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Allan Turner

Autism Traits in Couples Counselling

Allan Turner 

Allan aims to tackle the practical issues around working effectively with individuals and couples with autistic traits.  Perhaps the first challenge of working with autism in the counselling room is identifying those traits in clients, since they often go undiagnosed. When working with couples, how do we avoid pathologising the autistic partner, thereby losing sight of each person’s individual humanity? Once we observe autistic traits, how do we raise the subject with a client – if at all?  If we are to provide a therapeutic space for clients living with autism,   we need an understanding of what helps and what hinders.  This includes an awareness of local assessment facilities, the language we use, sensory factors, and concrete predictability. We also need to be cognisant of our own pre-conceptions around autism. 


Allan Turner started counselling in 1980 with Scottish Marriage Guidance and in 1985 studied on the UK’s first Person-centred Approach diploma course. He has been working with couples for almost 40 years, and it was about 15 years ago that he realised that autism was prevalent in couples counselling, with at least one of the partners showing autistic trait. He now estimates that this is relevant in about 40% of couples he sees. His talk will be relevant to counsellors working with individuals or couples.

His interest in the subject has been intensified by the fact that his son is significantly affected by autism and his daughter to a lesser degree. He is concerned that, to his knowledge, there is no reference to autism in counsellor training and it worries him that counsellors are failing to spot autism and thereby provide counselling which is less than optimal for their clients.

Allan is the founding, and Clinical, Director of Counselling Works Ltd, which is a private agency based in Milton Keynes. He, and fellow director Kate Stubbings, run "raising awareness of autism for counsellors" workshops two or three times a year. The company offers facilities for individuals and couples on the autistic spectrum, as well as general clients.