Autism Spectrum Disorders & How Psychotherapy Can Help
I have long considered it a grave disservice to the population of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, that the message they are frequently is sent is that they should try to be less like themselves and more like the neurotypical (NT) population. Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be so-called “normal;” fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying hard to “fit in,” socially and otherwise. Though sometimes, it may never cross their minds to do try to do such a thing as "fit in," and either way, they are far too frequently the recipients of mistreatment and misunderstanding. They are often bullied or teased. They are often stressed and distressed. For these and many other different reasons, people on the spectrum experience very high levels of stress. Sometimes the ability to cope is just simply overtaxed and life is too much. Too loud, too bright, too big, too difficult, too much. People with ASD also often experience symptoms of other mental health difficulties including depression, mood disorders, anxiety and obsessive thinking. Additionally, research shows a high occurrence of depression, mood, and anxiety disorders in families of those with autism spectrum disorders.
Psychotherapy, particularly where expressive and movement based modes of treatment are used, can help offer a safe space for kids, teens and adults on the spectrum to be able to express themselves more readily, to be able to learn more effective coping skills to manage stress, as well as the symptoms of other mental health issues. Therapy offers a safe space where a person can feel fully accepted for who they are, with all their unique abilities, quirks, gifts and talents and where their challenges can be understood in a compassionate, caring way. During therapy, we may work on communication and social skills, stress relief, relaxation, self-expression, or ways to cope with the stresses of daily life, depending on the person and his or her needs and development. We may work on ways to help each person find the most helpful and constructive path forward toward the future, based on the goals each person sees and wants for themselves. I use art, writing, journaling, yoga, movement and mindfulness techniques to help encourage clients of all ages and functioning abilities to express themselves, become more self-aware, increase effective communication, and learn to cope with life and the stress that comes along with being in this world.
My training and my personal bias is that of an asset value approach. I believe that everyone has gifts, abilities and talents to offer the world, and that these are more important and significant than perceived deficits. I believe that we are each already perfect and whole as we are. Using this basic belief as part of the therapy process aids my clients in finding distinctive, healthy ways of expressing themselves and hopefully, if the need is there, to be better able to accept themselves as well.
I have the unique qualification of having worked for nearly two decades with individuals diagnosed with various forms of autism, from ages 5 to 50, with abilities all over the spectrum, including those who are dually diagnosed. Meaning that I’ve worked with individuals with autism, Asperger’s or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (now collectively known as ASD) who are also diagnosed with other mental health disorders. Some of those other diagnoses include Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bi-polar disorder, depression, mood disorders, Tourette’s disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality disorders and those with significant behavioral challenges. I have also worked with those on the spectrum who have been dually diagnosed with learning and intellectual disabilities, including those with verbal and non-verbal means of expression.
Autism, ASD, Asperger's or PDD, is only one aspect of a whole person. Psychotherapy can help you, or your child, move toward feeling more whole.
Call 804-592-6311 to schedule a consultation or fill out the contact form below.