Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Celeste Jones, PsyD

Second Advisor

Glena Andrews, PhD

Third Advisor

Kathleen Gathecoal, PhD


Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience impairment in social cognition, which contributes to a variety of challenges for individuals with ASD, including elevated risks of loneliness, depression and anxiety. For this reason, various interventions have been developed to improve social ability in ASD populations. However, many existing interventions lack strong research support, or are inaccessible to many individuals with ASD due to high financial cost. Therefore, a need exists for affordable, effective psychosocial interventions for ASD that are widely accessible. One potential intervention is improvisational theater training (improv). Improv training for youth and young adults with ASD is already provided at multiple theaters across the US, and the current study collected information on one such program, measuring change in participant ratings of social ability, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and growth mindset as a result of participation. Participants reported a significant reduction in their perceptions of nervousness and being left out after completing the improv theater training, suggesting that improv theater decreases nervousness and feelings of exclusion among individuals with ASD. Participants also reported a significant increase in their perception of lacking companionship, suggesting that improv theater increases participant desire for companionship among individuals with ASD. Reliable Change Index analysis suggests that younger participants, male participants, and participants with greater social impairment were more likely to evidence reliable change as a result of improv theater training. Finally, positive correlations were found between social impairment and ratings of depression and loneliness and negative correlations were found between growth mindset and ratings of depression and loneliness. These findings provide preliminary evidence that suggests improvisational theater may be an effective intervention for reducing anxiety and nervousness among individuals with ASD.