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10 Ways Neurodivergent Therapy is Different

What to Expect from Neurodivergent Therapy

neurodivergent therapy
Neurodivergent therapy: A safe space to unmask

For neurodivergent people trying to find a therapist, it can be hard to know how to find a therapist that will relate to their neurodivergent traits and identity in a way that is safe, inclusive, and actually helpful. All of our Stillwaters therapists specialize in working with neurodivergent clients. Here are ten things that make neurodivergent therapy different. 

You’re Okay As You are

Neurodivergent therapy is not focused on curing or fixing you. Instead, the focus is on reducing your suffering in a world that is largely designed for neurotypical minds, on self- acceptance and self-advocacy skills, and on developing . This can feel like a surprise for people whose previous counselling experiences have been focused on trying to fix something about them. At neurodivergent therapy, you can expect an emphasis on unlearning the idea that your neurodivergence is a problem.

Less focus on Diagnosis and Labels

Neurodivergent therapy is focused on being inclusive. There is no right or wrong way to be neurodivergent. We will not diagnose you unless that’s something you want, and you’re working with a clinician who is qualified to make diagnoses. Stillwaters offers ADHD assessment but is not able to offer assessments for autism spectrum disorders at this time.

It’s okay to self-identify

Lots of people haven’t had access to a formal assessment, but notice that they identify with neurodivergent traits. Or maybe someone near them has been diagnosed, and they realize that they share some common experiences. You don’t have to have a pre-existing diagnosis to come to neurodivergent counselling, and we will not pressure you to get a diagnosis. Neurodivergent therapy is for anyone who notices that they think and feel in a different way than their peers or community, and believe this may be due to brain differences. Stillwaters therapists do not adhere to a rigid definition of neurodivergence and include conditions such as OCD, BPD, giftedness, bipolar, and learning differences like dyslexia and dyscalculia.

Neurodivergent Therapy is Flexible

Many of our clients need to move around or do something with their hands while they’re talking. Others are not comfortable with too much eye contact. Neurodivergent therapy is flexible, and can be done in-person at our Vancouver studio or online. Our studio is stocked with oversized pillows and soft blankets, so you can sit on the floor, on the couch, or at a table. We have art supplies and fidgets so that you can use your hands as we talk. If you feel more comfortable in your own space, online counselling from home may be the option that works best for you. We will ask about your sensory needs and make a plan so that counselling feels like a safe space. 

Neurodivergent therapy is a safe space to stim, take a sensory break, and talk about your special interest. Our goal is to create a space where you don’t have to put effort into masking and you can practice being your true self. If something isn’t working for you in therapy, we welcome your feedback.

We Honour Your Self-Determination

You are in charge of your counselling. We will work together to set goals for what you want to get out of therapy, but those goals are yours. It is your choice if you want to work on concrete skills or self-exploration and processing. We work from the philosophy that neurodivergent people are often told that something is wrong with them and there are specific things they need to work on to fit in better. We want to work on what is important to you, not what other people have told you is important. We understand that every neurodivergent person’s experience is unique and do not assume that because you have a particular condition, that you will have had the same experiences as another person with the same condition.

Neurodivergent Therapy Affirms Intersecting Identities

Neurodivergent affirming therapists recognize that your neurodivergence is not the only thing about you. Neurodivergent people have all kinds of other intersecting identities which matter as well. We are interested in your nuanced experience and here to support you with other types of social exclusion, including around race, indigeneity, class, sexuality, immigration status, and ability. 

We recognize that BIPOC and neurodivergent people in particular experience racism and ableism, and we stand in solidarity against racism with our BIPOC clients. Our Stillwaters therapists specialize in LGBTQ counselling and are experienced in talking about issues like coming out, homophobia, relationships, gender identity, dysphoria, and existing in the world as a queer neurodivergent person.

Adapted Therapeutic Techniques

At neurodivergent therapy, your therapist may use therapeutic techniques adapted for neurodivergent minds. For example, traditional CBT relies on clients being able to name emotions and connect them to thoughts and behaviour. Adapted CBT might recognize that some neurodivergent people experience alexithymia (inability or difficulty naming feelings) and reduce the importance of naming feelings as part of therapy. Adapted DBT skills might account for differences in emotion regulation and the experience of sensory overload.

We Explore the Impact of Growing Up Neurodivergent

Neurodivergent therapy will support you to look closely at what it was like for you to grow up neurodivergent, and how that might contribute to how you show up in the present. There is a significant body of research about how children with ADHD in particular hear many (thosands!) more negative messages and redirections such as “no, stop, don’t do that!” in childhood. Over time, this can change our self-concept and make it hard to believe that we are capable, good enough, and liked by others.

A Space Where You Don’t Have to Mask

Many neurodivergent people can remember the sense of being different from very early on, and find that this feeling follows them into adulthood. Many neurodivergent people engage in masking to fit in, which can sometimes lead to losing touch with your true self. This can be doubly true for queer or trans people who feel pressure to hide aspects of their sexuality or gender out of fear of rejection, exclusion, or violence. You can expect that at neurodivergent counselling there will be an emphasis on reconnecting with your true self. 

We Recognize Neurodivergent Strengths

We are strengths-based in our approach. Your neurodivergent therapist recognizes that being neurodivergent is not a deficit or a problem. We like and appreciate your unique way of communicating, your pattern recognition, your deep narrow interests, how you make associations between topics, and more. 

Neurodivergent Therapy in Vancouver

I hope this is a helpful overview of what to expect from neurodivergent counselling. If you are interested in knowing more, please reach out and schedule a consultation with one of our counsellors today!

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