Individual Counseling for Autistics
We serve Autistic adults and teens, formally diagnosed or self-identified.
We specialize in supporting individuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, Autistic burnout, and complex PTSD. We also offer counseling to individuals who have recently recognized they are Autistic and are looking for guidance to better understand and process what this means in their life.
For some, anxiety is a constant. It may be experienced as a never-ending voice in their mind and perhaps a hard, tightness in the body or panic in the chest. While there may be moments in which it softens back, often when alone or immersed in a favorite activity, it may feel as if it is always there. Recognizing spaces for relief and making small adjustments in one’s life may lead to even more of a softening back, and counseling may offer opportunity for healing and shifts within you so that it does not have such an extreme or destructive role in your life.
Many Autistics feel deeply. They have heightened awareness of the hardships in their life and in the world (justice sensitivity) and they struggle to find hope. They may have had to numb themselves in some way so that the pain may lessen. Counseling will not change the world in which we live, but it may help you change your experience of it, for the best.
Trauma – Complex PTSD
Rarely having a sense of belonging and often being denied access because of differences often results in repeated trauma throughout an Autistic’s life. Additionally, many have experienced bullying at school or work or have grown up in an environment in which it was not safe to be their authentic self. Many carry with them tremendous shame about who they are, having internalized the critical voices of those around them. When humans experience very hard times, their body and brain respond instinctively because each of us is born with the innate drive for survival. Our brains also wisely develop the capacity to protect us from future danger. However, our brains and bodies are so good at scanning our environment for danger that they often continue to protect us- even when the danger has passed. We cannot change what happened in the past, but we can change how the past impacts your present life.
Autistic Burnout, commonly experienced by those who are high-maskers, is a result of pushing oneself too hard and for too long to the point of complete exhaustion, physically, mentally and emotionally. It is a result of not meeting your body’s needs, again, for too long. People experiencing this will notice changes, such as they don’t have the energy to engage in their special interests anymore and they may start to notice that things that used to be able to do are now impossible, such as writing an email or completing a household task. This is different than depression. While some may experience depression as well, Autistic Burnout is experienced differently and the treatment is different. (Health professionals who are not aware of Autistic Burnout will confuse this for depression.) Healing will look different for everyone, but ultimately it usually means decreasing the demands in your life, finding increased alone time, slowly (when energy is increased) re-engaging in passions, and soothing your body through your sensory systems. This is for some easier said than done, but learning about what is happening and why and finding tangible changes that can be made in one’s life may offer healing and recharge.
Processing a Recent Adult Autism Diagnosis or Identification
No matter how someone comes to identify as autistic, they most likely have a lot of questions and may be experiencing a lot of conflicting emotions. They may have been on a long journey that led to this point. They might find themselves rehashing moments in their life, wondering how nobody noticed this when they were a child. They might wonder how so many professionals could have dismissed them when they said I think I might be autistic. On the other hand, they might be getting answers to questions they have had their entire life and all of a sudden, things are making so much more sense. Understanding and processing what this means can help one move from feeling confused and maybe resistant to feeling empowered to choose how they want to be in the world. For many adults, identifying as Autistic is the beginning of a new journey leading to a more authentic, meaningful and confident life.
PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance, Persistent Drive for Autonomy, etc.)
PDA is a profile of Autism.
For PDA’ers, demands have a cumulative impact on their nervous system and are experienced increasingly as a threat to their safety. This is why a PDA’er might do “fine” earlier in life, but as responsibilities and demands increase (school, social rules, college, job, relationship, kids!), they become increasingly overwhelmed and are no longer able to navigate the daily demands and expectations of their life. Schedules, which for many Autistics are helpful, are just more demands and don’t help- at all.
It can be confusing and feel chaotic when we can’t do something and have no idea why. As humans, we want to understand. When we don’t understand what is happening and we don’t have an explanation, we often come to our own conclusions, such as “I must be lazy or I am not trying hard enough.” Understanding the real reason demands are so hard (or impossible) to meet, can offer some relief. We can help you cultivate greater awareness of how your brain and body experience demands and support you as you design a life that is more congruent to your nervous system and offers you the greatest autonomy possible.
For more about PDA watch this video: Understanding the PDA Brain & Demand Pressure (with Kristy Forbes)
Living Authentically Autistic
Once one recognizes they are Autistic, many start to wonder what that means about how they might be able to live more authentically. The “I’m Autistic” insight can become a roadmap to understanding one’s natural way of communicating, socializing and finding joy. It helps one understand why some things might be really tough, if not impossible, and can give us insight into how to most effectively respond to these challenges. This shift and the tangible steps taken to change one’s way of being in the world are exciting and healing in ways many do not expect. Little insights and subtle modifications in how one expresses or engages in life can have a massive impact on one’s experience and well-being. We can help you explore what being Autistic means to you and how those insights can be integrated into your life to cultivate greater ease, joy, and connection.
“And it turns out that maybe you function exactly as you ought to function, and that you just live in a society that isn’t yet sufficiently enlightened to effectively accommodate and integrate people who function like you. And that maybe the troubles in your life have not been the result of any inherent wrongness in you. And that your true potential is unknown and is yours to explore. And that maybe you are, in fact, a thing of beauty.”
– Nick Walker, “Throwing Away the Master’s Tools: Liberating Ourselves from the Pathology Paradigm”