Facing Your Fears

Facing Your Fears (FYF) is an intervention program for youth with autism spectrum disorders who need assistance managing anxiety symptoms that interfere with daily life. 

The program is based on more than 16 years of funded research, and uses cognitive-behavioral principles to assist youth in identifying their anxiety, worry and/or fears, as well as learning strategies to manage their anxiety symptoms. FYF is currently offered in a group setting (virtual groups are available!), although it may also be used in individual contexts.

A well-developed parent curriculum is part of the FYF program, and allows for the generalization of concepts and strategies learned in group to be implemented at home.

Given the potentially debilitating and interfering nature of anxiety, successful management of these symptoms can lead to marked improvements in daily functioning and allow youth to participate more fully in school, at home and in community settings. 

We invite you to click the tabs below to find out more about the resources we offer through this program.

Groups are offered for verbally fluent children and adolescents ages 8-14 with autism spectrum disorder who need assistance managing anxiety that interferes with their daily lives. This group focuses on helping youth identify anxiety, worry, or fear and develop coping strategies to manage these symptoms and to face fears. The group gives youth an opportunity to practice these new strategies with the guidance and support of group facilitators.

Parents are an integral part of the FYF groups and are asked to attend all of the sessions. A well-developed parent curriculum allows for the generalization of concepts and strategies learned in group to be implemented at home. 

We also offer a two-day training to organizations such as school districts, ASD specialty clinics, University clinics, and mental health centers interested in learning about Facing Your Fears. The purpose of this two-day training is to provide an overview of group cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for managing the anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.  

Day One offers a broad introduction to the topic, with specific talks on the development of anxiety disorders in youth with ASD and other talks on applying CBT strategies to this population. Our recent research has focused on adapting FYF for school settings and for teens with ASD and intellectual disabilities. Thus, additional talks focus on modifying the Facing Your Fears program for delivery in schools by interdisciplinary teams of school providers, as well as modifying FYF for teens with ASD and intellectual disabilities.

Day Two is primarily intended for professionals who will be delivering FYF to youth with ASD and anxiety. Core components of CBT will be discussed in detail, including psychoeducation and graded exposure. A session by session overview of the Facing Your Fears program will be presented throughout the training, as an illustration of a group CBT program specifically designed for youth with ASD and anxiety. Videotaped examples and interactive small group activities will also occur throughout the training.

Facing Your Fears trainings are very popular and we have conducted many trainings nationally and internationally, including Albuquerque, New Mexico, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dublin, Ireland, Kuwait, New York City, Singapore, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Kenora, and Regina, Canada​.
 
Please contact Dr. Judy Reaven at Judy.Reaven@cuanschutz.edu for more information.

Anxiety is one of the biggest challenges faced by children with autism spectrum disorder. Help them conquer their fears and participate more fully in home, school, and community life with this innovative group therapy program for children 8-14 years old and their parents.

Ideal for small groups of 4-5 children but also effective in one-to-one therapy, this evidence-based, ready-to-use program is a must for mental health professionals who work with children and families in clinical settings and beyond. Developed to address the specific needs and challenges of children with ASD, Facing Your Fears can be effective because it:

  • targets specific fears or worries that interfere with day-to-day functioning at home and school
  • actively involves parents in every session - the key to helping children make progress and ensuring that families provide skillful, sensitive support
  • is backed by more than 16 years of funded research (see publications)
  • engages children with memorable, age-appropriate strategies for managing anxiety, from creating "worry bugs" to filming movies of themselves facing their fears
  • gives children repeated opportunities to practice social interactions with others
  • uses the highly effective principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • helps children and parents generalize the skills they learn in a group to other settings
 

Reaven, J., Blakeley-Smith, A., Nichols, S., & Hepburn, S. (2011). Facing Your Fears: Group Therapy for Managing Anxiety in Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders, Paul Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore.   

