Psychotherapy and Counseling with People on the Spectrum & How I Can Help
I have long considered it a grave disservice to the population of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, that the message they are often is sent is that they should try to be less like themselves and more like the neurotypical population. Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be “normal”, fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying so hard to “fit in”, socially and otherwise. Sometimes, it may never cross their minds to do try to do such a thing and, either way, frequently, they are recipients of mistreatment and misunderstanding. They are often bullied or teased. They are often stressed and distressed. All too frequently, and for many different reasons, people on the spectrum experience high levels of stress, as well as symptoms of other mental health difficulties including depression, mood disorders, anxiety, obsessive thinking. Research also shows that there is a high occurrence of depression, mood, and anxiety disorders in families of those with autism spectrum disorders.
Psychotherapy can help by offering 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 symptoms of other mental health issues that may be unique to you or your child. Therapy can be a place 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 way. During therapy, we may work on communication 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. I use art, writing, journaling and movement, combined with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to help encourage clients of all ages and functioning ability to express themselves, become more self-aware, communicate better, and learn to cope with stress and manage anxiety or distressing thought processes.
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 any perceived deficits. 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 accept themselves as well. The real catalyst for change in psychotherapy is the relationship between client and therapist.
I have the unique qualification of having worked over the past 17 years with individuals diagnosed with various forms of autism, from ages 5 to 50, with abilities all over the spectrum, including individuals who are dually diagnosed. Meaning that I’ve worked with individuals diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, 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, Anxiety disorders, Schizoaffective disorder, Schizophrenia, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Personality and Behavioral Disorders. I have also worked with those on the spectrum dually diagnosed with learning and intellectual disabilities, as well as those with verbal and non-verbal means of expression.
A diagnosis is a label based on certain criteria defined by a small group of people and listed in a very large, thick book. It does not define a whole person. My goal as a therapist is to help you as my client to feel more comfortable in your world, your body, with your own thoughts and feelings and to be able to thrive. Therapy can help you, or your child, move toward feeling more whole.