Enhancing Emotion Processing within Emotion-Focused Therapy for Clients with Autistic Process

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis explores how people with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) can enhance their ability to process their own and others’ emotions through recalling and sharing painful and difficult experiences within Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) group psychotherapy.

Six clients with Asperger’s Syndrome attended two 9-session mixed-gender EFT groups. Their interactions and the implicit expert knowledge of the therapist (and author) formed the basis of this multi-studied thesis. This research uses significant therapy events as the focus for the use of video assisted Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) as a task within group EFT. These significant events contained cognitive-affective processing difficulties (most commonly, missed empathic responding to others’ shared painful experiences and damaged self-schemes, mental projection of false assumed similarity and interpersonal ruptures) that manifested the impact of AS on interactions among group members.
The overarching research strategy employed in this research was Task Analysis, chosen for its multi-method approach and used across the multiple studies. The discovery phase used Grounded Theory to explicate implicit therapist treatment principles, IPR event selection principles, and IPR application principles. These three sets of principles provided the data for a set of four interwoven therapeutic task models for Emotion-Focused Therapy for clients with Asperger’s Syndrome (EFT-AS). The validation phase used Discourse Analysis to construct a measurement tool referred to as the Client Emotional Processing Scale–AS (CEPS-AS). The CEPS-AS consists of four sub-scales for emotion, self-reflection, empathy and mental representation, which were used to track client experiencing across the course of therapy. The six clients achieved a significant increase in their depth of processing across the four experiential domains; with very large overall effect sizes (d = 3.53 – 4.47). To illustrate how clients’ with AS subjectively experience their emotions and how they respond to the emotions of others, a moment-by-moment analysis of two change process events captured important experiential and process shifts in EFT.

People with AS report painful subjective experiences through emotional misunderstandings. This is the first reported study of EFT group therapy for people with AS and the findings support its potential for using these painful experiences for enhancing self-and-other emotional understanding as a task focused therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
Award date3 Jul 2014
Place of PublicationGlasgow
Publication statusUnpublished - 3 Jul 2014


  • enhancing emotion processing
  • emotion-focused group therapy
  • group therapy
  • Asperger’s syndrome


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