Autism & Counselling: a straw poll

In an effort to get some idea of whether autistic people access (either private or publicly funded) counselling or not, please take a moment to answer the question in the sidebar to the right. Thank you!

(I plan to use the numbers produced by this poll to demonstrate the accuracy, or otherwise, of sample sizes, for a university assignment.)

I’ll also be doing more research on the efficacy of various forms of counselling, and the role of autism in the therapist/client relationship, later this year. I’ll be very grateful for your participation again in the future, and if you’d like to help, please get in touch via the “contact” tab above, or subscribe to our research newsletter in the sidebar :o)

©Leigh Forbes


13 thoughts on “Autism & Counselling: a straw poll”

  1. Exactly the same experience as Kev. When is the healthcare system going to realise that anxiety and depression should be treated as symptoms, not just diagnoses. With the stresses and strains of living with AS in an NT world, how could we not end up depressed, anxious, or even paranoid at times?

    It is laudable that counselling is more widely available these days, but has this maybe been achieved by training and employing counsellors who see remission of depression as a success in itself, rather than the first step towards identifying the underlying problems that cause the depression? No doubt it is cheaper to limit their training in this way – but maybe I’d have needed counselling just once, rather than once every 5 years, if AS had been identified earlier – wouldn’t that have saved rather a lot of resources too?

    Can they not see that SSRI’s give symptomatic relief only to some people? Again, their availability is valuable, and I have benefited from them myself. But if you were to get two or three unexplained headaches every week for 30 years, would you simply be palmed off with some aspirin because they make the pain subside? No, of course not, you’d be referred without question to a specialist who could look for the reason why you keep getting the headaches.

    I’ve had crippling bouts of depression/anxiety since I was in my mid-teens – maybe half a dozen acute episodes over the last 30 years. Four times, I have been referred for CBT. It was not without benefits, but always broke down at the same point – “The stigmatisation that you feel is just a cognitive bias – it will all go away if you think about it differently.”
    Well, sorry, but I am certain that I have not imagined, misinterpreted or exaggerated all the times that I’ve explicitly been mocked (and worse) because I walk strangely, talk strangely, drop myself in the doo-doo in conversations – if anything, I underplay them because I was brought up to believe that “big boys don’t cry”. Those experiences were real! (It’s not as if I didn’t spend hours of my life pacing like a trapped tiger, analysing them all!). Yes, “everyone does those things sometimes” – I may be socially inept, but I’m intelligent enough to know that I do those things pathologically (when I dare speak at all), not just when I have a momentary lapse now and then, as all people do.

    Luckily, this time, the person assessing the appropriate form of counselling for me really knew her stuff. And for once, my GP and I were told the things that we really needed to know..
    – Don’t refer for CBT again, it’s unlikely to be effective.
    – There’s an underlying developmental disorder. AS is strongly suggested, let’s get a diagnosis before making any more vital decisions.
    Most interestingly, she was very frank about the state of play in our local mental health services – that few of her colleagues have any kind of training to identify ASD patient, and tailor treatment accordingly – they’re just taught to apply the specific CBT techniques that they are trained for, but not to assess whether CBT may not even be appropriate, or to identify follow up actions that might be needed when the depression subsides.
    That’s not their fault of course, and I try not to feel bitter that maybe my condition could have been identified so much sooner, had depression not been the sole focus of the treatment.

    There is something fundamentally wrong with our care of people with all kinds of developmental disorders when there is no real clinical path for identifying them in the first place. And it is about time that depression and anxiety can be seen as the outward expressions of more fundamental issues rather than as “primary illnesses” in their own right. The ‘academics’ know, and it is well documented, that anxiety and depression are common co-morbidities of a wide range of problems – yet this simply does not seem to be translated into effective action on the “front-line” of healthcare.

    OK, I admit it; I lied, I am bitter about it right now (it’ll pass – I’m not a grudge bearer!). My most recent experience shows that these things can be done. But I can’t escape the feeling that I just “won the lottery” in having seen a counsellor who did take a more holistic view of my condition. But what of all those other people out there who never end up picking a winning ticket, and never get the advice that they really need?… Grrrr.

