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Treating anxiety in autistic adults: Study protocol for the Personalised Anxiety Treatment-Autism (PAT-A©) pilot randomised controlled feasibility trial

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jeremy Parr, Dr Samuel Brice, Dr Patrick Welsh, Dr Barry Ingham, Professor Ann Le Couteur, Gemma Evans, Alex Monaco, Professor Mark FreestonORCiD, Professor Jacqueline Rodgers



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Author(s). Background: Anxiety is common in autistic adults and significantly limits everyday opportunities and quality of life. Evidence-based psychological therapies offered by mental health services often fail to meet the needs of autistic adults. The development of appropriate treatments for mental health conditions and, in particular, anxiety has been identified as a key priority by the autism community. The Personalised Anxiety Treatment–Autism (PAT-A©) trial aims to address this need by investigating the feasibility and acceptability of delivering an individualised psychological treatment for anxiety experienced by autistic adults. Methods/design: This is a pilot randomised controlled feasibility trial. Up to 40 autistic adults with clinically diagnosed anxiety will be randomised into one of two groups (either the PAT-A© intervention or Current Clinical Services Plus two emotional literacy skills sessions). Before randomisation, participants will receive a detailed clinical assessment to inform formulation and guide anxiety treatment. As part of the baseline assessment participants will also identify two personally important ‘target situations’ that cause significant anxiety and impact upon their daily life. Based upon the formulation and identified target situations, participants randomised to the PAT-A© intervention will receive up to 12 individualised, one-to-one therapy sessions. Initial emotional literacy training sessions will be followed by a bespoke, modular, needs-based treatment approach utilising one or more of the following approaches: Mindfulness, Coping with Uncertainty in Everyday Situations (CUES), social anxiety and graded exposure within Virtual Reality Environments. Participants in the control arm will receive two psychoeducational sessions focussing on understanding and describing emotions and be signposted to healthcare provision as required. Data will be collected through quantitative and qualitative methods. Discussion: This feasibility pilot trial serves as the first stage in the development and evaluation of a manualised personalised, evidence-based psychological therapy treatment for anxiety in autistic adults. Study outcomes will be used to inform an application for a fully powered multi-site intervention trial of adults and young people.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Parr JR, Brice S, Welsh P, Ingham B, Le Couteur A, Evans G, Monaco A, Freeston M, Rodgers J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Trials

Year: 2020

Volume: 21

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 14/03/2020

Acceptance date: 11/02/2020

Date deposited: 02/04/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1745-6215

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd


DOI: 10.1186/s13063-020-4161-2

PubMed id: 32171316


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