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StarTrekker
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30 Jan 2014, 4:32 pm

I will admit, I'm panicking a bit right now. Those of you who have read my other posts know that I am currently a psychology major at university, with the intention of becoming an autism specialist who evaluates and helps treat people with ASDs. This semester I'm enrolled in a "basic counselling skills" class which teaches you how to interact with clients and build a clinical relationship. Day one was nonverbal recognition skills. We discussed the importance of eye-contact, body language, reading facial expressions, interpreting clients' nonverbal behaviours... basically everything that aspies as a rule suck at. I'm really struggling to understand the class because the professor says things like, "Remember to make good eye contact," and, "It's important to read the client's facial expressions to see how they're feeling," but never talks about how to do that; what sorts of things people do with their faces when they're feeling certain ways (obviously I'm talking about more complex emotions that just happy, sad, mad, etc.), and she never addresses what to do if, for instance, you have an auditory processing problem that makes it virtually impossible for you to look at and talk to someone at the same time, so I'm learning what I'm meant to do, but not how I'm meant to do it. My panic is due to the fact that for the first time, I really understand what it means to be socially impaired, to the point that I may not be able to do the things I want, which is to go into a career field I'm obsessed by. Are there any psychologists out there with autism? How did you get around your problems? How much harder was it for you to get where you are than the NTs in your field? I won't change my major because there is nothing else in life that I want to do, I just want to know if I'm setting myself up for failure down the road.


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crubs
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30 Jan 2014, 4:57 pm

I'm no mental health professional, but I'm curious if you've discussed your problem with your professor?



Willard
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30 Jan 2014, 5:49 pm

Isn't that typical NT logic? "In order to counsel people who may have neurological disorders that make eye contact uncomfortable, you must learn to stare directly at them all the time." :roll:



T_
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30 Jan 2014, 5:52 pm

Well, I'm a psychology graduate (+ Aspie) who's currently working as a learning support assistant in a mainstream school that has several young people with autistic spectrum disorders.

As you mentioned, you're taking a 'basic counselling class'; therefore, I'm assuming this is a class with NTs in mind. So whatever clinical relationship you build with a patient with autism may have to be constructed in a different way. Yes, it will be important to pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language and non-verbal behaviours, but let's not forget that we don't tend to use them in the same ways and to the same extent as NTs.

This may or may not be applicable for counselling practices, I don't know as I never planned on going down the counselling route (I'm going down the academia route as it were, with a main focus on autism!), so forgive me if I'm talking out of my a**e here, but what I've picked up on is that the students I support relate to me very well when they have problems or need advice, because I have disclosed my autism to them. Either that or I'm just a big kid :lol:

When I'm advising them on something, what I tend to do is let them do most of the talking, even if it deviates from anything that is relevant; be patient and reassuring. Maybe use their main interest(s) to relate things to them that they may not understand, and if they have a sense of humour, that's always a huge bonus. But, I'm sure you know that anyway!

In short, when advising people with autism, you may be able to use your autism as an advantage.

Good luck in your studies! Are you an undergraduate?


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Sare
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30 Jan 2014, 6:17 pm

I would say that your stress (overwhelm) is also contributing to the difficulties you're presently experiencing. It is quite daunting to undertake something that requires certain skills when you know you have deficits in those exact areas. Does your professor know about your challenges?

I did not do psychology (I can if I choose to do a post-grad program), instead I did social work. While I was doing my advanced counselling unit I watched a lot of youtube videos and read a lot of books on non-verbal communication, counselling, attending skills and empathy (among other things). I also looked into 'micro-expressions' and the 7 primary emotions. Ah, I also looked into interrogation and how to spot liars. You can find resources and training for these skills online. It's not going to be easy to integrate knowledge into practice at first because you'll be thinking through the processes quite a bit. It's going to take time to become more proficient. So, get a lot of practice (counselling role-play) if you can to assist in developing those core skills. NTs will have to learn quite a bit of this too, as attending skills used in counselling is a deliberate process.

Addit: Some books I found useful when I was studying.
The Skilled Helper: A Problem-Management and Opportunity-Development Approach to Helping (Gerard, Egan).
Person-Centred Counselling in Action (Thorne, B, McLeod, J, and Mearns, D)
Practical Counselling Skills Training: An Integrative Approach (Geldard, D & Geldard, K)


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Last edited by Sare on 30 Jan 2014, 6:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

vickygleitz
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30 Jan 2014, 6:22 pm

Our people NEED psychologists who are autisic themselves. Our people need YOU. Speak to your professor. Explain that you are not going into the field to teach autistics to pretend o be NT, that you are in the field to help autistics in many ways, and that includes helping them to accept being who they are despite all the asinine NT expectations. This really angers me. It is so wrong.



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30 Jan 2014, 6:26 pm

Tony Attwood has or had a psychologist with ASD in his clinic. I have seen posts by people who work as counselor's and self identify or were diagnosed with ASD.

Don't panic, you may do this very well, but differently than if you did not have ASD. Counselor's should regulate their eye contact to help increase their effectiveness, meaning looking at someone enough the person you are counseling feels you are paying attention and is helped to stay focused. But eye contact as a counselor is purposeful and SHOULD be regulated up or down as needed. There is no one good way of making eye contact, people are different. If you can change what you do as indicated in the situation, that's best. And different techniques might be better suited to you.

