The Importance of Tailored Therapy for Neurodivergent Adults

The human brain is a marvel – it’s more intricate and powerful than even the most advanced supercomputers. Countless neurons actively communicate whenever you learn something new, recognise a face or read a word, forming a complex information exchange network. Every day, billions of electrical signals pass across tiny gaps called synapses, ensuring that our bodily functions and perception of the world isn’t interrupted. 

Yet, for so long, the therapy field worked under an incorrect notion – that while our physical appearance, mannerisms, and personalities vary, our brains are all the same. We now know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Every one of our brains has a unique neural wiring, a distinct signature, and this is the foundation of the concept of neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is the understanding and appreciation that every brain functions in its own way. It challenges the concept of a normal brain, promoting the idea that all brains, with their various ways of processing information, are valid. It encompasses a range of neurological differences, from autism to ADHD, dyslexia, and beyond. Rather than viewing these differences as disorders or deficiencies, the neurodiversity movement asserts that they are simply natural variations of the human brain.

Recognising this individuality is paramount, especially when it comes to therapy. Neurodivergent adults often exist in a world that misunderstands or overlooks their distinct makeup. They require therapeutic approaches tailored to their specific experiences and needs, and by providing this, we can create a world where mental health and addiction treatment is more inclusive and therapeutic outcomes are vastly improved.

The Historical Context of Therapy

Traditionally, therapy took a prescriptive standpoint, viewing anything different from the so-called neurological norm as a problem to be addressed. The medical model portrayed neurodivergence as a malfunction or deficit rather than a natural variation. This model aimed to mould neurodivergent people to fit into pre-established societal boxes, completely sidelining the very essence of their unique neural identities.

Instead of celebrating differences, tapping into their potential, and tailoring treatment approaches to suit them, it focused on correction and alignment with what was considered the typical standard. This oversimplified the intricacies of the human mind and did not provide nurturing or healing. Some modalities have been called cruel and harmful, in particular therapies like Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), which has been criticised as it involves learning to suppress natural behaviours. [1] Thankfully, a paradigm shift in recent years has paved the way for more inclusive and personalised therapeutic practices.

Unique Challenges Faced by Neurodiverse People

Neurodiverse people often navigate a world designed for the neurotypical, leading to distinct challenges. Beyond their inherent neural differences, societal perceptions and misunderstandings can exacerbate their struggles. 

Sensory Overload: Everyday sounds, like a crisp packet crackling, might be overwhelming for those with sensory sensitivities. Their nervous system might dive into fight, flight or freeze mode, which is made worse by a world that often invalidates or overlooks these responses.

Bullying and Isolation: Neurodiverse people, particularly those who display behaviours outside societal norms, often face bullying, leading to profound trauma. The innate human desire for connection makes the resulting social isolation deeply distressing.

Masking and Coping Mechanisms: Neurodiverse people might resort to substance misuse to fit in or manage their feelings of isolation or differentness.

Heightened Vulnerabilities: Neurodiverse people can experience an increased risk of developing certain mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. [2]

Why Tailored Therapy for Neurodivergent Adults Is Important

 

The Diversity Within Neurodiversity 

There is diversity within neurodiversity – it’s not a uniform experience. Within each label – be it autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or any other – there is a huge range of experiences, challenges, and abilities. For instance, two people with an autism diagnosis can have different strengths, sensitivities, and needs, and this couldn’t possibly be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. A tailored method honours each person and considers that their neural paths and perceptions are distinctive.

Personalised therapy acknowledges distinct strengths, utilising them as a pillar of support and growth. This approach helps personal development by using innate abilities rather than suppressing them. Also, individualised therapeutic interventions can pinpoint specific difficulties a neurodivergent adult might face. Instead of broadly attempting to address preconceived symptoms, tailored therapy zeroes in on foundational issues, leading to more effective, lasting outcomes.

Empathy and understanding are essential for any therapeutic process, and for neurodivergent adults, therapy that resonates with their personal narratives offers empowerment. It provides validation and offers a sense of being understood and seen. This tailored therapy equips them with tools and strategies suited to their experiences. As they navigate a world built predominantly for the neurotypical, these personal insights enhance their well-being and boost their autonomy, enabling them to craft a life that aligns with their own neural blueprint.

The Characteristics of Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapy

Neurodiversity-affirming therapy signifies a pivotal shift in treatment perspective. Central to this is acknowledging the client as the foremost expert on their personal view of the world. Instead of trying to modify or correct, this approach listens to and validates the unique experiences of neurodivergent individuals.

Embracing both the challenges and strengths of neurodivergence is key. This therapy doesn’t just focus on difficulties; it celebrates the distinct advantages and insights of the person. [3]

Cultural competence is also highly important; neurodiversity spans all backgrounds, so it’s essential to be aware of this to eliminate biases. This approach fosters a judgement-free space, promoting genuine understanding and empowerment.

Finding a Neurodiversity-Affirming Therapist

Despite recent progress, many professionals still need to be equipped with or understand neurodiversity-affirming practices, as not having the right knowledge could hinder the therapeutic journey for neurodivergent adults. So, how do you find the right therapist?

Proper research is the first step here. Multiple directories, organisations, and societies specialise in listing therapists trained in working with neurodiverse people, and it’s advisable to explore therapists who specifically highlight their experience with neurodivergent clients. Pose questions during initial consultations, gauge their understanding and approach to neurodiversity, and ask them about their qualifications and training in this field.  

Get Neurodiverse-Affirming Care at The Revoke Programme

Our neural differences highlight the richness of human experience, and therapy should honour, not overlook, this. The Revoke Programme is honoured to champion this ethos. 

We take immense pride in providing specialised treatment for neurodivergent adults, addressing a spectrum of mental and behavioural health conditions. Every brain’s story is unique, and every therapeutic journey should be, too. 

Contact us to learn more about the support we can provide.

References

  1.  https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/controversy-autisms-common-therapy/
  2.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10882-011-9231-7
  3.  https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1937&context=ojot

 

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