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Being a neurodivergent therapist: how being AuDHD impacts my work as an Internal Family Systems Therapist.

How my own experience of being AuDHD helps me to support my neurodivergent therapy clients

The process of therapy can be a profound journey, but for those of us who are neurodivergent, it can mean navigating a world that’s not designed with us in mind. As a neurodivergent therapist, I've been on both sides of the experience. As well as being a psychotherapist working with Autistic, ADHD and other neurodivergent clients, I’ve also experienced the challenges of being a client in a therapy space that didn’t accommodate my needs. 

Today, I want to share a little bit about my journey and how that has informed my work, where creating a safe and affirming space for my neurodivergent clients is one of the most important parts of my practice.

Embracing my own neurodivergence: ADHD, Autism and my therapy journey

Discovering my own neurodivergence was a pretty pivotal moment. I’m late diagnosed, and finding out I am Autistic and ADHD (AuDHD) has helped me to make sense of past experiences in therapy, shedding light on aspects of the therapeutic process and my experiences while training as a therapist that didn't sit well with me. I worked with counsellors and therapists who inadvertently shamed me for aspects of my neurology, like my inability to sit still and my divergent thinking. This often made me feel alienated and misunderstood in the therapy room, which, as I’m sure we’ll all agree, is not how therapy should make us feel.

From neurodivergent client to neurodivergent therapist

Throughout my career as a therapist, I unknowingly worked extensively with neurodivergent clients. I always found a natural connection because I could really connect with how they saw the world. It wasn't until later when I came to realise I’m neurodivergent myself, that I realised the significance of this connection. I have been on both sides of the therapeutic relationship, and this dual perspective, along with my own disempowering experiences in therapy, really fuels my mission to create a safe and affirming space. Therapy should acknowledge and integrate the unique experiences of neurodivergent people.

The therapeutic relationship: building trust through collaboration

Recognising the impact of negative experiences with therapists who invalidate their clients, I prioritise building trust with my clients by creating a collaborative, open and neuro-affirming environment. In a society where the need to mask and suppress our needs is ingrained, I continually check in with my clients, encouraging them to communicate their preferences so that we can make accommodations.

Adapting therapy to individual neurodivergent needs

Most importantly, I recognise that neurodivergent people are all individuals with unique needs. Even where we share aspects of our neurology, we’re all different, so I invite my clients to engage with therapy in a way that suits them best. Whether it's having the option to keep their cameras on or off, lying down during sessions, or stimming, I want to accommodate my client’s diverse needs and acknowledge that these needs can change from day to day.

Empowering neurodivergent clients in therapy

Traditional therapy models are predominantly designed by neurotypical individuals, so it’s important to me to actively support my neurodivergent clients in adapting their therapy spaces to align with them. This means maintaining the integrity of therapy as a safe container for exploration while ensuring that the space respects and honours their unique neurodivergent experiences.

Advocating for inclusivity in therapy

In the ever-evolving landscape of therapy, embracing neurodivergence is not just a personal journey but a professional commitment to fostering inclusivity. By sharing my experiences and advocating for tailored, accommodating therapeutic spaces, I really want to contribute to a shift in the narrative, ensuring that therapy becomes a place where everyone can truly come as they are. Part of this work has included speaking at the International Internal Family Systems (IFS) conference, where I talked about IFS for the Autistic Mind with my colleague, Sarah Bergenfield. I also offer training on neurodivergence and IFS, which you can check out here.

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