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Autistic- Led Counselling Service

A note from our counsellor Bex 

I felt incredibly honoured to join the team at APUK back in September 2022. I have been able to offer person-centred counselling to Autistic parents, where I know there is a gap in understanding, care, and support. From my own perspective, as an Autistic parent myself, I’ve joined a receptive, compassionate and knowledgeable team. APUK have welcomed and supported me greatly. It is a pleasure to share my time and thoughts and growing understanding of my own Autistic experiences with the team, and in turn, continue to learn from them.

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I have met many Autistic clients in the last few years where previous counselling had been inhibiting growth rather than promoting or allowing growth. This then leads to feelings of invalidation and not feeling understood. Their stories resonated with my own experience of some counsellors who are keen to push ‘their way’ of thinking to try and shape my own. Not being understood in my way of processing and communicating often leads to the need to either educate the counsellor or mask to fit in with their concept.

Sonny Hallett and Colin Kerr's (2020) research demonstrates some of the ways that Autistic people have experienced counselling. The need for “flexibility of approach, clarity, openness, as well as an up to date understanding of Autism and key related differences” (Hallett & Kerr, 2020) enabled clients to feel validated, safe, and genuinely understood.

Lisa Cromar (2019) delves into the person centred approach to counselling and its efficacy for working with Autistic people. This supports the idea that person centred counselling is effective for Autistic people if they are met with unconditional positive regard and genuine empathy. She also highlights the importance of up to date training for counsellors in understanding and accepting differences of Autistic and non-autistic people.

I state these pieces of research partly because I am knee-deep in my own research project but also to highlight the need for all counsellors to work alongside their clients. The need to check in with their neurotypical privilege, take the time to understand their client’s uniqueness, be flexible to their needs and their strengths, and always be open and curious to allow growth and change to happen.

Looking forward, I am hopeful that the counselling team at APUK will grow to accommodate more people as we continue to support the expanding number of Autistic parents who need and deserve understanding, validation, and acceptance. I hope to continue to work with, assist and support many more Autistic parents in fulfilling and ‘recovering their capacity for giving full expression to their unique potentials’ (Nick Walker, 2014).

References

Cromar, L. (2019) A Literature Review Exploring the Efficacy of Person Centred Counselling for Autistic People. Online: http://lisacromar.com/eventspublicationsnews/a-literature-review-exploring-the-efficacy-of-person-centred-counselling-for-autistic-people

Hallett, S. & Kerr, C. (2020) ‘You need support, validation, good coping skills. You need and deserve acceptance”: Autistic Adult Experiences of Counselling. Autistic Mental Health & Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh (AMASE). www.autisticmentalhealth.uk/counsellingreport

Walker, N. (2014) Neurotypical Psychotherapists & Autistic Clients. Within Neuroqueer Heresies or Online: https://neuroqueer.com/neurotypical-psychotherapists-and-autistic-clients/

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