Practitioner experience of the impact of humanistic methods on autism practice. A preliminary study

Robinson, Anna and Galbraith, Ian and Carrick, Lorna (2020) Practitioner experience of the impact of humanistic methods on autism practice. A preliminary study. Advances in Autism. (In Press)

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    Autistic people are subject to having their behaviour shaped from a variety of practitioners predominantly using behaviourist methodologies. Little is known about how learning alternative humanistic methodologies impacts practitioner experiences of relational encounters with autistic people. This exploratory study sought to develop an understanding of practitioner experiences of using person-centred counselling (PCC) skills and contact reflections (CR) when engaging with autistic people. This qualitative study employed an interpretive approach to help elucidate perceptions of changing practice. It involved a framework analysis of 20 practitioner’s experiential case study accounts. An overarching theme emerged: subtle transformations resulted from shifting practice paradigms. Four broad themes were identified: ‘A different way of being’; ‘Opening heightened channels of receptivity’; ‘Trust in self-actualizing growth’ and ‘Expanding relational ripples’. Our findings suggest that person-centred counselling and contact reflections skills training shows promise in providing practitioners with a different way of being with autistic people that enhances their capacity towards neurotypical-neurodivergent intersubjectivity. We speculate on the power dynamics of care relationships and those who may identify as possessing autism expertise. We are curious as to whether this humanistic skills training can truly penetrate practitioner core values and we see this as a fundamental issue which requires further investigation. This is the first study to provide a qualitative account of autism practitioner reflections following training in humanistic methodologies. It challenges the concept of autism expertise, guided by a pathologizing model, focused on fixing a problem located in the person, which conceals the removal of personhood.