The place to be for neurodivergent therapists and therapists for the neurodivergent
A lot has changed since I founded the Canadian Neurodiversity Affirming Therapists (CNDAT) Facebook group in March 2021. The pandemic-driven transition from in-person to online therapy proved not to be as catastrophic as many of us feared. The need for our services, as therapists, keeps growing.
As therapists, we need support too. Even without a pandemic, being in private practice can be isolating. And when your practice serves a population with a differently-wired brain and nervous system, with no research on how pharmacologics or traditional therapies impact it, and no one out there you know of doing this work, it can be, not only lonely but scary. There are limits to how far reflective practice can take us without peers to reflect back and provide new perspectives.
If I couldn’t, I knew, find a ready-made community of colleagues providing therapy to neurodivergent adults, I would have to create one. And so the Canadian Neurodiversity Affirming Therapists Facebook group, CNDAT, was born.
What services are available to Autistic adults, adults with ADHD, and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders as per the DSM-V, you ask? To answer, I want to tell you why I built my practice around such a niche population. When I started thinking about what my private practice would look like, my daughter, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 15, was about to turn 18. Now, I’m not saying that the services available to Autistic kids are great. But there were no services for adults. It was as if the lifelong Neurodevelopmental Disorder she had simply went away on her 18th birthday.
Looking around and seeing this wasteland of support and services prompted a light-bulb moment for me. You know those rare moments that hit you so hard and so fast that they change your life forever? In that moment, I knew that the life I had been living, for nearly two decades as an academic, a Social Work professor, and a researcher, far from the world of clinical practice, was over. From that moment on, instead of seeing a wasteland, I saw soil ripe for cultivation. After all those years of thinking and studying and writing and talking about what other people did, I wanted to ‘do’.
When I found a therapist in Toronto doing the exact work I wanted to do, it seemed like the universe also wanted me to grab a shovel and start digging. Dori Zener, the only person in Toronto with a private practice that served Autistic youth and adults at the time, agreed to take me on as her first Associate. The time I spent there gave me the solid foundation I needed to walk out into that wasteland on my own. Imagine my surprise when what I found when I struck the hard, dry earth with my shovel was an underwater spring! Other therapists began joining CNDAT in a steady trickle.
Seriously, we are like the neurodivergent Illuminati.
I facilitate monthly Meet ‘n Greets, bring in speakers, and members share knowledge with one another. Knowledge that is not taught and is not written down anywhere. Seriously, we are like the neurodivergent Illuminati. When we pass knowledge on to one another it feels like we are passing sacred texts. Be careful with this knowledge, we say. Use it wisely. Much harm has been done to the people we serve, people like us, as many of us therapists are neurodivergent too, by mental health professionals (and teachers, and doctors, and so on). Above all, we do not want to do harm. CNDAT helps us.
The Canadian Neurodiversity Affirming Therapists Facebook group, now at just over 250 members from across Canada, is a great place to refer overflow clients to, find the therapist with the exact skill set and population you need, meet people, contribute, listen, and post new groups and programs you are running. And it’s not just for Psychotherapists! It’s for Occupational Therapists, Accessibility Advisors, Teachers, Doctors, Psychiatrists, Professional Organizers, Coaches, anyone who serves neurodivergent people, and knows they can serve them better.
Each one of us is planting our shovel in the sand and pulling up deep, dark, earth, full of microorganisms, full of life. Together we are turning a hostile environment into a lush landscape where neurodivergent people can thrive.