  2. I’m 47, self diagnosed Aspergers, also Social Anxiety & Severe Depression, saw my GP last July when I couldn’t cope with work anymore & am still waiting.. in the meantime I paid for a councellor, but after 8 sessions he just kept saying, “Everyone feels a bit down sometimes”, I “just need to relax a bit” & “You’re normal, just like everyone else”.. I’ve since gathered that because my GP initially diagnosed ‘Anxiety & Depression’ & thats the first thing I say, I’m treated as just another of the 1 in 5 people in the UK presenting with ‘mild depression’, given an anti-depressant & sent on my way. In future I will hand out a written diagnosis & potted NHS/private history, including books, therapies & tricks I’ve found that help me, before I say a word!
    Thanks for the space to rant, lol

  3. been to psychiatrist many times
    tell them what im like for an hour then they just say
    what kind of anti depressant would you like?NEXT
    getting ACTUAL help seems impossible

    • If you are in the UK, and have already been referred to the mental health team, I believe you are entitled to ask to be referred to a psychiatrist of your choice, that is, one with ASD specialisation. It might be worth going back to your GP, and asking if you can see someone else. Check the NHS Constitution and Your Rights to Choose pages on the NHS Choices website.

  4. My answer goes both ways, but I’m only in the process of being diagnosed. AS characteristics have truly been the closest thing that mirror my symptoms/coping mechanisms. In fact, my history is SO different from the behavior of those suffering from the more common mood disorders(depression, etc).

    One of my first psychologists was extremely helpful because he was supportive of the unique ways in which I (successfully) countered adversity in my life: organization, routine, familiarity, and logic. The #1 source of adversity was EXHAUSTINGLY maintaining the appearance of normal social interaction in school/work, NOT the actual work or academics.

    I moved to another state and the last psychologists/therapists have actually caused more damage than help. None seemed to have had experience with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and mainly encounter your typical depressed American: lethargic, pessimistic, drug/alcohol abusing, etc. My tactic to counter suffering becomes mistaken as the root:”you’re over-thinking; just do it spontaneously” “you’re over-doing this; it needs to come naturally.” “you need to smile more.” Even the revelation that forgiveness/mindfulness is the highest priority in my coping does little dissuade those that are convinced that “we can make you normal again.”

    My immigrant parents don’t recognize Western Psychology or mental health disorders, so I can forgive their assumption that I’m “making up excuses.” However, when educated individuals mistake my efforts and strategies of coping as the reason of my suffering.. it is the most heart breaking and discouraging thing to stomach.

    Because of more research and websites like this, I’ve been looking specifically for a psychologist and psychiatrist who actually have a background in AS.

  5. Self-diagnosed only at this stage, so I’ve never spoken to anybody formally about it. At 46, I’m still trying to pluck up the courage to make that GP appointment!

  6. I went to counseling about 6 years ago for dealing with severe depression, I stopped going, I didn’t feel like it was doing any good.

    I think I might see a psychologist in the next few months, because I really want to talk to someone about my suspicions that I’m autistic, getting a formal diagnosis would bring me a lot of closure.

  7. I recently had counseling for anxiety: CBT/graduated exposure. It has led to some improvements:; for example, I am better able to speak on the phone.

  8. I found a brilliant counsellor who actually helped me a great deal with depression but also helped me learn to understand myself. It was in part the work I did with him that led to my formal diagnosis.

  9. Yes! My 17yo has Asperger’s and major anxiety particularly around assignments and schoolwork. She also suffers depression. She has difficulties in executive function which make each assignment task a brand new and terrifying challenge. She has been on anti-depressants for around two years now.

  10. I have not accessed counselling for depression tough my seeking a formal diagnosis was driven by depression and inability to cope at the time. By the time I got my diagnosis I had started to lift out of depression and didn’t feel the need to persue additional help. My diagnosis gives me that option if I need it in the future.

  11. Where do I start im44 4 kids gone through the whole of mental health care since I was 17 the usual depression and anxiety but the difference is I’ve come out the other side unscaved . I got aspergers but it only came to ME five years ago because my kids have it,I’m still with the mother of my kids (25) years now.if u want to talk to me best to do it over a phone.
    Cheers Pasquale

  12. Yes, I accessed counseling, but gave it up after a few months, because he didn’t understand me and wasn’t helping the underlying problems that cause the depression, primarily, failures in relationships and social skills.

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