Psychotherapy – how does it help with neurodiversity?

Psychotherapy is very appropriate for neurodiverse individuals. You might find this surprising because usually behaviour modification techniques and CBT are recommended. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is concerned with the dynamics, the movement, the energy that drives the mind to set and control behaviours.

Neurodiversity cannot be generalised or limited

Neurodiverse behaviours, characteristics and traits vary between neuroatypical individuals. For example, certain individuals may not be able to identify their emotions using words. This can be both confusing to themselves and others because they can’t work out how they are feeling. Sometimes they don’t get the responses that they would like or need, but they can’t work out why. However, it is not uncommon, for other neuroatypical people to frequently break down in tears knowing that they are sad and be able to talk about it to the exclusion of any things else. So, it wouldn’t be fair to say that all neuroatypical people have trouble feeling or identifying their feelings, even though some do. Its more about what is actually happening for them in that moment – what is their experience?

Psychotherapy for Neurodiverse people – Why?

Psychotherapy, especially psychodynamic psychotherapy, is designed to help a person change their thinking patterns and improve their coping skills. But this is not by actively getting them to change. It is by helping them the parts of themselves that are burning to be unleashed. I often wonder whether one of the most difficult things for a neurodiverse person is to locate their core self under all of their more obvious behaviour traits.

Neurodiversity is a known factor between you and your therapist
but you are not exclusively defined and limited by your diagnosis.

There are other things about you that are of equal interest and able to be included in the therapeutic conversation.

These are all qualities that can help you to understand yourself and they become the fruits of our conversation. I’m not saying that these are always easy topics to talk about. But learning to put words, images, colours and sounds to your experience can help you to become more self-reflective, even though neuroatypical person is often labelled as non-reflective or black and white.

When the nervous system relaxes, whether you have neurotypical or neuroatypical wiring is always helpful. We understand now, due to research, that the nervous system is neuroplastic, in other words, it is changing and growing all the time. This means that whether you have a more typical or less typical wiring, that you have the capacity within those bounded neural circuits and networks to evolve and grow. And this is good news! For both typical and atypically wired people. It means that we work with who you are, to find and locate the parts of yourself that are typically you, strengths based, alive and full of vitality.

Does your therapist see you or your behaviours?

When choosing a therapist it is important that you feel comfortable, seen, met, heard and understood. What is of paramount importance is that they have the capacity to relate to you.

Therapy is about the relationship between you and your therapist
as much as their knowledge of strategies and tools.

One of the most excruciating things for neurodiverse people is that they not only feel misunderstood, but they can often feel disliked because they feel different. Feeling different van be very alienating. This is why psychotherapists can be so helpful. One of the most powerful experiences with a therapist is the connection between us as people and not just with your neurodiversity only. We want to get to know you, and who you are whether you think the same way as others or not.

Psychotherapists can help with thought patterns and behaviours

It’s not that we don’t help to clarify and adjust thought patterns and behaviours. It is more that in getting to the bottom of your experience of them that we can work together to find solutions and problem solve. This is what builds an ever-growing relationship between us. You then develop the capacity to change and modify at any time if you want to. When that gets too hard, we grow different coping pathways together, to help you be who you are and want to be.

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