Liz McClanahan
Liz McClanahan
Living Neurodiversity

I live in a neurodiverse family every day.

 

My husband is on the Autism Spectrum and received his diagnosis later in life. I am so proud of my 26-year marriage and the fact that we were able to reconcile after a divorce and remarry.

 

My two children are also on the Spectrum. They have taught me how differences can be intensely beautiful and frustrating at the same time.

 

Having a neurodiverse marriage and parenting my preteen son and adult daughter give me a unique point of view to better understand and empathize with my clients and their challenges in a way that simply cannot be taught in books.

 

Understanding You

“When you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”

            

- Dr. Stephen Shore, autistic professor, author,

Everyone is different, every couple is unique. As a therapist, my goal is to understand you and your distinct relationship. Just because I have personal experience with neurodiversity does not mean I am automatically an expert on your relationship. I aim to learn who you are and how you relate to your partner in your own unique way. I can provide a safe, non-judgmental, empathetic space for couples to come together on a healing journey and work towards accomplishing their relationship goals.
 

Over time, a couple’s relationship may start to break down when neurodivergent differences turn into dysfunctional patterns resulting in disagreements, loneliness, hopelessness, and pain. The good news is that there is hope, I help couples navigate their relational patterns, bridge communication gaps, and facilitate an understanding and honoring of the couple’s differences.

Neurotypical Partner Challenges

As an NT partner myself, I empathize with the pain that can come from communication break down and misunderstandings in a neurodiverse relationship. In the past, I felt that no one understood what I was going through, including therapists who lacked neurodiverse training or experience. This only compounded my pain and thoughts that my marriage could not get any better.

 

My spouse and I have since learned how to make our marriage work in our own way. I understand him and his needs the best way that I can and vice versa. For this reason, I am passionate about helping couples do the same. I can offer a beacon of hope for couples because I know change within a relationship is possible.

 
Neurodiverse Couple Challenges

There are some unique aspects of how the AS brain processes and expresses information that differs from the NT brain; although this may bring tremendous advantages in certain areas of life, it can make relating to others and everyday activities difficult and stressful for both partners.

 

Topics which are common in neurodiverse couples that I work with include:

 

  • Alexithymia - a person has difficulty identifying and expressing emotions

  • Executive functioning capabilities - cognitive processes

  • Sensory issues - identifying when AS partner feels overstimulated

  • Masking- AS partner has high-stress levels while trying to “pass” as neurotypical 

  • Transitions - AS partner has high-stress levels transitioning to different topics or activities

  • ·Communication - both partners misunderstand each other’s behavior and needs

  • Defense mode - understanding flight, fight, or freeze mode and how to cope

  • Past emotional wounds - AS partner not feeling accepted, being bullied, or internalizing negative labels from the neurotypical society (trauma)

  • Empathy - AS partner may struggle to understand how their partner is feeling

 

These aspects of the Neurodiverse partner do not make that person good or bad. My job is to help you bridge the gaps that exist between you; in emotional processing, getting things done (executive function), managing the world you live in (sensory issues), making transitions, communicating, reacting to each other (with less defensiveness), and healing wounds.

 

Neurodiverse Parenting

Parenting is not easy! Perhaps you, your spouse, or your children are on the Autism Spectrum, and you feel stuck, frustrated, sad, lost, and don’t know where to turn for help.

 

I have over 24 years of personal experience with raising Autistic children alongside my AS spouse. Neurodiverse families have parenting issues specific to them that an experienced therapist is trained to treat. I work with couples to cope with the complexities of parenting.

 

As parents, we all want our children to be successful, happy, and healthy. Some families have the added stress of co-parenting in a blended family or parallel parenting. I am here to listen, understand, and coach parents to navigate high conflict situations, build their parenting skills, and create a family environment where each family member can thrive. Whether your goals are to reduce conflict, reduce stress, or increase communication; I guide parents through techniques aimed at building a stronger relationship with their children and creating the results desired.

Education and Licensing

I am a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and a Neurodiverse Couples Coach. I earned my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Azusa Pacific University (APU).

 

My professional career is dedicated to helping neurodiverse couples to heal emotional wounds, improve communication, reduce conflict, and increase intimacy.

 

Areas of Focus (in addition to Neurodiversity):
  • General Couples Therapy

  • Intimacy, Sex

  • Affair Recovery

  • Anger Management

  • Divorce

  • Life Transitions

  • Families including Parenting, Co-Parenting, Blended Families

  • Depression, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders

 

 

Clients

Couples, Families, Men, Women

 

Modalities

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), Person-Centered Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Family System Therapy, Positive Psychology, Trauma-informed Therapy

 

License

Registered Associate Marriage & Family Therapist, AMFT #133330

Supervised by Dr. Harry Motro, LMFT #53452

Employed by New Path Couples Therapy Inc.

 

Contact

lizmcclanahantherapy@gmail.com

Phone: (909) 295-3022