 


 

Supporting Journal Articles and Chapters

Meyer. A.T., Moody, E., Keefer, A., O’Kelley, S., Duncan, A., Blakeley-Smith, A., & Reaven, J.  (2020) Effect of co-occurring psychiatric disorders on treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder and anxiety.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04540-1

Pickard, K., Blakeley-Smith, A., Boles, R., Duncan, A., Keefer, A., O’Kelley, S., & Reaven, J.  (2020)  Examining the sustained use of a cognitive behavioral therapy program for youth with autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring anxiety. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 73.   https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2020.101532

Reaven, J., Reyes, N., Pickard, K., Tanda, T., & Morris, M. (2019). Addressing the Needs of Diverse Youth with ASD and Anxiety in Public Schools: Stakeholder Input on Adaptations of Clinic-Based Facing Your Fears, School Mental Health.  DOI 10.1007/s12310-019-09351-z https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12310-019-09351-z  

Walsh, C., Moody, E., Blakeley-Smith, A., Duncan, A., Hepburn, S., Keefer, A., Klinger, L., Meyer, A., O’Kelley, S., & Reaven, J. (2018).  The relationship between treatment acceptability and youth outcome in group CBT for youth with ASD and anxiety. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 48 (3), 123-132. DOI.org/10.1007/s10879-018-9380-4  

Reaven, J., Moody, E., Klinger, L., Keefer, A., Duncan, A., O’Kelley, S., Meyer, A., Hepburn, S., & Blakeley-Smith, A. (2018). Training Clinicians to Deliver Group CBT to Manage Anxiety in Youth with ASD: Results of a Multi-Site Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86(3):205-217. doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000285. 

Conner, C., DeVries, L., & Reaven, J. (2018).  Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches for Treating Adolescents with ASD.  In Gelbar, N. (Ed.). Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Oxford University Press. 

Drmic, I., Aljuined, M., & Reaven, J. (2017).  Feasibility, acceptability and preliminary treatment outcomes in a school-based CBT intervention program for adolescents with ASD and anxiety in Singapore.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.  DOI.org/10.1007/s10803-016-3007-y

Reaven, J., & Willar, K. (2017). Group cognitive behavior therapy for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and anxiety.  In Kerns, C., Wood, J., Storch, E., Renno, P., & Kendall, P.  Evidence Based Assessment and Treatment of Anxiety in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Elsevier Press: London.

​Keefer, A., Kreiser, N., Singh, V., Blakeley-Smith, A., Duncan, A., Johnson, C., Klinger, L., Meyer, A., Reaven, J., & Vasa, R. (2016).  Intolerance of uncertainty predicts anxiety outcomes following CBT in Youth with ASD, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, DOI.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2852-z

Hepburn, S.L., Blakeley-Smith, A., Wolff, B. & Reaven, J.A. (2015).  Telehealth delivery of cognitive-behavioral intervention to youth with autism spectrum disorder and anxiety:  A pilot study.  Autism:  International Journal of Research and Practice, 1-12, doi.org/10.1177/1362361315575164

Reaven, J., Washington, L., Moody, E., Stern, J., Hepburn, S., & Blakeley-Smith, A. (2015).  Examining the relationship between parental anxiety and treatment response in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and anxiety.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.  doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2410-0
 
Reaven, J., and Wainer, A. (2015).  Children and adolescents with ASD and co-occurring psychiatric conditions: current trends in intervention.  In R. M. Hodapp, & D. J. Fidler (Eds.), International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities (pp. 45–90). ISBN: 9780128021811.  Elsevier Inc. Academic Press.   
 

Reaven, J., Blakeley-Smith, A., & Hepburn, S. (2014). Bridging the research to practice gap in autism research: Implementing group CBT interventions for youth with ASD and anxiety in clinical practice. In T. Davis, S. White, & T. Ollendick (Eds.), Handbook of Autism and Anxiety. New York, NY: Springer.

Reaven, J., Blakeley-Smith, A., Leuthe, E., Moody, E., & Hepburn, S. (2012). Facing your fears in adolescence: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and anxiety. Autism Research and Treatment. doi.org/10.1155/2012/423905

Blakeley-Smith, A., Reaven, J., Ridge, K., & Hepburn, S. (2012).  Parent-child agreement of anxiety symptoms in youth with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 707-716. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2011.07.020

Reaven, J., Blakeley-Smith, A., Culhane-Shelburne, K., & Hepburn, S. (2012). Group cognitive behavior therapy for children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and anxiety: A randomized trial.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53, 410-419. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02486.x

Reaven, J. (2011). The treatment of anxiety symptoms in youth with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders:  Developmental considerations for parents. Brain Research, 1380, 255-263.    

