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Neurodiversity Affirming Care Part 1

What is neurodivergence and how do I know if my therapist is affirming?Neurodivergence - you’ve likely heard this term floating around some corners of the internet recently. What the heck does it mean? And how do you know if your therapist is providing affirming care?

I love the idea of neurodivergence as an umbrella term for anyone with a brain that functions differently, neurologically speaking, in comparison with the “mainstream” or “neurotypical” population. (While it’s not necessary to think of neurodivergence in relation to a specific diagnosis, here I will mostly speak in diagnostic terms as that is what people are most familiar with.)

Depending on who you ask, a plethora of diagnoses fit under this “umbrella.” The ones we hear most commonly are ADHD and Autism, but it can extend to OCD, Bipolar Disorder, personality disorders, learning disorders, complex PTSD and Tourette’s, to name a few. I love the below graphic from Sonny Jane Wise of Lived Experience Educator for the neurodivergent umbrella.

Each neurodivergent person has their own unique experience, but I often hear a similar vein running through each of their stories that goes something like this:

“Something must be wrong with me because I can’t seem to accomplish as much as other people with the same amount of time.”

“I’ve always felt that even if I gave 150%, I could never be as smart as other people my age.” 

“People tell me I talk too much or think about weird things.”

“It feels like I’m always missing out on something that everyone else in the room seems to understand.” 

With these common experiences come the unpleasant feelings of shame, lacking belonging, questioning identity and value, and frequently feeling insufficient or incapable. 

Put simply, you feel like you’re wrong but no matter how hard you try, you could never be right. 

This is what it feels like to be neurodivergent. You overachieve and work extremely hard to fit in, and still feel like you have little to show for your exhaustion. 

So what does a good fit with a therapist feel like? 

They will be willing to make accommodations to what sessions look like so that you feel seen, cared for, and understood. They will provide you with resources to providers (doctors, psychiatrists, dietitians, support groups) that will also help you feel this way, if you want them. They will help you uncover and dismantle the lies that a lifetime of feeling broken have ingrained in your system, and help you re-build a truer understanding of who you are and what you’re worth.

In short, your therapist should feel like a reprieve from the constant feeling of “I’m not enough.” 

Your therapist will not be perfect, but they will be willing to hear your experience, validate it, and help you grow in whatever way you desire. 

The Couch Therapy has multiple therapists with training and continuing education on neurodiversity affirming care. Reach out today for the support you deserve!


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