What to Look for in a Good Therapist
Much of our information on different therapies stipulates a good therapist who understands you is key. However, you might not know what sorts of things to look for when searching for a therapist for yourself or your child.
It is important to remember you are not at fault if you start therapy but find it unhelpful. Sometimes it can take time to settle with a new therapist but if you really feel like the sessions are unhelpful it is okay to say so. It is okay to look for a different therapist if the first is not a good fit and a good therapist will always be happy to make recommendations.
Regardless of the kind of therapy being sought, a therapist should never have the aim of ‘curing’ or ‘treating’ autism. Autistic people literally have different brain structures. We are not broken neurotypical people and it is impossible for us to become non-autistic. If you are autistic, you are autistic for your entire life.
If you suspect a therapist is trying to make you or your child act in a non-autistic way, this should ring alarm bells.
Ideally, autistic people would always have access to therapy from a practitioner with in-depth knowledge and experience of autism but since such therapists are quite rare, this is often not possible.
A Good Therapist Will Not
- Force or encourage increased eye contact.
- Stop or repress stimming (occasionally stims may need to be redirected if they are actively harmful).
- Refer to meltdowns as ‘tantrums’ or imply meltdowns are manipulative/intentional.
- Refer to autism as a deficit/tragedy or assume autistic people do not have empathy.
- Insist verbal speech is the only way to communicate.
- Push boundaries/ignore or dismiss a request to stop something.
- Ignore or dismiss concerns.
- Assume a new autistic client will be just like a previous autistic client.
- Make any sexual advances.
A Good Therapist Will
- Respect boundaries and bodily autonomy.
- Understand and accommodate sensory needs.
- Focus on emotional wellbeing.
- Encourage self-advocacy.
- Recognise signs of distress and reduce demands accordingly.
- Provide support to achieve goals important to the client.
- Listen to their client.
- Ask questions about how the client’s autism informs their lived experiences.
- Ask for consent before touching a client.
- Understand the importance of special interests.
- Want their client to feel safe in therapy.
For more information on harmful treatments in relation to autism, you can go to the NHS Inform website: www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/brain-nerves-and-spinal-cord/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd#facts-and-myths-about-autism