Enhancing empathy in emotion-focused group therapy for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a case conceptualization model for interpersonal rupture and repair

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Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are vulnerable to trauma-related experiences due to difficulties in emotion recognition, including recognising their own and others’ emotions, leading to interpersonal conflict and problems in making and maintaining friendships. There are limited intervention methodologies of how to work with interpersonal conflict and relational repair. This paper presents, for the first time, a case conceptualization model of relational rupture and repair as a clinical strategy to guide therapists working therapeutically with clients with ASD. The model is constructed from a task analysis applied to dyads of therapy and Interpersonal Process Recall sessions of Emotion-Focused Group Therapy with autistic adolescents (EFGT- AS). This model shows that when therapists use Interpersonal Process Recall of shared trauma-related experiences and misempathy encounters as a process-guiding method, it leads to a deepening of emotional processing in both cognitive and affective empathy. Autistic adolescents are able to use EFGT-AS to explore self-agency within interpersonal ruptures and enhance self and other cognitive-affective empathy within a relational repair process. This rational-empirical model for working with relational rupture and repair stands as a hypothesis for future testing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
Early online date16 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Oct 2019


  • emotion-focused group therapy
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • adolescents
  • empathy
  • relational rupture and repair
  • case conceptualization

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