Therapy for Autistic Adults
Note: The term formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome is now lumped in with Autism. If you still identify as someone with Aspergers/an Aspie that’s cool too! Those previously diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome have not “lost” their diagnosis.
Tony Atwood describes that “a lack of social understanding, limited ability to have a reciprocal conversation and an intense interest in a particular subject are the core features of this syndrome…. Someone who perceives and thinks about the world differently to other people.”
Often people focus on the weaknesses of Autistic folks, but we all have weaknesses and strengths. Autistic people have different types of minds that allow them to view the world with a unique perspective!
For those who are Autistic or are thinking you might be….
You have a different way of thinking.
Our social environment is adjusted for neurotypical individuals. Growing up at some point you started to realize you were different. Maybe you enjoyed spending time with adults more than your peers, and even considered yourself one of the adults. Or perhaps other kids weren’t safe because you could never tell their true intentions, and sometimes they would tease you without you knowing it. Having to work hard to understand social and emotional cues has left you with a general feeling of anxiety most of the time when you’re not alone.
You are direct, speak your mind, and value your honesty.
You don’t hold anything back, but have learned that pure honesty can be harmful or detrimental. Your allegiance to truth can impact the feelings of others. Maybe you don’t tend to realize the social mistakes you’ve made, or alternatively you have a pervasive fear of making those mistakes. Sometimes these faux pas get you into trouble at work, school, or in relationships with your family or friends.
But understanding emotions is like learning a foreign language.
Grasping the complexities of emotions in others is difficult for you. Whether it’s misreading a facial expression or not picking up on someone’s confusion or boredom, putting yourself in another’s shoes doesn’t come easily for you. This challenge also starts from within- you are not able to recognize or articulate the specific emotions you yourself have.
When you do feel intense emotions it’s akin to an on/off switch. You can go from 0 to 100 within seconds with no warning signs! The way that you see things is to intellectually analyze what an emotion may be and where it may have come from. However, that still doesn’t prevent the emotion from coming back in full force.
Others have expressed concern about your degree of love and affection.
Perhaps you’ve gotten into some awkward situations where you misinterpreted your own feelings of affection for someone being interested in you. Or maybe your partner is concerned about the way you do (or don’t) express your love. They don’t get that more practical acts are your way of showing that you care about maintaining the relationship. You do care about others and feel very real emotions such as love, but just in a different way.
The way you’ve coped isn’t serving you anymore.
One common way to cope is being overly critical of your actions and abilities. You can become your own worst enemy by avoiding any situations that would prove to be uncomfortable. Another way is escaping into an imaginative world- which has been awesome. However, maybe it’s gotten to the point that you are delving into this fantasy more and more with no time limits.
Additionally, some Autistic folks cope by carefully observing and absorbing the personalities of others who are socially successful (aka masking). This way may appear successful, but when you think about it you don’t really know who you are anymore.
The most effective way you’ve coped is solitude- often immersing yourself with your passion. However, being alone all the time isn’t the way you’d like to live the rest of your life, and you hope to find a way to find acceptance with others.
The good news: you can build on your strengths as an Autistic.
There are many qualities you already possess that have gotten you through life so far. The ways of adjusting and coping with being an autistic adult you’ve developed already are not wrong. You are not defective, stupid, or insane. Maybe you indeed have a superior intellect, learning ability, or expertise with a topic. It’s possible that you are a loyal friend, have a strong sense of social justice, and/or are extremely creative. Taking what strengths you already have and building on your innate wisdom is an efficient way to grow.
Therapy can fit your way of understanding.
Often therapists will work from a neurotypical perspective. Maybe your previous therapist expected you to be able to keep up with abstract concepts, be a social aficionado, or didn’t provide enough structure in session for you. Not all therapists are like that! Some are very skilled and have life experience with neurodiverse individuals. Understanding sensory sensitivity is a key way this can look different in a therapy office. One-on-one talk therapy can be less overwhelming than a group setting for some Autistics. This brings us to how counseling can help you.
How counseling can help:
- Understand previous life events, and become more aware of how your words and actions affect others by learning about theory of mind.
- Detangle from previous coping mechanisms of masking and re-discover who you are when you can un-mask as well as brainstorm safe spaces to be you.
- Achieve a realistic appreciation of who you are and what your strengths, abilities, and admirable traits are to reduce self-doubt and self-criticism.
- Develop mindful awareness of your own body’s cues that indicate escalating emotion by practicing this awareness in session.
- Discover your emotional toolbox to cope with overwhelming situations and maintain your energy resources over time.
- Most importantly, experience a secure and stable relationship with your therapist who doesn’t see your Autism as a problem.
Therapy for Autistic Adults in Austin, Texas
My approach to counseling is relational, empathetic, and trauma-informed (meaning we take it at your own pace). I focus on both thoughts and feelings involved (not too touchy feely) in your process. A bit part of my work is focusing on the here-and-now and taking a non-judgmental stance.
Ready to start? I’m here to help you.
Email me or call at 512-766-4786 to set up your free 30-minute in-person consultation.