Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

What to Ask When You’re Seeking Therapy for Late-Identified Autism

When I discovered I was autistic in my mid-30’s, it was a strange mix of emotions: relief, grief, overwhelm, curiosity, and more.


I knew very little about autism and wanted to know more. Furthermore, I wanted to discern what aspects of myself were related to autism. I also needed to process through what this meant for understanding my past, navigating the present, and re-imagining the future.


Autistic Ar Therapist Jackie Schuld made a mixed media collage of bright colors and paint. It was made in her Tucson Art Therapy Studio to show how autistics can explore questions during therapy.
"Time to Explore" Mixed Media by Jackie Schuld

I wanted to work with a therapist on these things, but it was difficult to find one with an understanding of autism, a neurodiverse lense, and who knew the impacts of late-identification.


In an ideal world, newly identified autistic people could work with an autistic therapist. However, they are not easy to find or come by.


So, we often have to wade through neurotypical therapists, hoping to find one who has the knowledge and experience to help. In a previous post, I shared questions to ask a potential therapist when you’re autistic and going to a therapist for any concern, such as depression or anxiety.


But what about when you’re searching for a therapist because you just found out you’re autistic?


Here are some questions to ask when you’re in that scenario:


  • Can you help me better understand what autism is and how it manifests for me?

  • Are you familiar with strategies and tools for autistic people?

  • Are you familiar with strategies and tools that are counter-productive for autistic people?

  • Can you help me discern what I need to accept about my autistic mind and what is possible to change?

  • Do you provide a physical environmentl that is conducive to my sensory needs and limitations (for example, free of chemical smells or having items available for sensory stimulation)?

  • Can you help me see if my depression/anxiety/eating disorder/other concern is tied to my autism?

  • How do you discern what is masking or a true identity? Can you help me learn the difference for myself?

  • Can you help me work through social difficulties while respecting my needs and limitations? For example, I don’t want to learn how to behave like a neurotypical person. I want to honor who I am and develop genuine connections.

  • Can you help me ascertain my limits?

  • Can you help me identify triggers?

  • What strategies do you use to help autistic people learn to prevent, cope, or recover from autistic burnout?

  • Can you help me re-narrate the past?

  • I’m struggling with talking to my family about my autism. Can you help me navigate these conversations?

  • Do you have any personal experiences that help you understand the lived experience of being autistic?

  • Can you help me explore trauma related to autism?

  • I am a self-identified autistic individual. Can you help me explore whether I should pursue formal diagnosis or not?


I am not suggesting you ask all of these questions. Instead, you can select 2-4 that are especially important to you.


If you prefer a script, here is a short script you can use:


I recently learned that I am autistic. I am looking for a therapist who is familiar with autism and holds a neurodivergent lens. I need help understanding how autism impacts me and how to integrate this understanding into my life. Do you think you’re a good fit for my needs?


Many people feel uncomfortable asking therapists questions. They’re often used to a therapist asking questions, not the other way around. Furthermore, many people see therapists as an authority figure and feel nervous to ask questions.


As a therapist myself, I want to encourage you to ask as many questions as possible. It will make you a more active participant in therapy and ensure you find a therapist who is a good fit for you. I love it when potential or current clients ask questions.


Furthermore, therapists are trained on boundaries. It is not your responsibility to know a therapists’ boundaries. If a question is too personal or not appropriate for us to answer, we will tell you. Let us carry that responsibility so that you can feel free to ask whatever you need to discern if we are the right therapist for you.

 

Thank you for reading. If you'd like to explore your autistic identity in therapy together, you can learn more here.

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