Agency News | New Program to bring Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children with Autism and Anxiety
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New Program to bring Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Children with Autism and Anxiety Bookmark

Co-occurring anxiety disorders affect 40 to 50% of children with autism spectrum disorder, contributing to substantial distress and impairment. Personalized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective for this underserved group, but it is not readily available currently, and the core treatment mechanisms are not well understood.

The Harris Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill is proud to announce an awarded grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to implement a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention and clinician training protocol called CAPTA (Community-based Anxiety Program Tailored for Autism).

The program will work to treat youth with anxiety and autism and will be employed in community mental health settings. Researchers will then evaluate clients’ preliminary response to the treatment. Drs. Eric Storch and Andrew Guzick are leading the project at Baylor College of Medicine while Dr. Rinita Roberts, Dr. Sylvia Muzquiz, and Tiffanie Williams-Brooks are project champions at The Harris Center.

The project will include three phases. To start, researchers will conduct a needs assessment with parents of youth with autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring anxiety, community mental health clinicians, and community mental health clinic leaders. They will also consult with an Advisory Board of experts in cognitive behavioral therapy for co-occurring anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorder and individuals with lived experience. This feedback from stakeholders and experts will directly inform adaptations to CAPTA.

The next stage will be a small open trial comprised of 10 individuals, with the goal of obtaining real-world experience and refining the treatment and measurement protocols. A pilot randomized controlled trial with 60 participants will follow, in which CAPTA will be compared to usual care in two different community-based mental health centers. Researchers will examine CAPTA’s preliminary effectiveness to improve anxiety symptom severity and impairment and will also explore theoretically oriented treatment mechanisms. Lastly, researchers will assess implementation outcomes such as fidelity, feasibility, acceptability and contextual factors influencing CAPTA implementation and sustainment.

In the future, researchers plan to progress to a larger hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial to further scale the program.

CAPTA Project Leaders at The Harris Center

Rinita Roberts, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist VI

Sylvia Muzquiz-Drummond, M.D., Vice President of Mental Health Medical Services

Tiffanie Williams-Brooks, Director of Child and Adolescent Services


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