Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help people to manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave.
CBT is designed to help people notice and understand how their thoughts, behaviours and emotions affect each other. It is also designed to help them learn new ways of thinking about and responding to distressing situations.
The therapist breaks down problems into feelings, thoughts and actions to work out which are unhelpful or unrealistic. The therapist then teaches the client how to replace those feelings, thoughts and actions with more helpful and realistic ones.
There are numerous interventions for autistic people which are based on, or which incorporate, the principles of CBT.
These include multi-component CBT programmes such as Behavioral Interventions for Anxiety in Children with Autism; Exploring Feelings; and Facing Your Fears.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE 2013) reported that there is evidence for the effectiveness of CBT programmes for the treatment of coexisting anxiety in autistic children, provided those programmes are modified to meet their specific needs.
It also reported that there is insufficient evidence to determine if CBT is an effective treatment for other coexisting mental health disorders (such as depression) in autistic children. However it recommended that CBT could be used for the treatment of those disorders in autistic children, as this is in line with existing NICE guidance for those disorders.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2012) reported that the evidence for CBT in autistic adults is very limited. However it recommended that CBT might be appropriate as a treatment for anxiety and depression in many autistic adults , as this is in line with existing NICE guidance for those disorders, provided those programmes are modified to meet their specific needs.
We agree with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence that CBT programmes might be appropriate for the treatment of anxiety and depression in autistic people provided that the therapists providing CBT are appropriately trained, experienced and accredited. They should also follow established best practice which includes
There is a need for further research which
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions