What therapy do I need? (The Neurodivergent Edition)

What therapy do I need? (The Neurodivergent Edition)

A long time ago when I started working it was very normal for clients to contact me and say they had been told they needed CBT and could I offer that. Which I could. But on further conversation with them it more often than not, it became quite evident that didn't need CBT at all. What they needed was a space to talk; be heard; validated; and to work through trauma.

Please don't misunderstand me, I really do think CBT has a place in therapy. (And I know CBT Therapist can also offer a validating and healing space.)

As it is more easily measurable than other types of therapy tend to be, it has been highly promoted by organisations, such as the NHS and EAPs (Employment Assistance Programme, an employee benefit of short term paid for counselling offered by some employers).

So quite often it was the suggested therapy for nearly every case. If a client had heard of therapy, it was commonly 'CBT', unless they had previously attended therapy.

But how do you know what you need?

I've never been overly focused on the therapy modality. Probably, because I am Integrally trained. Within Integral Psychotherapy there is room for all therapy models and in fact, you are encouraged to offer different models of therapy depending on when the issue occurred in the person's life ... (A much longer explanation may make it into a blog in the future!)

This has allowed me to have a lot of freedom in the way I work and bring in different things as needed.

I have long considered myself an intuitive therapist. I will use a sense of the client to determine what they need at that time.

What has become clearer is that my neurotype has always governed the types of clients (and supervisees) I attract and probably work best with.

As neurodivergence has become more commonly talked about in the general population, so too has it become something more understood in the therapy world. Along with this we are seeing a greater call for neurodivergent therapy to be delivered by actual real life neurodivergent humans. Nothing about us, without us, is a motto I love.

It has been very normalised in the addiction world, for therapy to be delivered by people who have experienced their own journey with addiction. Similarly, too in the world of queer therapy.

Do you need a therapist that has the same neurotype as you? Why would it matter? For me, it's about the shorthand of working with someone who gets it. Someone who isn't going to suggest you "just write down all appointments in your diary". Oh, if only it was that simple, right?
When we work with people who genuinely understand where we are coming from, we are able to dig deeper into our work without explaining every small part. We are able to unmask, just a little more. We are able to dive straight in and not worry about making sure we have asked how they are - someone apologised for not asking me that at the start of the session the other day and I genuinely didn't notice! People often apologise for bouncing from topic to topic in session with me (clients and supervisees) and again, I genuinely don't notice. I see the link, I see how you got there, I'm keeping up. Actually, not only am I keeping up, but it doesn't even feel like I'm trying to keep up - I'm just there! And if I'm not, I'll ask. But without disapproval or opinion. Without a hint of you should be doing this differently.

That's the benefit of working with someone with same neurotype.

There's also power in working with someone who understands just how and why life has been so challenging for you, specifically. Working with someone who has had similar experiences and can also offer suggestions for changes that may help. Although this isn't typical in counselling, I have found this to be a powerful experience. When we have been so deeply masking not just from others in our life but even from ourselves. When we have come to the realisation and understanding of our neurotype later in life, we often don't know what our needs are and how to meet them. That's why it can be so helpful to work with someone who truly understands.

It isn't essential to work with a therapist that is neurodivergent if you are. I also understand that not every therapist wants to 'out' themselves - but how this may show up in the work is also interesting. I only know from my experience that it can be powerful and transformative.

I would encourage you to consider your needs and how best to have them supported by a qualified professional. There are now so many therapists that are happy to share their neurotype.

A little word of caution ... If you see the phrase 'lived experience of neurodivergence' it commonly means that person has neurodivergence themselves, however, don't be afraid to ask if it is important to you. Some people are using this phrase to mean 'lived adjacent to someone who is neurodivergent'.

As with all things, it is up to you - and yes, I know that not everyone has the privilege to choose their therapist. Better to say, I hope and believe it should be up to you to decide. It is also okay to state what you need from your therapist and to ask the questions you need to know the answers to.