Neurodiversity

I have always worked with folks whose brains are wired differently. All people—whether you identify as neurodivergent, neurotypical, or something else entirely—are welcome in my practice. To me, the essence of neurodiversity-affirming counselling is rolling out the red carpet for people to come as they are, not how they are “supposed” to be. Some out-of-the-box thinking and creative therapeutic strategies don’t hurt either.

I am a neurodivergent counsellor who endeavours to provide an inclusive counselling practice which welcomes autistic people, ADHDers, AuDHDers, folks with OCD, people with sensory processing issues, high sensitivity (HSPs, rejection sensitivity dysphoria), PDA, trauma, mental health conditions, learning disabilities and other neuro-variances. If you don’t relate to any of the above, I welcome you too!

I acknowledge people who are self-diagnosed, professionally-diagnosed, late-diagnosed, suspect that they are neurodivergent, and those who also come from marginalized populations whose neurodivergence has traditionally been ignored by the neuronormative world: women, older adults, AFAB/trans/auti-gender/auti-ace queer folks and racialized people.

I also work with couples where one or both members is neurodivergent, as well as people supporting neurodivergent children, family members or friends.

Further, I have historically been  privileged to work with many neurodivergent counselling and mental health professionals over the years, including in the context of clinical supervision.

My therapy approach is unique to you and is collaborative: we start with an assessment of your concerns and work together on a plan to help make things better, using strategies that make sense to you. There is no one size fits all.

Principles

I am guided by the following principles in my work:

  • The world is a harsh place for neurodivergent people; I strive to make my counselling space a sanctuary of safety and respect, valuing your needs and our shared humanity.
  • Neurodivergence is not a problem to be fixed or cured. It’s part of who you are, so it’s logical to value and affirm it.
  • I work from a de-pathologizing, de-medicalized counselling perspective. I am influenced by social models of disability rather than traditional deficit models that direct their focus to disabled people being the problem.
  • I believe that clients have the right to information about counselling and, when provided in advance, can decrease anxiety about the counselling experience.
  • I believe that neurodivergent and neurotypical folks alike can benefit from working with neurodivergent health professionals and that this need not be a cause for concern, or stigmatizing for anyone involved.
  • I have been strongly influenced by the work of the autistic self-advocacy movement. “Nothing about us without us” is an often-repeated phrase, that is beautifully self-explanatory.
  • There are a variety of neurodivergent attributes, unique to each person, that, when identified and celebrated, can often be mobilized for your benefit. Gifts or strengths, however, may also drain us, therefore, support is equally important.
  • I generally use identity-first language (e.g. “autistic,” “ADHDer”, etc.) as I believe that such identities are not problematic and are core to how we experience the world. Some neurodivergent folks prefer person-first language (“persons with autism, ADHD, schizophrenia etc.) and this is valid too. It is the right of all neurodivergent individuals to choose how we would like to be addressed and how we identify. Allies support this choice.
  • I value lived experience over expertise. I do not speak for neurodivergent folks as a whole, recognizing that there is great diversity in neurodivergence.

Flexible Therapeutic Methods

Traditional models of psychotherapy often need adjustment for neurodivergent people. This may include:

  • Discussing expectations for the session at the start to decrease anxiety and uncertainty.
  • The therapist asking more closed-ended questions if open-ended questions are too difficult or stressful.
  • Collaborating with, or suggesting different ways of proceeding if you feel blank about what to do next.
  • Discussing things other than feelings, particularly if this isn’t something you relate to, or working together to redefine feelings in a way that is more relevant to you.
  • Identifying coping strategies that make sense to you, which may or may not diverge from standard counselling recommendations.
  • Creating space for deep dives about special interests, understanding that this is a valid form of connection with your counsellor, as well as being a major contributor to self-worth and purpose.
  • Exploring specialized topics such as masking/unmasking, meltdowns, burnout, shutdowns/overwhelm, inattention, social breaks, sensitivity, hyperfocus, personalized routines, stimming, creativity, socializing authentically, examining social expectations, societal ableism, internalized ableism, anxiety/phobias.

Accommodations to the Therapy Space

Whether it is an office, video and phone session, clients choose what format works the best for them and it is common to have to modify further. Examples of this could include:

  • Turning away from the counsellor or webcam if eye contact is stressful or overwhelming.
  • Turning off video or substituting with phone appointments if visuals are too distracting or intense.
  • Freedom to stim in session without it being perceived as weird.
  • Using the fidgets and stim toys in my downtown Vancouver office to decrease anxiety, improve focus, or just because.
  • Changing the lighting, turning it off, or adjusting blinds to increase comfort (fluorescent lights are disabled in my downtown office).
  • Dressing for your sessions in a manner that makes you feel most comfortable.
  • Scent-free in-office space with non-jarring decor.

Notes

The terminology in this area can be very bewildering and words are often unknowingly confused. Dr. Nick Walker elucidates such terms better than I ever could.

If you’re interested in what I offer, and would like to know more before making an appointment, please be in touch so we can arrange a free 15-minute phone or video consultation. I would love to talk with you!

