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Austism in the therapy room

Autism in the Therapy Room hosted by Louise Ordish and Helen Franklin (January 2024 – In Person, Shaw House, Newbury)

Around twenty practicing counsellors came to the Autism in the Therapy Room event. The day provided an experiential exploration of autism: both in terms of what it’s like to be autistic and what it’s like to work with clients on the spectrum. Awareness and diagnosis of autism (and neurodivergence generally) is growing, so it’s not surprising that the trainers commented on how much knowledge and experience of the topic was evident in those who attended. This made for rich discussion throughout the day.

The day was a mix of presentations by the trainers with support from slides, videos, examples, and personal stories; group discussion and exercises; and the opportunities for everyone to reflect and have their own individual, sometimes embodied, encounters with the topics of the day. Topics included thinking about how to work differently with autistic clients; how to respond to clients according to their own level of awareness and acceptance of the profile; the overlap of autism and trauma; how to support autistic clients to build self-esteem.

Key learning points

There’s a hierarchy of difficulties your client might be encountering  – not only in their daily life but in the room. It’s important to deal with any sensory and emotional dysregulation before exploring any other topics (or, for example, thinking about social communication difficulties, or thinking/planning difficulties).

Everyone has their unique profile and it’s important to get to know your clients as individuals. It’s helpful to know about the common themes and traits of an autistic profile, but essential to remain curious about your clients as individuals.

Your training applies here! What you know about trauma is very likely to be relevant with autistic clients. What you know about difference will apply here too.

Autism is a profile that makes it hard to connect with others. Bear in mind your clients may not have good models of relationship to draw on and be prepared to take time to build your alliance. On the flip side, autistic clients will be getting something from you they may not have elsewhere, the opportunity to relate to someone in a way that is not governed by social etiquette.


Average feedback scores from our event:

Facilitation of event: 5 out of 5


Feedback from our event:

“Super-informed, skilled practitioners who complement each other beautifully”

“Gave me a sense of hope and encouragement that I can give autistic clients a positively different experience”

“Trainers who really know their subject”

“Helped me learn something about myself through embodied experience”

“Collaborative atmosphere, inclusive and clearly boundaried”

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