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Clients ask: "How can you help me?" An honest view from your autistic therapist on how counselling helps.

Updated: Jul 16

One of the first questions people ask me when they get in touch regarding counselling is, “How can you help me?”. I have come to realise that a nebulous albeit truthful explanation about the power of rediscovering one’s autonomy is simply not the answer someone in an emotional crisis wants to hear.

Think for a minute about the last time you were in physical pain. What was most important to you at that time? I imagine it was for the pain to go away as quickly as possible. Doesn’t matter how, just to be rid of it. With the distinction between body and mind being dubious anyway, I personally think, when one is in psychological distress, the urgency of a solution is just as pressing as with physical pain.

There are different kinds of support out there from on-demand charitable services such as the Samaritans to long-term private psychoanalysis. Within the realm of counselling practitioners may associate their approaches with specific psychological theories but I believe each therapist’s method is uniquely their own. And I can only tell mine.

When I first speak with a client and I can hear they are tired of the pain, I very much want to say: “I can sort this for you. Together we'll make all the bad stuff go away.” But I can’t. I must be honest, despite my best wishes.

Here is how counselling helps you, or, more truthfully, here’s how you help yourself

Once a fortnight I am at the synagogue on Erev Shabbat. A Hillel quote on laminated paper catches my eye every time: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?". This is a succinct description of what I have observed in counselling.

In my role as a therapist I help clients by facilitating the process of positive change. But the lead actor is always the client. The process is different in every case, however it is likely to include the following points:

  • At first you may find that you simply need to talk, let it all flow out, raw, uncensored. With an attentive counsellor you will feel heard and encouraged to be your genuine self

  • Then you may find yourself exploring the individual elements of what is bothering you. The counsellor will help you examine the role of each component and the meaning of the issue as a whole

  • Having given yourself the permission and the time to process your concerns, you may be ready to look at what kind of change is within your power. Your therapist will be by your side to help consider your existing strengths and what new skills may be useful

  • Gradually you will find the way forward which is unique and genuinely yours. At this point your thoughts might become directed outwards. By coming to peace with yourself, you might feel compelled to offer greater acceptance to others. This may well be the time for your and the counsellor to reflect on whether you have achieved what you had hoped for from therapy

Even though there aren’t shortcuts in counselling, the good news is that you are in charge. Remember, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”. It’s an invitation, take it. Start being there for you. Today.

Think you may want some support ? I am a counsellor, supporting autistic adults, and a happily autistic person myself.

A door to a counselling room with the therapist's name on a plaque
The door to my counselling room

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