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How to Optimise Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): A Delphi Study

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Children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can benefit from cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), yet the prevailing opinion is that this requires adaptations to accommodate commonly experienced socio-communication and neuropsychological impairments. There are, however, no empirically-derived guidelines about how best to adapt standard practice. In a three round Delphi survey, we asked expert clinicians and clinical-researchers, based in England, about how to optimise the design, delivery and evaluation of CBT for people with ASD. Of 50 people approached, 18 consented to take part in Round 1, nine in Round 2 and eight in Round 3. Using a five-point scale, participants rated the degree to which 221 statements—pertaining to the referral process, assessment, engagement, formulation, goal setting, therapy structure, interventions and techniques, homework, outcome measurement, managing endings and therapist attributes—were integral to CBT. The consensus was that 155 statements represented essential or important components of CBT. Adaptations to the structure and process of therapy were consistently endorsed, and an individualised formulation-derived approach was favoured when deciding upon which interventions and techniques to offer. Further studies are needed to clarify if adapted CBT is associated with improved treatment outcomes and acceptability.

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