Whether you’ve been in a long-term marriage or just starting out with your relationship, it’s quite common for couples to seek therapy for relationship discord. If you and/or your partner are on the spectrum, you should make special considerations. Providing couples therapy to neurodiverse individuals can be challenging and the right professionals are required to work through it.
To understand the underlying cause of relationship discord, we must first understand neurodiversity, how it works, and what role it can play in relationship disconnections.
By neurodiverse couples, we mean those couples in which one partner may be neurotypical and the other is neurodivergent. Neurodiverse typically refers to those individuals who are outside the normal spectrum and lack the full range of social and emotional skills. They have Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and other related disorders.
Neurodiverse individuals require a tailored therapy approach that can encourage and support them to learn essential socio-emotional skills to develop intimacy and connection in the relationship. Couples therapy may also help you learn more about your partner and help you develop empathy and understanding for each other.
A good neurodiversity-affirming therapist should:
- Recognize relationship issues as interface problems and not because of the more minority neurotype.
- Be considerate and recognize the stigma that surrounds neurodivergent individuals
- Provide relevant resources for neurodivergent people
- Communicates effectively and understands the privilege of the neurotypical partner
People on the spectrum can be tough to work with and neurodiverse couples face unique challenges that only licensed therapists are trained to treat. Choose the right therapist for your relationship based on a few considerations:
Licensing & Certification
Find someone who themselves has a good understanding of neurodiversity and can also help you both understand its role in your relationship. Neurodiverse individuals need extra support on social and emotional skill development. Therefore, not every therapist can provide therapy to them. A good therapist must be licensed to practice psychotherapy in neurodiverse individuals The ideal is a therapist who has a solid education in Autism Spectrum Disorders and has experience treating ASD families. They should not see neurodiversity as a problem, instead, as a condition with its unique strengths and challenges.
Look for a therapist who is well-versed in nuances of neurodiverse individuals, understands neurodiverse relationship dynamics, and knows how to work around it to provide a long term suitable solution.
The right therapist should have sufficient experience in treating neurodiverse couples like you. This way, they will be familiar with usual issues, how to identify them, and how to solve them. They should also be familiar with empathy and empathy dysfunction. For example, people with Autism tend to shut down often and start to get frustrated when probed. Pushing an individual with Autism to open up in a session is a skill of its own and the therapist needs to know how to professionally deal with this. Otherwise, the individual may feel blindsided and labelled. For this very reason, many neurodiverse people often end up getting misdiagnosed if the therapist interprets the frustration differently.
It’s true that ‘the goodness of fit’ is key in healing. Your level of comfort with the therapist is important to make the healing process easier and more effective. You may find someone of a specific age, gender, or community with whom you can identify and comfortably share with. Also know what kind of therapy (such as CBT or psychodynamic therapy) they are planning to use and if that works for you.
Find someone you trust and have a rapport with. Also important to consider is a safe environment to openly discuss your needs and where the therapist actively listens to you. Pick a therapist and space that will be suited to both, you and your partner’s, personal needs.
Do you want a therapist who will be available for you 24/7 for sudden issues? It is important to consider your requirements and match them with your therapist’s. Know when, how, and where you can reach out to them if you need immediate counselling. Further, get to know how flexible they are and if they would be willing to offer online/remote sessions based on your comfort.
The cost of a therapist is especially important if you are looking for consistent long-term therapy since you need to consider your financial sustainability. Is your ideal therapist within your budget? A good start is to ask them directly how often you will need to come in for sessions, if they provide any discounts, or if you can pay in installments. You may want to check whether the therapist offers a sliding scale fee.
Remember: an inexperienced therapist can be quite damaging and harmful to your personal self-esteem as well as your relationship. So, go through this guide and make sure you have covered everything with your therapist. Take your time to make an informed decision and commit to the right therapist.