On the spectrum and in the room: the role of identity and empowerment in autistic women’s recovery from psychological trauma
Autistic women are at an increased risk of experiencing trauma and mental health issues compared with the general population. This is further compounded by significant barriers to diagnosis and to accessing appropriate support for this group. By employing a feminist approach, this study recognises the effects of socio-historical inequality on this group, including identity dysfunction and disempowerment, which further exacerbate the effects of trauma. This paper argues that restoring identity and supporting empowerment are paramount to Autistic women’s recovery from trauma. Previous research focusing specifically on Autistic women who have suffered trauma is scarce. This research seeks to contribute to filling the gap in the knowledge of how counsellors can best support this group. This research elevates the voices of Autistic women, by working with a board consisting of Autistic women, and through conducting semistructured interviews with six Autistic women ranging in age and in their prior experience of counselling. The researcher, with two Autistic board members, thematically coded responses, revealing that both social and psychological empowerment were key to Autistic women’s recovery from psychological trauma. Recommendations are provided as to how therapists can help facilitate empowerment for this population, including through the restoration of autonomy and decision-making capacity within the therapy process, taking a flexible and transparent approach, and by encouraging connection with the wider autism community within which individuals can thrive and grow.