Psychotherapists Knowledge of Autism

Lipinski et al, 2021

Full article:


Nothing about us without us
Who: Lipinski and colleagues
Where: Autism
Published: 2021
Title: A blind spot in mental healthcare? Psychotherapists lack education and expertise for the support of adults on the autism spectrum

Psychotherapists Autism Knowledge

Many autistic adults have co-occurring mental health needs.

They find that a barrier to accessing treatment is a lack of therapists knowledge and expertise about autism.

Lipinski et al, 2021

Over half of autistic adults have a co-occurring mental health condition and/or neurodevelopmental differences.

Studies have found that 28% of autistic adults have ADHD, 27% have an anxiety disorder, and 24% have OCD.

There is an alarmingly high rate of suicidality in autistic adults.

The majority of autistic adults who need mental health support do seek it, but they have a much higher rate of unmet healthcare needs than the general population.

Lipinski et al, 2021

Autistic adults typically have to reach out to unspecialised therapists as those who specialise in autism have very long wait lists.

However, this means that they do not receive tailored therapy, and therefore they do not receive quality, evidence-based mental health care.

The most commonly reported barrier to therapy was a lack of knowledge & expertise and the therapists unwillingness to tailor their approach for autistic adults. This lead to low treatment satisfaction.

Lipinski et al, 2021

This study surveyed 498 therapists working in Germany. They were surveyed on their knowledge and experience with clients with autism, ADHD, BPD, depression, ED, OCD, phobias, and schizophrenia.

The survey was created by the participatory research group due to a lack of existing standardised questionnaires.

Lipinski et al, 2021

21% had experience in diagnosing autism, compared to 76% who had experience diagnosing BPD and 67% had experience diagnosing ED.

53% of therapists reported very little knowledge of or training about autism. Only 2% reported being highly educated.

Only 15% of therapists had received continuing education on autism, and 74% had interest in receiving further education.

Lipinski et al, 2021

71% were open to working with an autistic adult. Those who were not gave the following reasons.

0.2% colleagues reported about unpleasant experiences with autistic people

1.6% I had an unpleasant experience with autistic people

2.3% I can’t perform psychotherapy without eye contact

3.5% I’d rather work with a limited number of symptom variety

6.3% Treatment of autistic people belongs to the competence area of child and youth psychologists

8.4% Other

10.1% The application process for reimbursement is particularly complicated

11% Psychotherapy with autistic people is particularly arduous

11.5% The otherness of autistic people seems strange/disconcerting to me

15.5% Outpatient talking therapies are not suitable treatment methods for autistic people

17.6% Autistic people require a high level of patient support

20.1% It is difficult to establish personal contact and sympathy with autistic people

23.4% I don’t have the confidence to work with autistic people

27.6% I don’t know where to get support during the course of treatment of autistic people

55% I would refer autistic people to therapists with special or additional training

70% I don’t have enough knowledge about autism

(Possible reasons for not treating autistic patients sorted by relative selection. Percentages indicate how many therapists selected this answer. Multiple answering options could be chosen.)

Leave a Reply