Even though I diverge from the mainstream therapy community, I still want to be connected so I am in a hodgepodge of therapist facebook groups. One in particular was discussing raising rates since the new year is upon us. One comment particularly stuck out to me and inspired me to write this post: “We should model having difficult in person conversations and therefore, we shouldn’t send something about our rate increase in writing first.”
A flood of emotions was released when I read this comment. All of the times that I felt I wasn’t good enough or professional enough, due to being (late-discovered) AuDHD, came rushing in. Of course, I know why this therapist wrote that because that is the culturally appropriate NEUROTYPICAL way to address money and hard conversations. But what about autistic culture? Our ways, in the context of the neurotypical norm, are seen as avoidant, immature, and unprofessional. Psychotherapists are not only supposed to model desirable neurotypical behavior like the emotional maturity to call people in person, but we are supposed to teach our clients how they can achieve it as well.
I have sat with this opposing dichotomy for years. My autistic/AuDHD brain and nervous system yearning for accommodations and my willpower beating those yearnings down so that I can be seen as mature, professional, and modeling “healthy” behavior. It was only when I began to unmask as a professional, that I began to realize how deep the root of neurotypical cultural indoctrination is.
I thought of my response to the therapist in my head. I wanted to say “Actually, I am autistic and it works better for my nervous system to send important messages via email first and then follow up with talking about in real time.” And my brain also anticipated how neurotypical therapists may interpret this. They may think “Oh well, I can’t think of every marginalized community when I comment in Facebook!” or they may more quietly think “Oh, this therapist is hiding behind her autism to avoid hard things. That’s no way to model behavior as a therapist.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have received feedback about me texting something emotionally difficult to say that, in neurotypical culture, “should” have been a phone call. Neurotypical culture sees many accommodations as weakness, avoidance, immaturity. And therapy will be the first line intervention to get you to be able to learn how to step up and act neurotypical. Neurotypical is the model of health in the psychotherapy world.
To be truly, radically, fundamentally neurodivergence-affirming is to radically change course from mainstream psychotherapy and, more than likely, be completely misunderstood by my contemporaries.