Kaiser, K. (2011). Telehealth: Families Finding Ways to Connect in Rural Colorado. Exceptional Parent, 41(4), 18-19. ISSN-0046-9157
 
Reaven, J., Blakeley-Smith, A., Nichols, S., Dasari, M., Flanigan, E., Hepburn, S. (2009). Cognitive-Behavioral Group Treatment for Anxiety Symptoms in Children With High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 24(1), 27-37.
 
Reaven, J.  (2009). Children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders and co-occurring anxiety symptoms: Implications for assessment and treatment. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 14, 192-199. 

The clinical psychologists who created Facing Your Fears are clinicians and researchers.  Over the last 18 years, they have worked with many children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder, who present with anxiety symptoms that interfere with their daily lives.  Through their clinical work and research, they developed an intervention that provides youth and their families with strategies and tools to better manage anxiety.

 

Meet the authors...

Judy Reaven, PhD, is a Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Director of Research and Associate Director of JFK Partners. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked in the field of developmental disabilities as a clinician, researcher, and educator since 1985. Her long-term clinical interests have included the co-occurrence of mental health symptoms in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, which is what led to the development of the Facing Your Fears program. Dr. Reaven has been Principal Investigator on several research grants funded by both private foundations (Autism Speaks, Organization for Autism Research) and federal agencies (NIMH) which has assisted in the development of the Facing Your Fears program.  She is currently PI on a HRSA-funded grant focused on the implementation of FYF in public schools.  Dr. Reaven has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications on the topic of ASD and anxiety. 

Audrey Blakeley-Smith, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, as well as Training Director for the University of Colorado Clinical Psychology Internship Program – Anschutz Medical Campus.  She is also a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked in the field of developmental disabilities since 1996. Her clinical interests include the assessment and treatment of co-occurring mental health issues in children with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, as well as the development of school-based peer-mediated interventions for youth with ASD. Dr. Blakeley-Smith has been Principal Investigator on a school-based study exploring the use of peer-mediated interventions to reduce rejection and increase inclusion of children with autism, and is currently PI on a project modifying FYF for adolescents with ASD/IDD (both projects funded by OAR). 

Facing Your Fears includes contributions from many other professionals during their time at JFK Partners.

  • Shana Nichols, PhD
  • Susan Hepburn, PhD
Funding that Supported this Research:
Facing Your Fears in School Settings: Implementing A CBT Program for Students with ASD or Other Special Learning Needs (Health Resources and Services Administration (Award #R41MC3107-01-00) (2017-2020) (Reaven: PI)

Adolescents with ASD and Intellectual Disabilities  funded by the Organization for Autism Research (2016-2018) (Blakeley-Smith: PI) 

Training Outpatients Clinicians to Deliver Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Children Grant, National Institute of Health (Awards #R21MH089291 and 4R33MH089291-03) (2009-2014) (Reaven: PI)

Tele-health Delivery of a Family-Focused Intervention to Reduce Anxiety in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Rural Colorado - Health Resources and Services Administration (Award #R40MC15593) (2009-2012) (Hepburn: PI)

Group Cognitive Behavior Therapy Intervention for Children with High-Functioning PDD’s and Anxiety Symptoms research funded by Organization for Autism Research, Autism Speaks, and Cure Autism Now (2004-2010) (Reaven: PI)

University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Grant, Administration on Developmental Disabilities (Award # 90DD0632)

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Grant, Maternal Child Health Bureau (Award #T73MC11044)

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC), NICHD funded Translational Neuroscience Nexus (Award# P30 HD004024-39)

TeleCopes was the original telehealth version of the Facing Your Fears program and was developed through a study through funded from the Health Resources Service Administration (HRSA). The TeleCopes Project Director was Susan Hepburn, PhD, now a Professor at Colorado State University. 

TeleCopes used videoconferencing technology to reach youth and their parents through their home computer. Families were paired with anywhere from 1-3 other families to create an online group therapy experience. In certain instances, individual therapy took place due to the child's needs.

 

Weekly sessions were scheduled between a clinician and all of the families in a particular group. They all connected online and could see and hear each other.

Sometimes parent education was the focus of the session with some participation between the youth and other sessions focus on working with youth. Just like in-person, the Facing Your Fears group participants, the TeleCopes participants completed a video that shows a strategy they adopted to help reduce their anxiety.

Telecopes provided a solid foundation for our virtual FYF Program. Clinicians interested in delivering FYF via telehealth may be interested in our recently developed Telehealth Guide for FYF