Thursday, June 4, 2009

Asperger’s, Autism and Psychotherapy

I’m a therapist, also called a counselor, a psychotherapist, or even a "shrink",  and I work with people who have Asperger’s, autism, or other ASDs. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to cure someone of their autism. That’s a confusing distinction, but it’s important.
Many individuals on the autism spectrum are struggling with the symptoms from a mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or getting caught up in repetitive thoughts. Those are all things that can be treated with psychotherapy, (and sometimes other means), and often “cured” or at least managed so that the symptoms aren’t a problem.
Other individuals on the autism spectrum are trying to deal with issues that go along with their autism, such as difficulties with social signals or managing relationships. Those symptoms can also be managed through psychotherapy.
But the important thing is that in neither of these cases is psychotherapy meant to take the autism away from an individual. It’s not trying, or even wanting, to “cure” autism or Asperger’s.
I think that many autistic people don’t want to be changed. They appreciate and enjoy their cognitive strengths. They derive a great deal of pleasure from their special interests. They relish alone time. And they have no interest in becoming a social, outgoing, maybe even shallow, neurotypical.
The good news is that people can have the best of both worlds. Therapy can manage depression, anxiety, or other symptoms so they’re not a problem. People looking for more satisfying relationships or professional success can learn to adapt in the ways they choose to. And at the same time, all the strengths and special characteristics of ASDs don’t have to be erased.
You can learn more about this topic at my Therapy and Coaching for Asperger's, Autism and ADHD website or in my ezine article on Depression with Asperger’s and Autism.


  1. Screw it. Bring on the erasure, if that's actually something they can do now. I'm game. Why would I be subjecting myself to the meds and the therapy if I didn't want anything to change?

    The "cognotive strengths" have not brought me any pleasure or general advantage in life, they just consume extra glucose and tire my brain out prematurely, and the only time since about age 16 they've really made themselves known (rather than being strangled by the various ASD bottlenecks that become increasingly more important than raw intelligence in higher education) have been in situations where they're just plain alienating.

    My special interests, such as they are, are shared by hardly anyone I know other than maybe my sister in law (very, very partially), and take up too much time, money, space, and other materials that I just don't have, and am unlikely to ever have all of all in the same place at once, certainly not before I'm retired in many decades' time, so it's difficult to derive much pleasure from them. They're just an obstructive, annoying obsession. Again, it's basically a ticket to alienation, isolation, and unhappiness.

    And "alone time" is pretty much unavoidable, and again makes you more of a social pariah, and isolated and unhappy. The idea that autistics want to be by themselves 24/7 and can't enjoy other people's company is bullshit. We crave its positive aspects, the love, the cameraderie, even the banter for those of us who are verbal, the games, the various activities that only make sense if there's more than one of you. It's just that we're generally terrible at it, and it causes friction and bad feeling, so we generally end up withdrawing - as much out of necessity as by choice.

    Come on. Make more more social and outgoing. I'll accept shallow as a tradeoff, though that's a derogatory/smug self-superiority thing in of itself which doesn't really gel. The pool doesn't change volume. It's just wider, rather than deep.