Whether you received an autism diagnosis as a child or have only recently discovered that you are on the spectrum, facing life as an autistic person presents daily challenges and struggles. Even high-functioning individuals who can pass as neurotypical may feel like they are constantly navigating a social minefield while wearing a blindfold, and the resulting stress can only make the situation worse. Although conventional psychotherapy has seen relatively limited success in autistic children, it may prove to be more beneficial for adults who are still dealing with their condition on a daily basis.
Improving Social Skills and Emotional Literacy
Many autistic people have difficulty reading social cues and the emotions of others, both of which are essential parts of maintaining a conversation and building strong relationships. These skills can, however, be learned in a more academic manner with the right time and training. During behavioral therapy sessions, you will be able to observe and practice social cues without fear of judgment or public embarrassment.
Providing a Safe Outlet for Fears and Anxieties
Living with autism can be highly stressful and occasionally frightening, even for otherwise stable and intelligent adults. Sensory issues like light or sound sensitivity, for example, can overwhelm autistic individuals in public, while social anxiety disorder is frequently comorbid with autism. Without a trusted confidant, these fears and anxiety can accumulate over time, gradually harming both your mental and physical health. A psychotherapist is trained to help you process these emotions logically and without condemnation, recognizing them as a product of your brain chemistry as opposed to a personal failing.
Developing Positive Coping Mechanisms
Many autistic children and adults "stim," or self-stimulate, in order to cope with mounting stress. These behaviors might include hand flapping, rocking, cracking knuckles and other characteristic, repetitive motions meant to subtly release stress. The lack of social awareness that also tends to come with autism, however, can make this stimming behavior inappropriate or distracting to others. Your psychotherapist will work with you to pin down any stimming techniques you use and discuss when they are and are not appropriate, as well as possible alternative behaviors to use while in public.
Accommodating the Unique Needs of Autism
Finally, few people understand the intricacies of autism like therapists who have been trained to deal with any imaginable quirk of the brain. No matter where you are on the functioning scale, your voice and thoughts deserve to be heard. If you are feeling anxious or uncertain about your ability to communicate with a therapist, it may help to send those misgivings to your therapist in writing, either by e-mail or a handwritten note. A good therapist will find ways to work with you until you are more comfortable with self-expression and should never intentionally make you feel ashamed of your condition. It may be possible to improve your social skills and reduce the hardships of living with autism, but you must take the first step by scheduling an appointment with a psychotherapist in your area.
Contact a professional like Caroline B. Goldberg, LCSW, LLC for more information.