Why is it important to find a neurodiverse-affirming therapist?
Neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in how human brains function, including differences in sensory processing, cognitive processing, and ways of learning and understanding. While neurodiversity is a normal and natural part of the human experience, those with neurodivergent conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning and neurological differences may face unique challenges in daily life.
As therapists, it is important that we understand and acknowledge the diverse ways in which people's brains process information and function. This is where neurodivergent affirming therapy comes in. This approach recognizes and values the strengths and challenges that come with neurodivergent conditions, tailoring therapy to meet the needs of the individual.
Being neurodivergent affirming means creating a safe space where individuals can feel accepted, understood, and validated. Neurodivergent individuals may experience discrimination and misunderstanding in their daily lives, and therapy can provide a space to process those experiences and work towards self-acceptance. It means acknowledging and embracing the unique perspective that neurodivergent individuals bring to the table, instead of pathologizing or stigmatizing their differences.
In a neurodivergent affirming therapy practice, the therapist takes into account the unique needs and strengths of the individual. This may involve adapting therapy techniques, providing visual aids, or modifying communication styles to better suit the individual's processing style. For example, a neurodivergent affirming therapist may use more concrete language, provide written instructions or diagrams, or allow for extra time to process information. They may also use sensory-friendly techniques, such as dimming lights or providing noise-cancelling headphones, to help individuals feel more comfortable and focused during therapy sessions.
By recognizing and valuing neurodivergent conditions, neurodivergent affirming therapy can be more effective than traditional therapy approaches for neurodivergent individuals. Traditional therapy approaches may focus on "fixing" or "curing" neurodivergent conditions, which can be harmful and stigmatizing. Neurodivergent affirming therapy, on the other hand, takes a strengths-based approach, focusing on building skills and strategies that are tailored to the unique needs of the individual. This can include developing coping skills for sensory overload, improving executive functioning skills, or building social skills.
One key aspect of neurodivergent affirming therapy is understanding and working with sensory processing differences. Sensory processing refers to how the brain interprets and responds to sensory information from the environment. Neurodivergent individuals may have sensory processing differences that make certain stimuli (such as bright lights, loud noises, or certain textures) overwhelming or uncomfortable. In neurodivergent affirming therapy, therapists work with individuals to develop strategies for managing sensory overload and promoting sensory regulation. This may involve incorporating sensory-friendly activities into therapy sessions, providing sensory tools such as fidget toys or weighted blankets, or teaching relaxation techniques to promote self-regulation.
Another important aspect of neurodivergent affirming therapy is recognizing and respecting the communication differences that may accompany neurodivergent conditions. For example, individuals with autism may have difficulty with nonverbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact or interpreting facial expressions. In neurodivergent affirming therapy, therapists may use more direct language and verbal cues to communicate with the individual. By recognizing and respecting communication differences, neurodivergent affirming therapy can help individuals feel more comfortable and understood in therapy sessions.
Ultimately, the goal of neurodivergent affirming therapy is to support individuals in achieving their therapeutic goals, while also promoting self-acceptance and validation. At Milton Psychotherapy Centre, providing a safe and affirming environment is one of our top priorities and it must be an essential offering in any successful therapeutic journey.