Eoin Stephens - Pluralistic Cognitive-Behavioural Counselling
Therapy, Training, Supervision, Consultancy
Supporting Adult Autistic Mental Health (minimum age 18)
My practice is currently very busy - I may not have any immediate appointments available, but I've a waiting list, or I can recommend other possible therapists.
What is Autism-Informed Therapy?
There is growing awareness in the field of counselling/psychotherapy of the need to be more Autism-Informed. These are my current thoughts, very much ongoing work in progress...
As an autistic person, working as a therapist with other autistic people, I understand Autism-Informed Therapy (or Counselling, or Psychotherapy) to simply be therapy that sees Autistic Neurodivergence positively rather than just as a problem, and adapts therapeutic settings, approaches, & goals to the particular ways autistic people process the world, especially the social/interpersonal world.
For me, Autism-Informed Therapy isn't about helping an autistic client to not be autistic, it is about helping them, as an autistic person
- to better understand, "unmask", & own their autistic identity, and live more happily and productively with it
- to recover from & manage the life issues & mental health problems they bring to therapy (e.g. Anxiety, Depression, Low Self-Esteem, Addictions, Complex PTSD, Developmental Trauma, Relationship Issues, etc). Often these are the result of having to adjust in unhealthy ways to a largely unaccepting world.
If a client is wondering whether or not they might be autistic, I can help them explore this question via a Collaborative Guided Discovery process, but I don't provide a formal assessment/diagnosis service.
In therapy, autistic clients need to be met and appreciated as the individual they are, with their unique goals, strengths, and history. A practical, relatively structured, problem-solving approach is often also welcome. In my work, I take a pragmatist, pluralist, Cognitive-Humanistic therapeutic approach, which tries to be:
- Person-Centred, in order to convey proper appreciation of the client's individual perspective, and help the client understand themselves better through the use of counselling skills such as Reflection, Paraphrasing, Summarising, Reframing, Self-Disclosure etc.
- Motivation-Focused, (via e.g. Motivational Interviewing) in order to ensure that therapy tracks the personal values & life goals of the client
- Strengths-Focused, to counteract the invalidation & disempowerment experienced by many autistic people
- Trauma-Informed, given that many adult autistic clients have had multiple traumatic experiences as they tried to survive in a largely unaccepting world.
Building on these foundations, elements of various Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (including "third generation" CBT approaches, such as Compassion-Focused Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Schema Therapy) can often be useful and relevant, as these approaches tend to be:
- issue-focused, skill-focused, & problem-solving
- concerned with internal processes of thinking, meaning, interpreting, feeling etc, rather than just behaviour
- structured, psychoeducational, coaching, experimental (e.g. Socratic Questioning)
- explicit regarding the rationale for any therapeutic work that is suggested
- tried and tested in relation to many of the issues autistic adults struggle with, e.g. anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, etc.
A framework of Evolutionary Theory can also be valuable, as it assumes that diversity in populations is the norm, not the exception (see Irish Centre for Evolutionary Psychology & Therapy website).
See blog post on Autism-Informed Therapy here
* IAITT is a neurodiversity-affirming practice *
In line with our therapeutic emphasis on the autistic person's inner world, learning style, feelings, motivations, goals, strengths & autonomous choices, IAITT does not support the use of compliance-focused behaviour modification interventions such as Applied Behaviour Analysis.
Why is AIT needed?
As more children are being identified as autistic, more adults are also realising that being autistic may make a lot of sense of their life experiences and struggles. Whether they come to therapy to get help in processing this realisation, or whether they are already in therapy for secondary issues such as Social Anxiety, Low Self-Esteem, Addictions, OCD, etc, allowance must be made for their autistic personality, sensitivites, and ways of thinking.
The main characteristics of autistic neurodivergence are still under discussion, but here’s my current draft, covering differences in Sensory Processing, differences in Information Processing, & differences in Social Information Processing:
- Intensity of experience, often characterised by extremes of sensory sensitivity.
- Heightened awareness of aspects of the environment (especially non-social aspects), and intense interest in exploring & discussing some of these aspects.
- Independent learning (including social learning), with detailed memory for areas of interest, & strong systemising & pattern-seeking abilities.
- Preference for communication as accurate transfer of useful information (e.g. less interested in small talk etc).
- Higher value placed on truth, consistency, fairness, rules that make sense, etc, than on social conformity for its own sake.
- Possible use of stimming behaviours for self-regulation, self-expression, emotional processing, communication etc.
There is also growing awareness that many autistic people may have ADHD as well, and this needs further appropriate therapeutic help.
About Me - see also eoinstephens.com
BA Psychology, Dip Counselling MA Cognitive Behavioural Counselling, MIACP, MACI
I'm a therapist & lecturer/trainer who has worked in the areas of Counselling/Psychotherapy, Mental Health, & Disability for over 30 years, using a person-centred, pragmatic, cognitive-behavioural approach.
I've been particularly active in the field of Behavioural Addictions, taking the lead especially with addictive/compulsive sexual behaviours, and received the Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy Carl Berkeley Memorial Award in 2010.
From 2004 to 2016 I worked as College President and as a senior faculty member in PCI College, training counsellors/psychotherapists. I then went back into full-time private practice and contracted training work, and since about 2017 I've been working mainly with late-discovery adult autistic clients, trying to gain a better understanding of the problems they face & their specific therapeutic needs, as well as providing training in this area for many therapists. I believe that any such understanding needs to be grounded in a combination of lived experience, clinical experience & research findings. In 2019, I founded the Institute for Autism-Informed Therapy & Training.
I'm autistic myself, having made the discovery in 2012.
Click here for further details of my CV: