Psychotherapists Need More Than Empathy to Help Neurodiverse Couples

Most psychotherapists don’t get it.

Of all of the people who should have the empathic skill to “get you,” you’d think it would be psychologists, and social workers, and marriage/family therapists. But in fact, they are sometimes the least prepared to help those of us who are in NeuroTypical/Autism Spectrum Disorder (NT/ASD) relationships, or Neurodiverse Relationships. Even those who claim to have special training in Autism Studies, may not necessarily get you or comprehend what you live with.

Why? It’s pretty simple really. These well-intentioned professionals make three damaging errors.

  • First, they assume that the underpinning of all psychological healing is an empathic relationship with their client.
  • Second, they teach empathic listening skills as if this leads to interpersonal change in all people; it does not.
  • Third, because of their emphasis on relying on empathy in the therapeutic relationship, they deny the emotional experience of the NeuroTypical — who lives with a partner without empathy; this mistake crashes the therapy.


As a result of these three errors, the ASD/NT couple often ends up moving on to yet another psychotherapist, who continues to get nowhere with them, and may even cause more frustration and anguish.

You need to understand just what Empathy is in order to fathom why EmD-0 is so destructive to relationships and family life. Further your therapist needs to grasp the problems created in a relationship where one partner lacks empathy — if they are going to be the least bit helpful.

Empathy is an elegant system of human interaction, in which we notice the person who is speaking to us (or engaging us in some way). We notice their gestures, their facial expressions, their tone of voice for example. We notice if any of these things change over the course of the conversation — and we respond to those changes. The most important part of any conversation for those of us with empathy — is the person who is speaking.


Your Therapist Needs to Imagine a World Without Empathy.

The problem with most therapists is that Empathy is their world. It’s how they interact all day long with others, their friends, family and clients. It’s also why we NTs get stuck in our relationships with those on the Autism Spectrum. For years, we have been making the same mistakes as the kind and empathic psychologist or social worker. Blindly using empathy to communicate with someone who has Zero Degrees of Empathy, is — well — not very empathic is it?

When it finally occurs to us that empathy will not provide the solutions to our relationship problems, we are truly stumped. We can’t believe it and try harder to impose our empathic ways onto our Autistic loved ones. We may become depressed, angry or sullen because of this failure. This is a tough place to be. It feels like a blind canyon, with no way out. If your therapist is stuck with you in that blind canyon, then all hope is lost. It’s at this point we absolutely must find a therapist who gets it. By getting it, I mean that the therapist uses their empathy to imagine a world without empathy. If they can do that, they can understand the “Aspie.”

It’s my job as a therapist to enter your world, no matter how foreign to me, and walk with you out of the confusion — and with a plan that works for all involved. Don’t settle for anything less from your therapist. 

If you are ready to receive help and you are looking for a professional with over 40 years of experience, please go to my Contact page to schedule an online video appointment. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you have a loved one on the Spectrum, please check our private MeetUp group. We have members from around the world meeting online in intimate video conferences guided by Dr. Kathy Marshack.
Learn More >
Join my Meetup Group