Psychosocial Interventions Targeting Social Functioning in Adults on the Autism Spectrum: a Literature Review

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Jan 31;21(1):5. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-0989-0.


Purpose of review: There is a perceived shortage of evidence-based treatment programs for adults on the autism spectrum. This article reviews the recent research literature on psychosocial/behavioral interventions targeting social functioning in autistic adults without intellectual disability.

Recent findings: We identified only 41 peer-reviewed studies published from 1980 to 2017 that tested intervention programs focused on one or more of the behavioral components of social functioning (i.e., social motivation, social anxiety, social cognition, and social skills) in more than one adult with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The studies demonstrated substantial variability in treatment objectives, intervention procedures, assessment methods, and methodologic quality. The results indicate a strong need for additional research to develop and rigorously test interventions for autistic adults that target the many behavioral components of social functioning and that include procedures to promote generalization of knowledge and skills to community settings.

Keywords: Adult; Autism; Interventions; Review; Social behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Skills