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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Autism Ranking: Very strong positive evidence

Current Research

We have identified more than 40 studies of multi-component CBT programmes as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum published in peer-reviewed journals. (We have not included or evaluated studies looking at other interventions based on CBT, such as social stories or social skills groups which we have described and evaluated elsewhere.)

These studies included more than 1,500 individuals aged from pre-school to adult and included people with autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified.   The majority of these studies looked at the treatment of mental health problems in primary school children and/or adolescents. Those mental health problems included various anxiety disorders (such as social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, and non-specific anxiety disorder) as well as low mood or depression, self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sleep problems.

The vast majority of the studies reported positive results.

  • Some of the studies (such as Reaven et al, 2012) reported reduced anxiety in some participants.
  • Some of the studies  (such as Drahota et al) reported a range of improvements (such as reduced anxiety and improved daily living skills)
  • Some of the studies (such as White et al, 2013) reported increased social skills in some participants.
  • Some of the studies (such as Andrews et al, 2013) reported increased affection in primary school children.
  • Some of the studies (such as Sofronoff et al, 2007) reported decreased anger in primary school children.
  • Some of the studies (such as Russell et al, 2009) reported decreased symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Some of the studies (such as Hesselmark et al, 2014), reported improved quality of life
  • Some of the studies (such as Cortesi et al, 2012) reported improved sleep in some participants.
  • Some of the studies (such Weiss et al, 2015) reported decreased parental stress in some participants.

Only two studies (Santomauro et al, 2016; and Storch et al, 2015 b) reported mixed or limited results.

Updated
31 Oct 2017
Last Review
01 Mar 2017
Next Review
01 Mar 2020