A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety in Youth with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2015 Aug;46(4):533-47. doi: 10.1007/s10578-014-0494-y.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been developed and modified to treat anxiety symptoms in youth with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) but has yielded varying findings. The present report is a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the efficacy of CBT for anxiety among youth with ASD. A systematic search identified 14 studies involving 511 youth with high-functioning ASD. A random effects meta-analysis yielded a statistically significant pooled treatment effect size (g) estimate for CBT (g = -0.71, p < .001) with significant heterogeneity [Q (13) = 102.27, p < .001]. Removal of a study outlier yielded a statistically significant pooled treatment effect size, (g = -0.47, p < .001). Anxiety informant and treatment modality were not statistically significant moderators of treatment response. Findings suggest that CBT demonstrates robust efficacy in reducing anxiety symptoms in youth with high-functioning ASD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Family Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Male
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome