They say, “Maybe you should see a therapist.” While autistic people struggle beneath the weight of societal expectations, ableism, social anxiety, and loneliness, we may try to communicate our feelings of bereftness to our loved ones. However, the complexity of our hardships is often met with the above statement: Get therapy. Be that as it may, finding the right therapist for us as an autistic person is its own battlefield.
Given that ASD is a multi-faceted diagnosis with numerous variables and unique experiences, many therapists don’t understand the robustness of autism. Even more, self-diagnosed autistic people may encounter pushback on the “validity” of their autism. Nevertheless, while acquiring the right therapist can be a hurdle, the benefits of finding a good fit are immeasurable. Here are a few ideas on how to seek a therapist:
1) Call/email ahead. Before making a first-time appointment, I recommend contacting each potential to be sure of a good fit. We can be upfront about our (self)diagnoses, ask about the therapist’s prior experience, and determine if schedules align. Remember: Even if we’ve emailed for weeks with a potential therapist, we are in no way obligated to schedule an appointment.
2) Prepare for the first visit. Autistic people are often very uncomfortable when meeting new people and interacting socially. As such, we can benefit from making preparations before seeing a therapist. We can make a list of what is currently affecting us in our daily lives, what we hope to gain by going to therapy, and what we fear about therapy. We can even request prompts from our therapists for each visit. This way, we have a structure to hold onto as we navigate our mental health.
3) Be honest. If a therapist responds to an autistic persons’ diagnosis disclosure or traits unfavorably, it’s perfectly appropriate to tell the therapist! A quality therapist won’t respond defensively to an in-session conflict. If a therapist begins to guilt-trip us, it may be a sign that we need to seek a different practitioner.