A cognitive-behavioral intervention for emotion regulation in adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2013 Jul 23:14:231. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-14-231.


Background: Adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulties in social communication; thus, these individuals have trouble understanding the mental states of others. Recent research also suggests that adults with ASD are unable to understand their own mental states, which could lead to difficulties in emotion-regulation. Some studies have reported the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in improving emotion-regulation among children with ASD. The current study will investigate the efficacy of group-based CBT for adults with ASD.

Methods/design: The study is a randomized, waitlist controlled, single-blinded trial. The participants will be 60 adults with ASD; 30 will be assigned to a CBT group and 30 to a waitlist control group. Primary outcome measures are the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale, the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations, the Motion Picture Mind-Reading task, and an ASD questionnaire. The secondary outcome measures are the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, the World Health Organization Quality of Life Scale 26-item version, the Global Assessment of Functioning, State-trait Anxiety Inventory, Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory, and Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. All will be administered during the pre- and post-intervention, and 12 week follow-up periods. The CBT group will receive group therapy over an 8 week period (one session per week) with each session lasting approximately 100 minutes. Group therapy will consist of four or five adults with ASD and two psychologists. We will be using visual materials for this program, mainly the Cognitive Affective Training kit.

Discussion: This trial will hopefully indicate the efficacy of group-based CBT for adults with high- functioning ASD.

Trial registration: This trial was registered in The University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry No. UMIN000006236.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Awareness
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • Research Design*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult