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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Yates

Neurodivergent-Affirming Therapy: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Navigating the world of therapy can be a complex journey for anyone, including neurodivergent individuals. Whether you are autistic, dyslexic, have ADHD, or identify with another form of neurodivergence, engaging in therapy can have a profoundly beneficial impact on your self worth, identity development, and general mental health. 

In spite of these advantages, we understand that diving into therapy can feel overwhelming or confusing. In this blog post, we will provide you with tools for selecting a neurodivergent-affirming therapy practice, as well as tips for preparing for and making the most out of your first appointment. Continue reading to learn more. 

Searching for a Therapist

There are many, many therapists out there, so choosing the right neurodivergent-affirming therapy practice for you is your first big step. Here are some factors to consider while conducting your search:

  • Neurodivergent-inclusive website: Does the practice use person-first language on their website (ex “autistic clients” instead of “clients with autism”)? Is there evidence of celebrating and welcoming diversity in their website content? Do they address neurodivergent-affirming care in blog posts and/or via social media? Do they provide photos of their office space so clients know what to expect? 

A view of one of our offices with artwork on the wall in the hallway
A glimpse of our practice

  • Ease of scheduling: Can you make appointments in the way that feels most comfortable for you? For example, some people may prefer to make appointments over the phone, while others are much more comfortable scheduling appointments online. 

  • Recommendations or reviews: Have any of your neurodivergent acquaintances and/or family members had a positive experience with the practice? If not, are there online reviews that confirm favorable neurodivergent care?

  • In person vs virtual: Are telehealth appointments an option if you do not feel comfortable attending therapy sessions in person?

  • Insurance: Will you be relying on insurance to cover all or part of your therapy costs? Does the practice you’re considering either take your insurance or facilitate the out-of-network submission process?

  • Location: If attending the practice in person, is it easy to get to from your home or workplace, along a route that you are comfortable taking?

  • Ease of paperwork completion: Does the practice offer a paperwork completion option that suits your specific needs? This may include extra space for writing detailed responses to prompts, or forms that can be filled out orally to reduce reading stress. 

Making Preparations

Once you’ve found a neurodivergent affirming therapy practice and scheduled your first appointment, it is time to prepare for your first session. Here are some tips for the preparation process:

  • Whether you’ve decided to fill out forms online, by hand, or orally, completing them in advance gives you one less task to focus on as your appointment draws closer.

  • If you are driving to the practice, map out your route ahead of time. Figure out how long it will take you to get there, keeping traffic patterns and parking in mind, and then add an additional 15 minutes to your travel time to allow for factors out of your control. 

A woman smiling at her computer with a cup and saucer next to her
Find a space that brings you peace and joy for your telehealth appointment
  • If your therapy session will be conducted online, find a quiet, comfortable place to set up your computer. Open Zoom or Google Meet to make sure your audio and video are connecting properly. Ensure that your computer is either plugged in or has a full charge. 

Getting Comfortable

When your first appointment time finally arrives, here are a couple of tips for getting settled:

  • Neurodivergent-affirming therapy practices strive to make their environments sensory friendly, so don’t hesitate to let your therapist know if the lights are too bright, external noise is distracting, or you notice any other stimuli that might impede your ability to focus on your therapy session. 

  • Consider bringing a fidget or some other comfort tool that you can hold in your hand. You can also ask your therapist what kind of tools they have available - there may be some fun, unique ones that you haven’t tried before!

Two hands holding fidget spinners
A fidget tool can help keep you calm and focused during your appointment
  • Have a water bottle nearby. Drinking water can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and it’s also good to have on hand if you find yourself talking a lot. 

Making the Most of Your Appointment

Congratulations, you made it to your first therapy appointment! Here are some general tips for those early experiences:

  • If you know exactly what brings you to therapy, feel free to share those concerns or questions with your therapist. If you are unsure, don’t worry; neurodivergent-affirming therapists will have strategies, questions, and prompts ready to help facilitate the conversation.

  • Don’t hesitate to share any special interests you may have with your therapist. Not only do these interests provide key insights about you, but your therapist can also incorporate them into different aspects of your session as a way of making the discussion more engaging and relatable for you.

A therapist listening to a young adult speak
A neurodivergent-affirming therapist's ultimate goal is to provide you with a safe space to embrace your identity and explore your mental health
  • Your first appointment will be an introductory, “getting to know” you opportunity, where you and your therapist will learn more about each other and begin to earn each other’s trust. These early discussions will help to guide the direction of future sessions, where you and your therapist may begin more in-depth work on such topics as sensory regulation, self-advocacy, acceptance of neurodivergent traits, and other themes that relate to your specific needs. 

One Final Reminder

If you don’t feel like you “clicked” with your therapist for whatever reason, that is OK! Don’t be afraid to request a different therapist within the same practice, or explore other practice options. The ultimate goal of neurodivergent-affirming therapy is improving and maintaining your mental health, and you deserve the optimal environment and support needed to make that goal a reality for you.


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