Mental Health Therapy with the Autistic Client
Virtual Training for Clincians
This training is designed specifically for clinicians to build their knowledge, skills, and confidence in providing therapy to autistic clients within the mental health setting.
There are 4 parts to this training in addition to an introduction. Each part includes about 6 hours of pre-recorded virtual content. Total instructional hours will be 30 hours with the addition of optional monthly clinicial application sessions.
This clinical training focuses on identifying DSM-5 mental health diagnoses in autistic clients and how to adapt mental health therapy to effectively support autistic clients. An introductory course begins with foundational concepts of autistic neurology (thinking style and way of handling information) as well as trauma and life stressors autistic individuals often experience. The next section covers the history of the autism diagnosis with implications for today, establishing successful client sessions, setting up the environment, and determining appropriate therapeutic goals. The remaining parts of the course cover topics such as differential diagnosis of autistic attributes from comorbid DSM disorders, adapting therapeutic modalities for autistic neurology, and implementing therapy against the backdrop of concepts learned in previous sections. Many case examples will be highlighted along with practical information on helpful assessment tools. The trainers will explore techniques considered to be evidenced-based practices through a neuro-affirming lens and how they can be used in mental health therapy with autistic clients.
Registered clinicians will receive access to 3 assessment tools (one published and two currently in development by the trainers) to put into clinical practice. Including:
Assessment of Clinical Spaces for Autistic Clients
Executive Functioning Assessment (Endow, 2021)
Core Area System of Support (CASS)
Introduction: Autistic Mental Health & Well-Being
Mental health and wellness are important for all people. To support mental health and wellness for autistic people it is important to understand their particular style of thinking and the way their brain handles information along with the impact of both environmental and other types of trauma. Additionally, when it comes to mental health and well-being, there are specific stressors unique to autistic individuals. This three-part series will examine these topics, giving you a foundation of shared knowledge. During this session, clinicians will be invited to examine their own biases when it comes to neurodivergence and ableism.
Clinicians will be able to identify three characteristics present in the autistic style of cognitive processing.
Clinicians will have a better understanding of specific stressors that may impact their autistic clients.
Clinicians will examine their own ableism and consider the implications this might have on working with autistic clients.
Part One: Beginning Considerations
In the field of therapy, Autism is relatively a newer-on-the-scene diagnosis. It has a short history in the DSM, first appearing as a diagnostic entity in 1980. Before that it was called Childhood Schizophrenia. Since then, Autism as a diagnosis has undergone multiple changes. In this presentation, Judy will track those changes along with their significance and implications for therapists today. Additionally, the limitations of the DSM will be juxtaposed with neuro-affirmation of autistic neurology. With this understanding in mind, the trainers will go through an example of a framework to use in establishing therapy sessions with an autistic client and will provide an example of a first session with a client. Then, Lisa and Sharon will delve deeper into the beginning considerations when working with autistic clients. They will address topics such as setting up the environment for success and determining appropriate therapeutic goals with clients.
Part One Objectives
Clinicians will obtain the background knowledge of the DSM diagnosis of Autism and the clinical implications that history has on treatment of autism and mental health disorders.
Clinicians will feel confident setting up initial sessions with autistic clients.
Clinicians will have the tools and knowledge to evaluate their current clinical settings and identify specific changes to make the setting safer and more welcoming for autistic clients.
Part Two: Diagnosing Other Mental Health Disorders in Autistic Clients
Therapists who see autistic individuals in their mental health practice need to differentiate whether the presenting symptoms are a comorbid DSM diagnosis or are better explained by autistic style of thinking, way of handling information (taking in, processing, storing and retrieving information), sensory differences, trauma impacts, or other autistic attributes. This section will cover this topic, delivered using a combination of slide presentation and interactive discussion with all three presenters. The section will include use of assessment tools along with adaptations needed for clinicians to successfully use commonly implemented assessment tools with autistic clients.
Presenters will move into a discussion about common DSM diagnostic checklists, specifically applying concepts from the introductory series to the DSM diagnostic entities. Those concepts are:
Autistic Life Stressor Considerations
Autistic Trauma Considerations
Autistic Style of Thinking and Handling Info Considerations
Specific case examples will be used to illustrate the many aspects of differential diagnosing of autistic attributes from comorbid DSM diagnoses when doing therapy with autistic clients.
Part Two Objectives
Clinicians will develop an understanding of the autistic traits that might overlap with other DSM diagnoses.
Clinicians will be able to adapt commonly used assessment tools to make them more accessible to their autistic clients.
