I met Anna at an exciting event hosted by the Creative Counsellors Club at Facebook HQ. Jo Garner from Cheshire Autism Practical Support introduced us, and when the subject of Anna’s ‘All Things Autism’ show on the Women’s Radio Show came up, I couldn’t help but want to be involved.
The day arrived, and I nervously made my way down from Cheshire on the train, navigating the underground to meet Anna at Covent Gardens. Anna met me and put me at ease. We arrived at radio station, and once I settled in, the show began! All very different from my usual life as a counsellor and mum to Harry (13), Hazel (7) and Lewis (5) and wife to David.
I spoke about my experience as a woman with Aspergers Syndrome, diagnosed 4 years ago at the age of 37. We also spoke of my experience as a mum to 2 sons who are also diagnosed. I filled Anna in on how much Cheshire Autism Practical Support ((ChAPS), a charity which supports autistic people and their families) has helped us as a family.
I explained to Anna, that I am a Person-Centred (PC) counsellor who specialises in working with autistic clients, providing counselling to members of ChAPS. And, about the autism awareness workshops I give to counsellors.
My aim is to make counselling more accessible to this client group, increasing counsellor confidence in working with this group which is currently known to be generally low.
Research I have gathered via a literature review demonstrates that person-centred counselling can be a highly effective therapy type for the autistic client group. PC counselling has core conditions of the counsellor offering, empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, believed to be vital in creating the therapeutic relationship necessary for making counselling effective.
Autistic people often grow up with many conditions of worth (the conditions we think we must meet in order for other people to accept us as worthy), leading to low self-esteem, the PC Approach is ideal for breaking these down. I explained that counsellors need to sometimes help to make person-centred counselling more accessible to this under-supported group by working creatively and visually and adjusting to different communication styles.
I also spoke of the lively and interactive forum for counsellors working with neurodiversity which has gained over 400 members in its first couple of months, part of my mission to increase awareness of autism in the counselling field and to improve counselling experiences for autistic people.
In a survey I shared via social media, 64 autistic people responded, 86% reported having received an experience of poor counselling. The results of this survey, the known higher prevalence of poor mental health seen in autism, including higher depression and anxiety disorder and suicide rates and my own personal experiences of counsellors with a poor knowledge of autism are what drive me to improve this service for autistic people. I hope to further advance research in this area by taking on a PhD.
Anna then asked how I relax, I’m afraid to admit on radio I confessed to be a bit of a fan of EastEnders and TV generally to relax.
It was an honour to have been in Anna’s company for the day and to appear on her radio show, she is one of my autism hero’s and I hugely admire her work and her dedication to raising autism awareness and the positive light she brings to us autistic people.
If you missed Lisa’s interview it will be aired at 1pm everyday for the rest of the week on www.womensradiostation.com