Anxiety in autism is an important target for psychological therapies because it is very common and because it significantly impacts upon quality of life and well-being. Growing evidence suggests that cognitive behaviour therapies and mindfulness-based therapies can help autistic individuals learn to manage feelings of anxiety but access to such therapies remains problematic. In the current pilot study, we examined whether existing online cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness-based therapy self-help tools can help reduce anxiety in autistic adults. Specifically, 35 autistic adults were asked to try either an existing online cognitive behaviour therapy (n = 16) or mindfulness-based therapy (n = 19) programme while a further 19 autistic adults served as a waitlist comparison group. A first important finding was that 23 of the 35 (66%) participants who tried the online tools completed them, suggesting that such tools are, in principle, acceptable to many autistic adults. In addition, adults in the cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness-based therapy conditions reported significant decreases in anxiety over 3 and to some extent also 6 months that were less apparent in the waitlist group of participants. On broader measures of mental health and well-being, the benefits of the online tools were less apparent. Overall, the results suggest that online self-help cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness-based therapy tools should be explored further as a means of providing cost-effective mental health support to at least those autistic individuals who can engage effectively with such online tools.
First published: 08 April 2020
Open access article available here: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/31121