Recommended Books

The book links on this page are Amazon Associate links; if you choose to make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission which I use to fund my low-cost counselling resource lists. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Is This Autism? A Guide For Clinicians and Everyone Else by Donna Henderson, Sarah Wayland and Jamell White (2023)

An accessible read that introduces readers to the diagnostic criteria for autism and as well as autism’s subtler signs, that often go undetected in women, AFAB people, racialized folks, older adults and those with atypical autistic features. I couldn’t recommend this more for adults who are wondering if they may be autistic, as well as healthcare professionals, educators, family members, autistic individuals, and anyone who is curious about autism.

How To Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis (2022)

While Marie Kondo taught me to let go of a lot, KC Davis helped me to forgive myself, no matter the state of my home. A boon to neurodivergent folks, those struggling with mental health issues, or anyone else who is overwhelmed by life, therapist KC Davis, offers practical, forgiving strategies and care tasks that we can all use. Highly recommended.

The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide (2023)

This comprehensive and affirming book debunks the traditional deficit-model of dyslexia through a discussion of the research, the authors’ clinical observations and lived dyslexic experiences. Recommended for anyone who wanting to understand and work with dyslexia strategically and affirmatively.

I Am Autistic: A Workbook: Sensory Tools, Practical Advice, and Interactive Journaling for Understanding Life with Autism (By Someone Diagnosed with It) by Chanelle Moriah (2022)

A pithy book on key experiences that many autistic people face. Can be used with or without the workbook component. Also works well as a primer on autism for loved ones and supporters who want to learn more and offer deeper allyship. An example of how practical on-the-ground  information is often-times best delivered by those with lived experience.

Untypical: How the world isn’t built for autistic people and what we should all do about it by Pete Wharmby (2023)

The author, a late-diagnosed autistic and advocate, discusses his life experiences as an undiagnosed autistic person and the sense he has made of them now, since knowing that he is autistic. He also weighs in on social changes that would greatly benefit the quality of life for autistic folks. The author is an important voice in the late-diagnosed community.

I Will Die On This Hill: Autistic Adults, Autism Parents and the Children Who Deserve a Better World by Meghan Ashburn and Jules Edwards (2023)

The authors unite their perspectives towards their pursuit of disability justice. Ashburn is a mother of two autistic boys and Edwards is an autistic parent with autistic children. This book represents a distinct departure from traditional allistic parent-led literature on this topic.

Dirty Laundry: Why adults with ADHD are so ashamed and what we can do to help by Richard Pink and Roxanne Emery (2023)

Lived experience of ADHD and on-the-ground strategies to help from the couple behind @adhd_love. Parallel takes on common issues are presented, by both the ADHDer in the couple and their non-ADHD partner.

Supporting Transgender Autistic Youth and Adults: A Guide for Professionals and Families by Finn Grafton (2019)

An important intersectional work from a therapist with lived experience. Recommended.

Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism by various authors (2018)

Autistic women speak out about their personal experiences. Brings voices to autistic women–a demographic which has historically been unseen.

Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (2016)

A fascinating, detailed account of the history of autism that will keep you reading for a long time. The author also argues for the benefits of a neurodivergent-affirming world.

Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed For You by Jenera Nerenberg (2021)

This neurodivergent author turns her attention to neurodivergence in women, who have traditionally been ignored in neurodiversity research and practice. A great resource for women who suspect that they might be neurodivergent as the book presents information about a number of neuro-variances that readers can learn more about or reflect on personally. Recommended.

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Devon Price (2022)

A fresh read and breakout book from an autistic author, who sheds light on the experience of masked autism and how to free oneself from its confines. Already a classic in the field and recommended by many therapists, myself included.

Resources

Association for Autism and Neurodiversity

A diverse range of online support groups available. Most facilitators are neurodivergent.

AHA! (Adults Hacking ADHD)

Support groups and co-working spaces for adults with ADHD, run by peers with ADHD.

9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline

Call or text 9-8-8, from anywhere in Canada, 24/7.

Pomodoro Technique

How to use the pomodoro technique: a time-management strategy.

Vancouver Low-Cost Counselling List

List of private master’s-level counsellors, or their interns, offering subsidized counselling. Updated quarterly.

ADHD Collective

Private clinic offering free, online group co-working sessions for folks with ADHD: Wednesdays 11am-1pm, PST.

Centre For ADHD Awareness Canada

Adult ADHD support groups run by trained facilitators with lived experience of ADHD.

Neuroclastic

Articles written by autistic people.

Embrace Autism

Database of autism self-screening tests including some you may encounter as part of a formal autism assessment.

Aide Canada

National lending library of autism and intellectual disabilities, available to all Canadians, free of charge. Will ship books anywhere in Canada.

Nurses Line – Health Link BC

Call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse 24/7. Other professionals available through this line include after-hours pharmacists, exercise professionals and dieticians

Crisis Services and Hotlines in Vancouver

Resource list, updated quarterly.