Neurodiversity Affirmative Therapy is fundamentally about being inclusive. I see neurologically-based conditions like autism and attention deficits as a natural part of human neurology. Using the term neurodiversity limits stigma and the view that something is “wrong” that needs to be “fixed.”
In truth, we all have different ways of processing information. These cognitive differences make us unique. Every brain works differently. Everyone has their own unique experience of the world.
I support the neurodiverse community and their families. I educate and share information whenever possible. I believe that challenging exclusionary views and valuing diversity is important. Part of this is explaining ableist language and promoting inclusive alternatives. I intent to be part of transforming social norms. I promote changes in how we view thinking and behavior. I crave a shift to accepting and being genuinely curious about each other. I am working to help us reach a place where people listen more so that we better understand each other. With effort, exclusionary social norms will begin to dissolve and be replaced by norms which will be much more accepting of each person as a unique and valued individual.
No external framework exists of who you should be. You get to decide what works for you. We should celebrate neurological differences. Different ways of thinking and seeing the world add perspective and make life more interesting. Your unique qualities and skills come with unique differences. In our sessions, you will be in a safe environment to explore, learn and decide.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a relatively new term that refers to the variation in human brain function and psychology. The term describes a range of neurological differences, including dyslexia, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, and more. It is no different than any other kind of diversity. Neurodiversity is a naturally occurring neurological difference. It adds to society just like all other kinds of diversity. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term used to describe neurobiological conditions. It includes the beneficial parts of neurodiversity and highlights special abilities, perspectives, and the value of humanity.
Neurodiversity advocates believe these conditions should be accepted and respected as part of the human experience rather than pathologized or treated as disabilities. They argue that we should celebrate neurological differences as a source of diversity and innovation. There is growing evidence that neurodiverse affirming approaches can lead to better outcomes in many fields, including business, education, and creativity.
What are the benefits of neurodiversity?
Everyone's brain is different and has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Honoring neurodiversity is about recognizing unique strengths and skills.
Most people think of disability as a curse, but people with disabilities often have unique gifts and abilities. That is why honoring and affirming neurodiversity is so important. Neurodiversity includes conditions like autism, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and bipolar disorder. These conditions can lead to different thinking styles and strengths.
For example, some autistic people are very good at systemizing information and spotting patterns. They may be able to see things that other people miss. People with ADHD may be very creative and have a lot of energy. They may be able to come up with new ideas quickly. Dyslexia can lead to powerful imagination and incredible artistic skills. And people with bipolar disorder may have intense emotions and deep insights.
Recognizing these strengths is crucial because it helps us understand and appreciate the diversity of the human race. Proponents of neurodiversity believe we should include this perspective in all aspects of society, from education to employment. Despite the benefits of neurodiversity, there are still many who resist the idea of celebrating neurodiversity.
How can I support neurodiverse individuals?
There are many ways to support neurodiverse individuals. Some significant ways to help include advocating for more inclusive education and workplaces. You can advocate for respect and recognition of special skills, different viewpoints, and creative thinking. You can help others make the paradigm shift to embracing neurodiversity. You can help them value differences in cognitive functioning instead of focusing on disorders, deficits, diagnosis, disabilities, or a viewpoint of dysfunction in mental processing.
You can also do smaller things to make life easier for neurodiverse people, such as using specific language to communicate clearly, or modifying the environment to be more accommodating. Let them know how their different ways of being enhance your life and help you see things from different perspectives. No matter how big or small your gesture, every bit of support makes a difference.
What are some challenges of neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity highlights and values different ways the brain can function. While neurodiversity can bring with it some unique challenges, there are also many positives to be found in those who are neurodiverse.
One of the challenges of neurodiversity is that people with different brains often don't fit into the traditional education, workplace, or social environments. You may have difficulty with things like social interactions, understanding body language, making plans, following through, or taking direction. These things can make you feel like an outsider.
You may experience feeling isolated, overwhelmed, misunderstood, stuck or unsupported. You could describe yourself as a sensitive person. You may worry about your image or doubt your competence. Maybe you have beliefs about yourself that hold you back. You might have difficulty in environments that overwhelm your central nervous system. Perhaps you're struggling with burnout, stress, or dealing with chronic illness or medical issues. You may have learned how to blend into communities, but it takes a lot of energy and keeps you from being your authentic self. You might have different mask identities for each social situation.
Another challenge is that neurodiverse brains are very creative and intelligent but may not excel in traditional tests and protocols or be able to conform to societal norms. How you think, and process information can get in the way of communication and relationships.
What are ABA and behavioral interventions, and how do they cause harm?
ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, is a common form of behavioral intervention used with children on the autism spectrum. It involves completely breaking down tasks into specific goals and rewarding kids for meeting those goals.
However, there is a growing movement of parents and professionals speaking out against ABA, claiming it causes more harm than good. Rather than benefitting neurodivergent individuals, ABA makes situations easier and more comfortable for neurotypical people.
