Fact-checked by Vincenza De Falco, Autism & Learning Disabilities Specialist Coach.
Therapy can be a highly rewarding career option. Many people love the ability to help people open up about their emotions and improve their mental health. However, this career can also be very taxing, requiring you to understand how people think and why they act a certain way.
So, can an autistic person become a therapist?
There is no reason why a person with autism spectrum disorder can’t become an excellent therapist. Around the world, hundreds of people who are on the spectrum can offer therapy services. In most cases, they will bring a unique set of skills to the clinic and deliver significant benefits for their patients.
For people with autism, being a therapist can be an excellent career choice. They will often be able to bring a new way of looking at the challenges faced by their clients. However, there might also be a few potential challenges that they might need to work through.
What Are The Requirements To Become A Therapist?
There are a few qualifications that you will need to meet. First, you’ll need to make sure that you’re meeting the educational requirements. Often, this means getting a bachelor’s degree. Then, you might need to have a work placement or undertake further studies. You’ll also need to sit a licensing exam.
There are many different types of therapists. For example, some people might prefer to be counselors, while others might want to become psychologists. Each of these roles will have a slightly different educational path.
However, most therapist roles will require you to go to a college and study and complete a bachelor’s degree. As a result, you’ll need to finish high school and get into college.
Once in college, you’ll need to find the right programs to study. In most cases, you’ll need to get a degree in psychology. However, the type of minor units you study will often impact the therapy branch you are exploring. To help you plan your enrollment, you might want to talk to a guidance counselor.
After the degree, you might need to go on to further study, with some therapists requiring a doctorate. While not always essential, further education will often allow you to get access to positions that offer more responsibility and higher pay. In other cases, you will need to seek industry placement to hone your skills further.
Finally, you will need to get a license before you start practicing. This will usually require you to sit an exam. Once licensed, you’ll be ready to start working as a therapist.
What Challenges Can An Autistic Therapist Face? 👨⚕️
Sadly, there are some potential issues that an autistic therapist might need to overcome. Unfortunately, some patients might have preconceived ideas about autism, and won’t want to work with anyone on the spectrum.
One of the biggest challenges that an autistic therapist might face is pre-existing prejudices. Many people believe that autism will limit your ability to diagnose and treat them. As a result, they will be unwilling to use your services.
Though this can be a disheartening experience, it is rare. Most people will be willing to work with an autistic therapist. Many people with ASD report only losing a handful of clients throughout their careers.
Though you might face a few other challenges, like having trouble communicating with your clients, there are many ways to overcome these issues. There’s no reason why someone with autism won’t be able to become a skilled therapist.
Though people with autism might face unique challenges when becoming therapists, they shouldn’t let these potential issues deter them. They’ll gain the qualifications, start a practice, and serve clients just like a neurotypical person.
Why Might An Autistic Person Make A Great Therapist? 👩⚕️
There are plenty of reasons why people with autism might be able to succeed as a therapist or psychologist. Many autistic people can have excellent problem-solving skills, allowing them to find innovative solutions for their clients. They usually genuinely care about their clients, feeling a strong sense of moral obligation.
Though everyone on the autism spectrum will have a different experience, there are a few general reasons why people on the spectrum might make excellent therapists. To give you a better example of the type of experience that an autistic therapist might have, let’s look at the career of Natalie Engelbrecht.
She said that one of her most significant advantages is the ability to do in-depth research. One of the reasons people with autism are attracted to the industry is because they want to help people understand more about the way they think and act.
“I have mirror–emotion synesthesia which means I can literally feel what you are feeling. This helps me identify, understand, and empathize with you.”
“I am obsessive about research—generally putting in sixteen hours per day, four days per week, as well as a few hours per day on the other three days…If I don’t know the answer, I will find it.”Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht RP ND, an autistic therapist.
As a result, they tend to be willing to dive deeper into different conditions, doing plenty of research to make sure that they come up with the correct diagnosis.
This can provide a lot of benefits for their patients, ensuring that they are getting an exceptional level of care. It’s also something that most people will appreciate, which is why autistic therapists tend to have high client satisfaction levels.
Natasha also mentions the ability to pick up on some cues that other therapists might miss. This can help her problem-solving skills, allowing her to create a more accurate diagnosis.
A common misconception about autistic people is that they don’t feel emotions. This isn’t true. In most cases, therapists will feel deeply about their clients and make sure that they are getting the best possible care.
It’s also possible that autistic therapists will be able to work well with autistic patients. For example, they will be able to help parents understand why an autistic child might display certain behaviors. While this type of therapy might not be for everyone, it can be very impactful.
Regardless of the type of therapy chosen, people on the spectrum will be able to do an outstanding job. As a result, they should be given a chance to become therapists and bring their insights to the profession.
- Can an autistic person become a psychiatrist? This will often require an extra level of study, as a doctorate will usually be required. However, there is no reason why someone with autism can’t complete the necessary training and become a skilled psychiatrist in the UK or the US.
- How many years of training is required to become a therapist? There are many different types of therapy that you might want to pursue, depending on the area that interests you the most. However, in most cases, you’ll need to study for at least three to four years to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Then, you might need to study for the licensing exam. Click here to learn more about the process in the UK and here for the requirements across different states in the US.
Many people are attracted to a career in therapy because they have a strong desire to help people. There is no reason why someone with autism won’t be able to become a therapist. They might be able to bring unique insights and skills, which can benefit the patients they look after.
As a result, many autistic therapists report high levels of satisfaction from their clients. Though people with autism might face unique challenges, these can be overcome to have a fulfilling career.
Vincenza De Falco is an Autism & Learning Disabilities (LD) specialist coach with extensive experience working with young people with various needs in different settings. Her passion for Autism & LD started as a volunteer at a multi-functional provision for Autism while studying for a BA in Theatre, Education, and Deaf Studies.
Throughout her career, Vincenza continues her professional development alongside working within numerous support and leadership roles in education and charities. Having gained Level 3 in Speech and Language Support, HLTA qualification, Level 3 Award in Education and Training, and Level 3 CMI Coaching qualification, Vincenza has furthered her expertise within Autism & LD.
Entering the Third Sector as a Project Manager developing and delivering a specialist NEET program, she subsequently joined ThinkForward’s newest venture DFN MoveForward, supporting young people with Autism & LD to successfully transition from education into paid employment. Through 1:1 coaching, family support, and training employers to become disability confident, Vincenza builds bespoke programs for young people with the end goal of work readiness and employment. Through Vincenza’s passion for creating systemic change in Disability and employment, she forms part of the successful partnership running the DFN Project Search Supported Internship at Moorfields Eye Hospital.