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Psychotherapy with people with Asperger Syndrome; exploring ways to improve client and therapist well-being

Chalk, Matty (2012). Psychotherapy with people with Asperger Syndrome; exploring ways to improve client and therapist well-being. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


It is well documented that people with Asperger Syndrome show a propensity to mental health problems (e.g. Tantam, 1988); one contributor possibly being difficulties with social interaction (Frith, 2004). People with Asperger Syndrome and mental health problems may therefore require support, one form being psychotherapy (e.g. Schopler & Mesibov, 1983). However, despite the possible need of this population and the recent drives towards improving access to psychological therapies to the wider population (Department of Health, 2010) there is relatively little literature on psychotherapeutic interventions for people with Asperger Syndrome (Weiss & Lunsky, 2010), which might possibly impact on the client and therapist. Furthermore, the author postulated that when people with Asperger Syndrome do access psychological therapy, the difficulties that contributed to them seeking therapy such as interpersonal difficulties may also impact on basic therapeutic assumptions and therapist preferences as outlined in the literature. Thus the overall premise of this current study derives from the way Asperger Syndrome is defined (however, provisionally) as a disorder of interpersonal functioning, this would lead to an expectation that doing therapy (an intrinsically interpersonally process) with those with Asperger Syndrome might negatively impact on basic therapeutic assumptions and therapist attitudes in some way.

In this study, therapists’ attitudes to working psychotherapeutically with clients with Asperger Syndrome were explored. Following preliminary discussions with colleagues, interviews with five trainee psychologists and 129 completed questionnaires from therapists, a number of areas were revealed as potentially important to psychotherapists working with people with Asperger Syndrome. These areas were the quality of supervision, therapist satisfaction, the quality of the working alliance, therapist knowledge and experience, the model(s) used and co-morbid psychopathology and other co-morbid concerns.

Despite people with Asperger Syndrome being viewed from the dominate discourse as not necessarily contributing to the fulfilment of a number of therapist preferences and therapeutic assumptions as described within the literature, interviews and questionnaire, overall the sample in this study viewed clients with Asperger Syndrome as satisfying to work with and the therapists viewed the working alliance as good, supervision effective and satisfaction was not contingent on the use of the dominant cognitive behavioural therapy model.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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