By: Quique Autrey, MS, LPC Associate
For the last 5 years, I’ve worked with teenagers and young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s communication and social behavior. ASD is a spectrum diagnosis which means there are different levels of severity. Some people diagnosed with ASD have severe deficits in communication and social functioning and require substantial support all their life. Others experience social challenges, but can hope to live a life of relative independence with some professional support.
There are different kinds of therapy available for individuals diagnosed with ASD. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is considered the gold-standard treatment for younger children with ASD. ABA is a type of therapy that can improve social, communication, and learning skills through positive reinforcement. Most of my ASD clients are older and relatively high-functioning and thus benefit from talk therapy. What is talk therapy and why is it beneficial for someone diagnosed with ASD?
What is Talk Therapy?
Sigmund Freud, one of the founders of modern therapy, referred to his work as the “talking cure.” At its most basic level, talk therapy is an arrangement between a therapist and a client where a client works to transform his/her emotional state by talking and learning coping skills. While talk therapy cannot remove a person’s Autism, it can help them accept and better manage it.
As I am presenting it, talk therapy is not social skills or group therapy. Traditional talk therapy is two individuals facing each other in a room and talking about the emotional and social concerns of the client.
The Benefits of Talk Therapy
1. Improving Self-Esteem.
Every teen and young adult on the spectrum I’ve ever worked with has struggled with low self-esteem. Why is this? The number one reason is that all of them have experienced bullying and have felt like social outcasts. Persons on the spectrum usually have a hard time reading social cues. They also struggle to regulate negative emotions. As a result, ASD individuals stick out in social situations and have a hard time fitting into the typical norms of the group.
Talk therapy encourages teens and young adults with ASD to translate their raw emotions and pain into words and language that helps them make better sense of their experience. Furthermore, not only does it encourage people to translate their suffering into speech, it provides an environment of love, acceptance, and non-judgement. The positive relationship that’s established between the therapist and the client is an important part of the client’s growth in self-esteem.
2. Normalizing the Diagnosis.
Many teens diagnosed with ASD struggle with being labeled. They fear that having this diagnosis makes them “weird” and “different” in a negative way. Part of the process of talk therapy is helping the client to accept their diagnosis. The therapist and client can discuss what the diagnosis means. Moreover, they can explore some of the challenges of being on the spectrum. Talk therapy also helps the client understand some of the strengths of the diagnosis. Many people on the spectrum have gifts and abilities that enable them to make a wonderful contribution to society.
3. Learning Management Skills.
ASD is a life-long disorder. While it may not be possible to outgrow Autism, it is possible to manage it and develop as a person. The management skills someone can learn in talk therapy include life, social and emotional coping skills.
In talk therapy, the client and therapist may discuss situations that arise at school or work. More importantly, they can explore what did not go so well. After understanding what went wrong, the therapist and client can role play a similar scenario and practice healthier ways to respond and relate to others. Talk therapy should provide depth and practicality. The therapist and client can talk about everything from the meaning of life to the importance of taking care of one’s personal hygiene.
What To Look For In A Therapist For Talk Therapy
Firstly, not all therapists are equal. If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, it’s important to find a therapist who has experience working with ASD. ASD is a unique disorder that cannot be treated in the same way as anxiety, depression or other common diagnoses.
Secondly, it is also very important that your son or daughter connect with their therapist. Therapy will not be effective if the client does not bond with the therapist. Since many individuals with ASD already have a difficult time connecting with others, the formation of a therapeutic relationship will be essential to effective treatment.
Finally, seek out a therapist who is open to communicating and including the parents and siblings in therapy. ASD is a difficult diagnosis that impacts the whole family. It can have a negative impact on a marriage and the emotional well being of siblings. Steer clear of therapists who just want to focus on the ASD client and keep the family at a distance. Talk therapy is a useful tool that can incorporate the entire family.
Begin Talk Therapy in Katy, TX
If you are ready to begin therapy, one of the therapists at The Center at Cinco Ranch can help! To begin counseling in Katy, TX follow these three steps:
- Contact our office to set up an appointment or to get more information on talk therapy.
- Meet with one of our skilled therapists
- Find ways to cope and thrive in life!
Other Therapy Services We Offer
Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch we offer counseling services for people of all ages including: women’s issues, couples counseling, treatment for anxiety, trauma counseling, counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, men’s therapy , eating disorder treatment, depression treatment, family therapy, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to regularly post blogs with helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Counseling Center today!