Therapeutic Communication: The Benefits of Building a Therapeutic Relationship with an Individual on the Autism Spectrum through Meta-Verbal Processes

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Heiskell-Cook, Kansas
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
This was a single person case study that utilized A-B-A design to research the development and benefits of a therapeutic relationship with an individual on the Autism Spectrum within a meta-verbal, art therapy context. Traditional therapeutic alliances rely on verbal communication and this research focused on adapting those ideas when working with individuals who have a verbal communication deficit. The eleven sessions were structured with a sequence of two informal assessment sessions, three nonverbal sessions, three verbal sessions and a final three nonverbal sessions. The research studied how and when broader communication formats informed and shaped the therapeutic relationship. Observation notes, therapist art responses, participant art-works, and videotapes were gathered and collected for the data analysis. The triangulated data sources were analyzed through methods of documentation, coding, and categorizing the meta-verbal communication exchanges including, body language, gestures and symbolization, affect, and art-work to look for relationships within meta-verbal communication and traditional verbal therapeutic approaches. This researcher found that using meta-verbal communication strategies with an individual on the Autism Spectrum could be beneficial in building a therapeutic relationship and as a meaningful approach to treatment.