top of page

Counsellors Need to Understand Autism

In case you don't know, hi, I'm Rosie and I'm an autistic counsellor. I only found out that I am autistic earlier this year, and I'm living through the process of figuring out what that means for me.

In recent years, there's been a growing recognition of how important it is to understand and embrace neurodiversity within the counselling profession. Having spoken to therapists who have a deeper understanding of autism, I know that the impact on the therapeutic relationship is huge.

Understanding Autism

Autism is a huge spectrum, and it encompasses such a wide range of characteristics and experiences that I would be silly to try to list them all here, or to try to define it within a short blog post. We may have different communication styles, sensory sensitivities or different social behaviours, and knowing that somebody has ASD or autism isn't necessarily going to give you a guide for how they behave or feel, as everyone is so vastly different.

But there are certain aspects of autism to be aware of and understand, in order to empower and encourage the person in front of you. If you haven't already, consider getting training around autism, and neurodivergence in general. Increasing your understanding of this subject is only going to improve your ability to support others.

Creating Inclusive Spaces The ideal counselling session provides a welcome, comfortable, accessible space, and including autistic people should be a given. One of the most empowering aspects of counselling is helping clients recognise and embrace their strengths. For autistic clients, this might involve validating their unique perspectives and experiences. Autistic people are often encouraged to celebrate our differences, and having our identity seen can be really helpful on that journey.

Integrating Tools & Resources When we, as counsellors, tailor support to fit the needs of the client in front of us, we can make a huge difference to the counselling experience. While every individual needs different support, knowing that you will be able to provide specific support for an autistic client is a great tool to have.

Some tools you could consider having to hand include:

Some environmental and mindset changes you can make might include:

  • Not wearing strong perfume

  • Not having expectations around eye contact or sitting still

  • Being okay with a client using their phone or drawing, or doing something else while in the session

  • Using a visual timer that the client can see

Making changes like this can make your counselling sessions accessible, but they can also enhance the entire experience for the client. Being in a space in which you don't have to mask, and in which you are embraced instead of confined, allows room for a therapeutic relationship to really happen.

Understanding autism is not only beneficial, but it's essential for counsellors who want to provide effective and inclusive sessions. As an autistic counsellor, I want to advocate for a better understanding of autism within our profession.

If you want to read more like this, you can sign up to emails or follow me on social media. If you want to help make your practice more inclusive, I make resources to use in the counselling room here.


bottom of page