Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for autism and anxiety

Some evidence – there is enough evidence to indicate that this can be a helpful treatment option.

Anxiety is a common feeling among autistic people and about 50% of autistic people will experience anxiety that has a significant impact on their everyday lives.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be useful to treat anxiety among children and young people who are not autistic and this will probably be the first type of support your professional suggests. CBT is a talking therapy which aims to help you see how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour. CBT aims to help you develop skills to cope with difficulties by changing the way you think about them. Your CBT professional will also support you to practice doing things that make you anxious so that you become more confident.

Traditional CBT might be more difficult for autistic people because it relies on being able to identify and talk about feelings and being able to think in an abstract way. If you are offered CBT, this should be adapted to your needs as an autistic person.

You could be offered group CBT with other autistic young people who are also experiencing anxiety, or you could be offered individual CBT if you would find group therapy difficult (or if it isn’t available).

Adapted CBT could include:

  • extra support to help you recognise emotions
  • written information and worksheets
  • extra help with certain activities
  • involving your parents or carers to support you
  • regular breaks to help you pay attention
  • involving your interests in the therapy

Support outlined on these webpages may not be available in every local area. It’s important that you discuss with your GP or mental health professional the support options available to you. You can also search for services near you on our Youth Wellbeing Directory and find out more about referral processes here.

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We’d also like to set optional analytics to help us improve it. We won’t set optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We’d like to set non-essential cookies, such as Google Analytics, to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone. For more information on how these cookies work, please see our Cookies page. If you are 16 or under, please ask a parent or carer for consent before accepting.