You may be good or not at this. But I think some of the intensity of the teaching you are encountering in class is to help the neurotypical student learn a special kind of social interaction (counseling) when they are not accustomed to this unusual kind of interaction and to being instructed in social interactions and to feeling socially unskilled. You may have an advantage here as you probably need to think through social interactions, something everyone else may be encountering for the first time!!

If you want to be a good counselor, you will learn to focus your attention on what the person in front of you needs. Not on yourself or what you do or do not do well in the rest of your life. Have fun!! I hope this goes well for you!



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30 Jan 2014, 7:52 pm

crubs wrote:
I'm no mental health professional, but I'm curious if you've discussed your problem with your professor?


Yes, I wrote to her today and asked what she thought about it, it was this afternoon though so she hasn't replied yet.


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Rediagnosed with ASD level 2 on the 4th of May, 2019
Thanks to Olympiadis for my fantastic avatar!


StarTrekker
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30 Jan 2014, 8:00 pm

T_ wrote:
Good luck in your studies! Are you an undergraduate?


Yes, I'm halfway through my bachelor's degree, set to graduate in spring of 2015.

Sare wrote:
Does your professor know about your challenges?


Yes she does, I emailed her the first day when it became apparent that my social problems were going to be rather an issue for that class (specifying that I was as yet undiagnosed, but waiting on an eval from the student psych services on my campus). I don't tell professors unless I feel it's going to get in the way, but this I felt definitely qualified.

The books look very useful as well Sare, I'll take a look at them.


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BornThisWay
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30 Jan 2014, 8:04 pm

You begin your post saying that your long term goal with a Psychology degree is to help evaluate and treat people on the spectrum. First, let me say that your goals are admirable and I hope you succeed in reaching them. Remember, couseling is just one career of many that can arise from a Psychology degree. However, counseling skills may not be a natural fit for you; it already sounds as though this basic class is quite challenging - both in content and application. You may benefit from seeking tutoring/counseling from a skilled and trusted advisor to both get through the coursework successfully and to help you clarify how you will apply your degree in a career. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. We desperately need good Psychologist who have personal understanding of Autism Spectrum Conditions and the issues that arise when these conditions result in disorders.



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30 Jan 2014, 8:48 pm

yep,dont let that get in the way of becoming a pysch if that is what want to do. :)
mine,a consultant psychologist under the learning disability team that have seen regulary for years is on the spectrum,he only admitted it recently but its funny because had always saw it in him beforehand-in terms of differences/traits hes as obvious as obvious can be for an aspie. :lol:
he is a great laugh,and has a unique insight in how to work with those of us who also have autism [all of us supported under the LD team are classic or PDDNOS autistic].



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31 Jan 2014, 12:52 pm

I may be talking nonsense here but would not your training teach you the body language relevant to diagnosing people?. Interviews or sessions are structured. Diagnosis is based on a checklist the person does or does not do this, If the person the person does 4 out of 5 things on the list give them a positive diagnoses etc. Like with any job there are some things you won't like or are weak at, but as an outsider looking in there seems to be a lot of scrips, structure and research in psychology.

As has been said before we defiantly need people on the spectrum in the profession who won't automatically look at traits as odd, strange, wrong and in need of "fixing". We need people on the DSM. If the social parts don't work out there is always research to do.

Good luck.


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31 Jan 2014, 1:14 pm

I think you should definitely go for it. It's what I plan to do as well.


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StarTrekker
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31 Jan 2014, 1:51 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
I may be talking nonsense here but would not your training teach you the body language relevant to diagnosing people?. Interviews or sessions are structured. Diagnosis is based on a checklist the person does or does not do this, If the person the person does 4 out of 5 things on the list give them a positive diagnoses etc. Like with any job there are some things you won't like or are weak at, but as an outsider looking in there seems to be a lot of scrips, structure and research in psychology.

As has been said before we defiantly need people on the spectrum in the profession who won't automatically look at traits as odd, strange, wrong and in need of "fixing". We need people on the DSM. If the social parts don't work out there is always research to do.

Good luck.


I'm less concerned with diagnosis, as you are correct when you say that it is observing symptoms, giving tests and asking questions to obtain a history, however I am still going to have to deal appropriately with NTs in my work environment; the parents of children I'm evaluating for instance. I'll have to know how to read them, and how to respond when they're describing their child's history, then there's the follow-up; how to tell them what to do next, what to do if they're upset by the news, perhaps discussing what autism means to a parent or relative who refuses to accept the diagnosis, in a way that doesn't sound like I'm just lecturing them. There are going to be a lot of NTs in my path, and I'm going to have to know how to treat them all like clients.


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Diagnosed with ASD level 1 on the 10th of April, 2014
Rediagnosed with ASD level 2 on the 4th of May, 2019
Thanks to Olympiadis for my fantastic avatar!


Falcor
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31 Jan 2014, 2:30 pm

Don't have much to say in terms of advice but I do want to say that I find it hugely encouraging that fellow Aspies are looking to make a career in the field of psychology/counselling as this is where my career aspirations lie.

I have wanted to be a counsellor for years and have completed a Foundation degree in that area. I was worried when I first suspected I had AS that I would struggle but if anything, it has made me more determined, even more so now that I have my dx.

:)