*This blog post uses identity-first language, which is preferred by many Autistic people.
Finding a Counselor
It can be difficult to find a counselor who not only understands Autism but can also engage in perspective-taking to understand the individual experience of Autism. Autism, as Autistics and those who are passionate about neurodiversity know, is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis.
There are many individual differences, contexts, and various factors that influence how one experiences Autism. This, combined with society’s emphasis on making Autistics “look” neurotypical and lack of awareness and knowledge can make Autistics hesitant or even avoidant of counseling. Yet, counseling can be beneficial with the right therapist and therapy can be successful.
Counseling and therapy in a broader sense are similar and essentially equivalent terms for talk and play therapy. I am writing today to share some benefits of therapy for Autistic people.
Benefits of counseling for Autistic People:
- Once a relationship of trust has been established, and even prior to the first appointment, the counselor is a trustworthy person who will listen; hold secrets for you and respect your privacy (within legal limits that would be described during the first session); validate your experiences, emotions, and thoughts; and provide an opportunity for uncensored self-expression.
- A therapist knows how to challenge you to improve your life. Yes, it’s true! You set the goals, you get the support, you not only feel better afterward but you make progress toward improving mood, daily functioning, and self-expression. These things, and others, help contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
- Your counselor can help you reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Your counselor will also help you learn to manage these while also balancing sensory and overstimulation. If you’d like, you can also work on improving relationships with others and discovering ways to make connections with other advocates of neurodiversity.
- Therapy helps people establish a routine that includes self-care. This can be balanced with work and life. There are opportunities to learn new coping skills and assertive communication skills.
- Counseling contributes to a decrease in symptoms and behaviors that may hold you back from being the best you that you can be.
- You don’t have to talk! You can communicate via writing, drawing, non-verbal signals… There is more than one way to share information.
Your therapist should never tell you what to do, push you to be someone you’re not, or make you feel forced to fit into neurotypical societal expectations. If your counselor says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, stressed, or confused you should feel comfortable addressing this in the session.
Your therapist relies on your feedback on how things are going and how you are feeling in session. It is also ok to ask what approach your therapist aligns with. There are many. These range from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to mindfulness and coping skills to Play Therapy. It’s ok to want to learn more about the approach your counselor is using.
Counseling is appropriate for all ages. Play therapy and talk therapy fuel the teaching of skills and these approaches assist with communication, knowledge, and self-expression no matter what age you are!