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Emotion-focused therapy for clients with autistic process

Robinson, Anna and Elliott, Robert (2017) Emotion-focused therapy for clients with autistic process. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, 16 (3). pp. 215-235. ISSN 1477-9757

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The person-centered approach has paid little attention to persons with autistic process, in spite of their often experiencing high levels of psychological distress. We present the main arguments for a group therapy adaptation of Emotion-Focused Therapy for people on the autistic spectrum (EFT-AS). The principles of this approach are described here. A novel form of Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) as a process guiding method is presented. The primary change processes include improving access to and symbolizing one’s own and others’ painful emotional experiences. EFT-AS uses video playback of social-emotional interpersonal reciprocity difficulty task markers to help clients activate, deepen and transform emotions via accessing core pain and associated unmet needs, which in turn point to adaptive emotions such as compassion for self and others. The beginning, middle and ending phases of treatment, showing shifts in client emotion processing, are presented with illustrative session transcripts. EFT-AS appears to be an innovative and promising approach to working with this client population but replication and further research are required.