didactic content, experiential components, polls, Q&A.

Key References

Camm-Crosbie, L., Bradley, L., Shaw, R., Baron-Cohen, S., & Cassidy, S. (2019). ‘People like me don’t get support’: Autistic adults’ experiences of support and treatment for mental health difficulties, self-injury and suicidality. Autism, 23(6), 1431-1441.

Cooper, K., Loades, M. E., & Russell, A. (2018). Adapting psychological therapies for autism. Research in autism spectrum disorders, 45, 43-50.

Hull, L., Petrides, K. V., & Mandy, W. (2020). The female autism phenotype and camouflaging: A narrative review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 7(4), 306-317.

Lai, M. C., Kassee, C., Besney, R., Bonato, S., Hull, L., Mandy, W., ... & Ameis, S. H. (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.

Mandy, W. (2022). Six ideas about how to address the autism mental health crisis. Autism, 26(2), 289-292.

About the presenter

Will Mandy is Professor of Neurodevelopmental Conditions in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at UCL. He is a Clinical Psychologist and autism researcher, with extensive experience as an autism trainer. Much of his research focuses on improving mental health services for autistic people.
Richard Pender is a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Research Fellow at UCL. He has worked in specialist mental health services for autistic clients, and has led on developing and promoting co-production projects with autistic people to improve mental health services.

Who should attend

This event is suitable for clinicians working in mental health services, who are interested to advance their understanding of autism and mental health.

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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