Clinicians will feel more confident determining when an autistic client also has a co-morbid mental health disorder.
Part Three: Adapting Therapeutic Modalities
Part three will include a discussion of strategies for adapting a variety of common therapeutic modalities for the autistic neurology. Some of the modalities explored will include: CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, Expressive Therapy Modalities, ACT, and Solution Focused Therapy. The trainers will examine the use of techniques considered to be evidenced-based practices through a neuro-affirming lens and how utilizing these practices can help make mental health treatment more accessible for autistic clients. This section will be delivered using a combination of slide presentation and interactive discussion with all three presenters.
Part Three Objectives
Clinicians will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses of common mental health treatment modalities as they relate to autistic clients and ways to assess the appropriateness of fit.
Clinicians will feel confident adapting current treatment modalities used in their clinical practice to align with autistic neurology.
Clinicians will be able to identify treatment techniques that came from the field of teaching autistic people and be able to apply them to mental health treatment.
Part Four: Implementing Therapy
In this final section, the presenters will use case examples to integrate information learned in previous sections on how to set up the therapeutic environment and establish therapeutic goals, how to differentiate presenting symptoms, and how to adapt therapy modalities with autistic clients so that participants walk away with practical, ready-to-use tools and strategies to start implementing in the clinical setting. This section will be delivered using a combination of slide presentation and interactive discussion with all three presenters.
Part Four Objectives
Clinicians will be able to identify how treatment modalities were adapted and individualized for autistic clients in case examples provided.
Clinicians will feel confident integrating the information from previous sections into their clinical practice.
Clinicians will be able to identify other resources they can access to continue learning about the intersection of autism and mental health disorders.
Meet the Presenters
Judy Endow, LCSW, author and international speaker on a variety of autism-related topics has been providing trainings for clinicians and school staff for more than 20 years. She has written numerous articles and books, including award winners: Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult, and Paper Words: Discovering and Living with My Autism. Her latest book is Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology. As a person who lived some of her early years in an institution, Endow has emerged as a leader in the autism community.
At Common Threads Family Resource Center in McFarland, WI, she provided consulting and training for both school and clinical staff along with clinical services for autistic clients and families. Additionally, she has provided autism consultation and training for school districts, adult services and other organizations in WI and in other states and countries.
Endow received the Autism Society of America’s Cathy Pratt Professional of the Year Award — the first autistic person to receive this prestigious national award. Endow has served on the boards of both the Autism Society of America, Wisconsin Chapter and the Autism National Committee, was featured in the New York Times’ Patient Voices, and was honored by The Art of Autism as one of the most influential bloggers on the web. Endow has made over 400 presentations all over the world.
Sharon Hammer, MS, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and an Education and Behavioral Consultant. She is a partner at Imagine a Child’s Capacity, where she provides psychotherapy to clients using a combination of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Mindfulness in a neuro-affirming, client directed format. Sharon has been providing training on autism and autism related topics for the last 15 years, throughout the county and internationally. She has co-authored two books and DVDs about using technology to support autistic people, entitled Lights! Camera! Autism! As well as co-authoring a chapter in the text book: Autism: The Movement Sensing Perspective. In 2006, with Star Cinema, Sharon co-created the first “Sensory Friendly” movie going experience in the state of Wisconsin. Sharon is committed to increasing acceptance and possibilities for autistic people everywhere.
Lisa Hoeme, MS, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor, consultant, and presenter. She is a partner at Imagine a Child’s Capacity where she has a clinical practice and provides training and consultation to schools, community agencies, other professionals, families and individuals seeking services. She has clinical experience serving an expansive range individuals and families, including autistic individuals and those with Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, attention difficulties, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. In her counseling practice, Lisa uses a variety of approaches, including mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, collaborative problem solving, expressive therapy techniques, yoga and interpersonal neurobiology. She uses these modalities as a catalyst to help clients work through difficult life experiences, develop effective coping and relaxation strategies and to express themselves authentically. Lisa is committed to helping those she supports to achieve personal growth and overall well-being using a positive, individualized and person-centered approach.
Live Clinical Application Sessions
Registrants are welcome to join the presenters for for a monthly live session to help answer questions and help registrants apply what they're learning into clinical practice. Sessions will be held via Zoom. While clinical application sessions are free to all registrants, separate registration is required. Links to sign up for these sessions can be found within your course materials, accessible after registration.
Live Clinical Application Sessions in 2023
March 13, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
April 10, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
May 8, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
June 12, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
July 10, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
August 14, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
September 11, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
October 9, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
November 13, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time
December 11, 2023 | 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Central Time