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Therapy Goals for Adults with Autism

This article discusses therapy goals for adults with autism, including

Introduction to Adult Autism Therapy

Entering the realm of adult autism therapy involves recognizing and adapting to the wide-ranging spectrum of autism in adulthood. This therapeutic journey is not merely about addressing challenges; it’s about appreciating the unique perspectives and abilities that adults with autism bring to the table. Our goal in therapy is to navigate the multifaceted aspects of adult life, building on the individual’s strengths while providing support for the areas that are challenging.

Adults with autism face a distinct set of experiences and challenges that evolve over time. Unlike children with autism, adults often need to manage additional responsibilities such as employment, relationships, and self-care, all while navigating a world that may not fully understand their needs. Therapy, therefore, must be dynamic and responsive, adapting to the changing circumstances and evolving goals of the individual.

In the context of therapy for adults with autism, especially those with high-functioning autism, the focus extends beyond traditional support. It encompasses a holistic view of the individual’s life, including their mental and emotional health, social connections, career aspirations, and daily living skills. The therapy aims not only to mitigate the difficulties associated with autism but also to empower individuals to lead fulfilling and autonomous lives.

To effectively support adults with autism, therapists must employ a range of strategies tailored to the individual’s specific needs and life goals. This might include therapy to explore one’s concerns, challenges, and goals; social skills training to enhance interpersonal interactions; and vocational counseling to support career development. Moreover, sensory integration therapy and mindfulness practices can be integrated to help manage sensory sensitivities and improve overall well-being.

Ultimately, the essence of therapy for adults with autism lies in its capacity to affirm the individual’s identity, promoting a sense of self-acceptance and belonging. By fostering an environment where adults with autism feel understood and valued, therapy can play a pivotal role in enhancing their quality of life and enabling them to navigate the complexities of the adult world with confidence and resilience.

To effectively support adults with autism, therapists must employ a range of strategies tailored to the person's specific needs and goals.

Therapy Goals for Adults with Autism

Therapy for adults with autism should be holistic and dynamic, addressing a range of needs from social skills to personal independence. A comprehensive approach to setting therapy goals includes:

  1. Advanced Communication Skills: Beyond basic verbal communication, therapy should focus on nuanced aspects like understanding metaphors, managing conversational turn-taking, and improving non-verbal communication. This involves refining the ability to interpret body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, enhancing overall interpersonal interactions.
  2. Social Integration and Relationship Building: Goals should extend to navigating complex social landscapes, understanding the subtleties of friendship and romantic relationships, and developing empathy and emotional insight. This includes learning to manage social anxiety, deciphering unwritten social rules, and building lasting relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.
  3. Comprehensive Emotional Regulation: Therapy must address the full spectrum of emotional experiences, teaching adults with autism to recognize and express their emotions appropriately, manage stress, and cope with unexpected changes in routine or environment. This involves developing strategies for handling sensory overload, reducing anxiety, and fostering resilience against setbacks.
  4. Executive Function Mastery: Beyond basic organizational skills, therapy goals should include mastering time management, prioritizing tasks, problem-solving in real time, and making well-informed decisions. This can lead to improved job performance, successful management of daily responsibilities, and a more structured approach to life.
  5. Life Skills and Independence: Therapy should aim to equip adults with autism with the skills needed for complete independence, such as financial management, home maintenance, cooking, and navigating public transportation. These goals are essential for living a self-sufficient and fulfilling life.
  6. Professional Development and Employment Success: Adults with autism often face unique challenges in the workplace. Therapy goals should therefore encompass career exploration, job retention strategies, understanding workplace culture, and developing advocacy skills to negotiate accommodations and build supportive professional networks.
  7. Self-Advocacy and Personal Empowerment: Encouraging self-awareness, confidence, and the ability to advocate for oneself are critical therapy goals. This includes understanding one’s rights, developing the ability to speak up in personal and professional contexts, and navigating health care and service systems effectively.
  8. Leisure and Recreational Skills: Engaging in hobbies and recreational activities can significantly enhance quality of life. Therapy should therefore include goals related to identifying and pursuing personal interests, developing hobbies, and socializing in casual, non-work-related settings.
  9. Mental Health and Well-being: Recognizing and addressing co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD are vital. Therapy goals should include developing coping mechanisms, accessing mental health services, and maintaining overall well-being.

By addressing these expanded therapy goals, adults with autism can achieve a higher level of autonomy, enhance their social interactions, and improve their overall quality of life. This holistic approach ensures that therapy is not just about managing symptoms but also about thriving in all aspects of life.

Comprehensive Understanding of Adult Autism

Adult autism therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s tailored to address the specific needs and aspirations of each individual. Adults with high-functioning autism may face unique challenges, including social interaction difficulties, sensory sensitivities, and executive functioning issues, which can impact their personal and professional lives. A deep understanding of these aspects is crucial for setting effective therapy goals.

Strategies for Achieving Therapy Goals

Achieving these therapy goals involves a combination of individual therapy, group sessions, and, in some cases, occupational therapy or speech and language therapy. Therapy addressing anxiety and depression is often important, while specialized programs like social skills training can be particularly beneficial for improving social competence.

The Role of a Supportive Environment

A supportive environment plays a crucial role in the success of therapy for adults with autism. This includes understanding family members, employers, and a community that recognizes and values neurodiversity. Building a network of support can enhance the effectiveness of therapy and contribute to a more fulfilling life.


Embarking on therapy as an adult with autism is a journey of self-discovery and growth. Setting clear, attainable therapy goals is the first step toward enhancing quality of life and achieving personal and professional fulfillment. With the right support and a tailored approach, therapy can lead to significant improvements in the lives of adults with autism.

If you or someone you know is navigating the complexities of adult autism, I invite you to contact me for a virtual consultation. Together, we can work towards achieving meaningful and impactful therapy goals. Let’s embark on this journey to empowerment and growth together.


Dr. Kenneth Roberson

Dr. Kenneth Roberson is an Adult Autism Psychologist in San Francisco with over 30 years of experience. Click below to ask a question or schedule an appointment.

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