Neurotypical Psychotherapists and Neurodivergent Clients

I’m often asked if I have any words of advice for psychotherapists and other professionals, on working with clients who are autistic and/or otherwise neurodivergent.

Why, yes. Yes I do. And I’ve been meaning for some time to type up some of those words of advice and make them publicly available.

The push that I needed finally came from Sarah Coenen and Helen Cha-Choe, two grad students pursuing their M.A. degrees in Counseling Psychotherapy at California Institute of Integral Studies (my own alma mater, where I currently teach in the undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies program from time to time). Ms. Coenen and Ms. Cha-Choe are collaborating on an excellent research project, for a Research Methods course taught by my dear friend and colleague Eri Çela.

In this project, Ms. Coenen and Ms. Cha-Choe are exploring the attitudes and perspectives of clinicians who work with autistic clients, and the impact those attitudes and perspectives have on the clients and on the quality of the clinicians’ work. I was delighted to learn that Ms. Coenen and Ms. Cha-Choe are grounding this project in the neurodiversity paradigm – that is, they’re approaching this as a diversity issue, recognizing that treating autistic clients as deficient or “lesser” is a manifestation of prejudice and lack of cultural competency, and recognizing that the pathology paradigm creates condescending and dismissive attitudes which manifest as microaggressions toward autistic clients.


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