Some argue that ABA is a punishment for being yourself disguised as treatment. It pressures the neurodivergent individual to change to fit in rather than creating an affirming understanding that it takes all kinds to create a diverse and well-rounded community.
ABA treatment is starting to be seen as discrimination. It is also becoming known as a process that can damage relationships between children, their family, and caregivers. Applied Behavioral Analysis can be traumatic for kids and lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide.
An Alternative to ABA Treatment
Therapists who specialize in neurodiversity affirmative therapy have a different mindset. Interventions need to take the whole person into account. Treatments work better when we consider feelings and underlying reasons that accompany behavior. The primary goal of counseling should be to address the problem respectfully and find a solution that works for the relationship and makes sense to the neurodivergent individual.
The solution should include attention to vulnerabilities and sensory input and provide support without requiring dissociation, increasing tolerance to disturbing input, masking, and repression of self. Behavioral techniques can be used respectfully with supports if it is individually appropriate.
We must address the whole experience and provide services with a trauma-informed lens. We can get so much further focusing on what can be rather than staying focused on what is problematic. Appropriately rewarding positive interactions and behaviors can be more effective than punishment. It is important to be aware that there are usually many solution-oriented options. It's just a matter of finding the best fit while supporting the client.
What is different in a neurodiversity affirmative psychotherapy practice?
Most mental health professionals build their practice on psychological theories and the idea that mental health issues can be resolved by discussing your thoughts and feelings with a therapist. This model of therapy is called "talk therapy." Neurodiversity affirmative therapy considers the fact that people with neurodivergent diagnoses have unique needs that we should address to help them improve their mental health.
This type of therapy follows the principles of neurodiversity that everyone has value and deserves respect, regardless of their neurological makeup. You don't have to feel misunderstood and all alone in the world. Teletherapy provides a safe online space to explore and find solutions so you can live your life as the best version of yourself.
Neurodiversity affirmative psychotherapy is a relatively new therapeutic approach that focuses on the unique strengths and qualities of neurodivergence. This affirming approach emphasizes the importance of individualized assessment, diagnostic evaluations, and treatment. Every session will focus on your individual needs. There is no set protocol that we must follow. The purpose of neurodiversity affirmative counseling is to help you reach your potential and maintain your true sense of self. I will never ask you to conform to "norms" or "mask" your true identity. Your personal experience and how you view the world will always be central. I will support you as a whole person.
Neurodiversity affirmative therapy can treat various mental health conditions, including Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. I will always treat you with respect and never force you to do anything that doesn't fit with who you are.
How do I find the best neurodiversity affirmative therapist for me?
Finding an ideal provider can be difficult if you think you might benefit from neurodiversity affirmative therapy. Most searches have local results listed first. Searching for a local neurodiversity affirmative therapist will not provide the best results. The best way to find a qualified licensed therapist to help you is to widen your search to include the entire state of California. Looking for a telehealth provider increases your chances of finding an experienced therapist or counselor who understands neurodiversity and is compassionate, culturally sensitive, and client-centered.
Therapists with lived experience can support you differently than a neurotypical therapist trained or certified. Training can only cover so much. They can help by providing you with information that has been helping them and other clients, sharing symptoms and strategies, and collaboratively working with you.
I have lived experience with ADHD and work with adults and teen clients, helping them find their own solutions. Many of my clients appreciate my personal experience and understanding of what it is like to be different. They tell me they feel a deeper connection because I get it. I'm a bit of a geek therapist when it comes to research and reading journal articles. My clients benefit from my love of learning.
Finding a "good fit" is a crucial element in the success of your treatment. Working with a therapist with a combination of skills and experience is essential to understanding your unique experience. Your therapist should be respectful and able to relate to your experience. They should be aware of sensory issues, overwhelm, anxiety associated with the neurodivergent experience, autistic burnout, healing from trauma, and communication issues.
Online therapy has other positive factors such as increased privacy, no need to travel to appointments, and worry about being late. You can join virtual sessions conducted online from anywhere with a good internet connection. A free consultation can help you choose a professional you feel comfortable with before committing to a session.
Neurodiversity is a social justice movement of inclusivity. It is an integral part of our society and should be recognized with respect, embraced, included, and celebrated for its contribution. Neurodiversity includes conditions like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. These conditions are neurologically different from the "norm," and we should appreciate their uniqueness.
Folks with neurodiverse conditions have a lot to offer society. They often have unique talents, abilities, and manner of being that can benefit us all. For example, people with autism may be very good at pattern recognition or have remarkable memory. People with ADHD may be very creative or have a knack for business. And people with dyslexia may be able to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to problems.
We should not only embrace neurodiversity but celebrate it and help others recognize the unique benefits of including neurodiverse perspectives. We can live together as a diverse community with all the benefits and cultural differences that increase the quality of life.