Image copyright 2017 - Ladoza.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a blanket term we use to describe people who experience a range of neurological conditions, such as autism, ADHD, executive dysfunctions, epilepsy, dyspraxia or dyslexia. People who don't experience any of these neurological conditions are often described as 'neurotypical'.
If you are neurodivergent, you might find certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, crowds, textures or smells to be overwhelming. You might find it difficult to manage your attention or focus, especially if you are not interested in what it is you have to pay attention to.
Neurodivergence can sometimes make the world or the people around us hard to understand, or difficult to engage with. Some people describe engaging with the neurotypical world to be stressful or tiring. Some people derive great joy from their neurodivergence, and some people describe moments of neurodivergent euphoria when engaging with particular stimuli that stimulate their neurodivergences.
Neurodiversity and Counselling
Historically, counselling has been poor at understanding, accommodating and supporting neurodivergent people.
In my practice, I have sought additional training, support and supervision to help me support neurodivergent people manage and understand their conditions, where this support is needed, and accomodate neurodivergent people with issues that do not directly relate to neurodivergence.
I try to take a stance we call 'neurodiversity affirming'.
Neurodiversity Affirming Practice
I like to think of neurodiversity affirming practice as about engaging with neurodivergence realistically. This means trying to engage with neurodiversity not as an affliction to be endured and pitied, or as a 'superpower' for neurotypical people to greet with inspiration and admiration.
Rather, it's about acknowledging that neurodivergence can cause us real, meaningful obstacles to engaging with the neurotypically designed world, and in relationships with people who don't always understand how or why we might be seeing the world differently. It's also about acknowledging that acceptance and understanding of our neurodivergences can enrich our lives, and help us develop tools, relationships and structures to navigate the world more easily.
I am unable to diagnoses neurological conditions. In the UK diagnosis is typically carried out by a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or a team of psychologists and psychiatrists. To seek a diagnosis, ask your GP to be referred to a specialist service for diagnosis. Counsellors and Psychotherapists cannot diagnoses conditions in the UK, and you should be sceptical of any that say they can.
You do not need to have a diagnosis to explore feelings of neurological difference in counselling. You might feel you have traits or experiences that match those of a neurological condition. Many neurodivergent people choose to not seek a formal diagnosis at all, for a wide range of reasons. If you self-identify as neurodivergent, I am not going to delegitimise this because you don't have a formal diagnosis.
A note of 'cures'
No professional can claim to be able to 'cure' neurodivergent conditions. If you are considering engaging with a professional who claims to be able to 'cure' neurodivergence, you should contact your GP before engaging in any treatment.
My practice is not and never will be about 'curing' people with neurodivergences. Rather, it is about adapting the practice of psychotherapy to suit people who are neurodivergent, and using understandings of neurodivergence to work towards better and more effective outcomes in therapy.