If you’re autistic or neurodivergent and are seeking to begin psychotherapy, it can be challenging to find a therapist who understands the unique needs specific to the neurodiverse community. Fortunately, as the neurodiversity movement grows, and there becomes a greater acceptance of the neurodiversity perspective among clinical professionals, finding a neurodiversity-affirming therapist is more possible than ever.
What Does it Mean to Be Neurodiversity-Affirming?
A neurodiversity-affirming therapist approaches therapeutic work with the understanding that autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome (TS), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), dyspraxia, and certain other conditions aren’t problems to be cured or solved, but individual neurotypes with unique strengths, needs, and challenges.1,2 The neurodiversity movement shifts away from the idea that brains falling outside of “typical” are “disordered.”
A neurodiversity-affirming therapist will possess a basic understanding of different types of characteristics unique to each neurotype. For example, they would have knowledge that an autistic client might have special interests or sensory needs. A therapist informed in neurodiversity would also be well-versed in areas specific to the neurodiverse community and the nuances of the experience of neurodivergent individuals.
Why Finding the Right Therapist Is so Important
In therapy, “goodness of fit” is a key element in the healing process. It’s important to work with a therapist who understands your unique experience of the world. As neurodivergent clients, it is also helpful when your therapist is knowledgeable about concerns such as sensory issues, anxiety specific to the neurodivergent experience, and autistic burnout.
How to Review a Therapist’s Profile or Website
When reviewing a therapist’s profile or website, check whether they mention experience in the areas of autism, ADHD, neurodiversity, etc. Some therapists who are neurodivergent themselves might put their neurotypes in their profile. As the neurodiversity movement grows, more therapists are becoming open about their own identities.3 Be sure to make note of any pathologizing or outdated language.
What to Ask During a First Call
After selecting a series of potential therapists, it’s important to ask questions during your first phone call or visit.
Here are some questions to ask potential therapists:
Can you tell me a little bit about your experience working with autistic/ADHD/neurodivergent clients?
How/where did you learn about autism/ADHD/neurodiversity?
Are you autistic/ADHD/neurodivergent?
What are some of the main approaches you use in therapy (e.g., psychodynamic therapy or CBT)
How long do clients generally stay with your practice?
Have you ever worked with (your specific area of concern)?
Do you offer remote sessions via phone or video?
Do you accept my insurance/offer a sliding scale fee?
What to Consider During Your First Appointment
The first few sessions are a time to get to know each other. Although this process can take a while, things to consider during the first session are: Do you feel comfortable speaking and sharing with your therapist? Do they seem curious and receptive? Do they seem to have expertise or understanding in the areas you would like to explore?
After about three or four sessions, you will probably have a good sense of whether your therapist is the right fit for you. Your therapist should also have a good sense by then if they feel like they can adequately help you progress forward. If the therapeutic relationship doesn’t feel like a match after three or four sessions, it’s OK to let your therapist know, and to seek someone different who may more effectively meet your needs.
Final Thoughts on Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapists
If you feel like you would benefit from speaking with a neurodiversity-affirming therapist, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, as acceptance of the neurodiversity movement grows, there is also a greater acceptance of the neurodiversity perspective among clinical professionals. Ultimately, when seeking a neurodiverse-affirming therapist, seek out someone who is warm and receptive to learning about you as an individual.
Leads on Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapists
At McCloud Acosta Clinical Services PLLC (MACS) we have several Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapists. Megan Pieterick, LMHCA and Jasmine Townsend, LCSWA. Check out their profiles and maybe they could be an option for you. Call 704-286-6227 to set up an appointment or ask more questions.