Therapy for Autistic Adults & Teens
If you're struggling as an autistic person, there is relief in sight. Depression, burnout, masking, social anxiety - these are all the effects of living in a world built for neurotypical people. Working with a fellow autistic human (me), your healing path will involve feeling deeply seen, rooting out internalized ableism, reconnecting with yourself, and learning how to regulate in an overwhelming world.
Common Experiences for Autistic People
When we feel unseen by those most important to us - family, peers, society - we can lose trust in ourselves. We might come to believe that we are fundamentally flawed. We start to feel hopeless, alone, unable to feel pleasure, and disconnected from the world around us.
Hiding who we are naturally follows from feeling like we do not belong - and belonging is a basic human need. Without it, we may start to experience social anxiety, emotional numbing, depersonalization, and more. Masking can be a painful experience as we lose access to the experience of being alive.
Overwhelm & Burnout
Navigating a world built for neurotypical people often leads to burnout at some point in an autistic person's life. Overwhelming sensory information, a boatload of modern-day high pressure tasks, the constant energy-drip of masking. It can become just way too much.
Executive Functioning Differences
Autistic people often have different executive function profiles from allistic (non-autistic) people: driven more by passion than priority. This capacity can be a source of self-regulation, and in a modern world there are often demands that are difficult or impossible to meet.
Neurodiversity Affirming Therapy
Autistic Adults & Teens
Beginning our work together
You may be wondering, what does neurodiversity affirming therapy for autistic people look like? First and foremost, it means creating a safe-enough space for you to explore your inner and outer world without fear of judgement or criticism. This space is built of many parts: Feeling truly seen and heard by a fellow autistic human. Validating your struggles, whether they're hidden behind a mask of high-achievement or not. Striking the right balance between feeling led and leading the sessions. Celebrating your strengths (we all have strengths, even if we forget sometimes) and "wins" together. And a lot more.
Throughout the process of building trust (and this process never ends), we'll explore what your goals are for therapy. These will always come from a neurodiversity affirming approach - that is, none of these goals will be to 'fix' you. These goals will come from your own experience of suffering and how you are wanting to suffer less and feel more fulfilled. I may have some ideas to offer you if you'd like, and the final say will always come from you.
Uprooting Internalized Ableism & Masking
Working towards your goals looks different for everyone, and, there are often some common elements. For example, internalized ableism is often one of the roots of suffering for autistic people: Those subtle or not-so-subtle messages about how you're not communicating 'right,' doing your (home/)work 'right', or feeling the 'right' thing, often translate into feeling that there's something wrong with you. When we think we are fundamentally flawed, we can develop depression (I'm unworthy), burnout (often from masking as we seek to belong), social anxiety (because of course), and lose a sense of 'who we are.' Neurodiversity-Affirming therapy helps you to externalize this internalized ableism - without blame - placing it back onto the systems and people who have hurt and invalidated you. Then, we support you in healing the wounds that remain, and finding your authentic self underneath the mask. These two together allow you to release the self-blame and criticism for being 'wrong,' 'different', or 'broken' which allows you to heal from mental health difficulties, build self-compassion, and even learn to love yourself.
Calming Sensory Overwhelm
Another common root of suffering for autistic people is sensory overwhelm. In a world built for neurotypical people, the very stuff of modern daily living - car horns, bright lights, crowded social spaces - can be overwhelming, which over time can lead us to burnout. On top of this, autistic people, especially high-masking folxs, are often gas-lit for their sensory needs. Using a neurodiversity affirming approach, I first and foremost validate this overwhelm. Yes, it's real! Then, through guided exploration, we learn how you can best support yourself in reducing the daily overwhelm, regulating your nervous system, and recovering from burnout.
Building Executive Function Tools
You may also have an executive functioning profile that's different from neurotypical people. (Learn more about executive functioning here). Oftentimes, autistic people are driven more by passion than by priority, and this can lead neurotypical parents/educators/etc. feeling confused or judgmental about how you operate. With a neurodiversity affirming perspective, what you find important and not important is validated. (In my experience, us autistic people can often see through the bullshit that society pretends is normal and/or "important".) I will never ask you to work an executive function you don't want to work on. As an executive functioning coach, and as someone who's executive function profile doesn't mesh well with society's expectations, one of my gifts is seeing and validating your struggles. Differences in executive functioning can be so painful sometimes, and lead us to feel shame or frozenness (which then makes executive functioning even harder!). If this is your struggle, know that we can work together to build the tools you want to live your life, while simultaneously helping you to accept your differences so that you can release that internalized ableism.
Reaching out for support can be scary. After feeling unseen and misunderstood for so long, you might be afraid that you'll feel the same way when doing therapy with me. I get this fear, I have worked as a client with many therapists that I did not feel seen by. And, therapy with me is different. Being autistic myself, I get what it's like under the surface of the mask, how hard it can be to do the daily stuff, how unseen or burnt out you may feel. Try taking a risk, you may be surprised.
Last, but not least...
Autism and Women/Girls
Autism looks different in women and girls than it does in men and boys... because the DSM-5 criteria for autism was based on white middle-class boys and men. Through personal and clinical experience, I have an intimate understanding of how autism presents in women and girls. I can support you in exploring if you are autistic and/or if you want to go for formal diagnosis. We'll explore your unique gifts and challenges, help you to unmask, and build a life that works for you.
Autism and LGBTQIA+ Folx
As a queer and poly person myself, therapy with me is always queer- and gender-affirming, and supportive of all relationship styles. We can explore your sexual or gender identity together. Or maybe you're feeling settled in your LGBTQIA+ identity and simply need someone who understands the impacts of discrimination on you and your mental health. Either way, you can expect to find a safe, knowledgeable, and welcoming space when we work together.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society