From autism to anxiety: new therapies offer hope across diagnoses

Anxiety, depression, burn out – all of us can experience these at certain points in our lives. New therapies like ReAttach recommend a broader approach instead of labelling patients. Speakers and specialists from the UK to India and Indonesia discussed such new ways of thinking at the first ReAttach international conference, in Eindhoven, April 2018.

Specialists and practitioners today talk about the need to shift from traditional therapies, which target the symptoms of a condition, to broader approaches. Independent researcher Paula Weerkamp developed ReAttach, based on healthy attachment and emotion regulation. Like with other new therapies, beneficiaries learn how to better identify and understand their emotions, their triggers and the meanings behind them. Particularly, Weerkamp’s therapy introduces sensory methods through which the therapist guides the patient.

Participants at the Eindhoven based conference praised such new methods, generally also referred to as the transdiagnostic approachPractitioners from the UK, India and Belgium, but also patients explain how such therapies give hope across different diagnoses.

“I had more expression in my face”

One person diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as an adult talks about how ReAttach treatment helped him. The patient says:

Immediately, after the first session, I had more expression in my face.

Distressed and worried when diagnosed, the man looked for a therapist to helped him understand and manage his autism. Later on, Paula Weerkamp, his therapist, introduced him to the new therapy she developed – ReAttach. Now he says he can better relate to other people. He is getting married in 4 months.

Project Aspie, a Birmingham based social enterprise, plans to bring the founder and developer of ReAttach to a local event this autumn. 

ReAttach addresses the different issues of people with autism

On the first day of the conference, guest speaker prof. Michael Fitzgerald praised ReAttach. He considers it the first therapy to address issues across different disorders in the autistic spectrum. He talks, in the video interview below, about the advantages of such therapies.

Prof. Fitzgerald has been awarded the “Excellence in Psychiatry” award 2017. In his career, he diagnosed over 2600 individuals with autism and Asperger’s, according to his website. The professor also became known by diagnosing famous cultural and scientific figures in history with autism.

“Step away from the labelling” – say specialists

According to participants at the conference, therapies such as ReAttach share two main principles:

  • Treat each individual as a whole person, with different abilities. Each condition can also manifest differently with different people.
  • Persons who face similar issues across conditions (be it autism related or professional/social pressure related anxiety) can benefit from broad therapies.

Also, according to practitioners, these therapies often work with regulating the patient’s emotions as a long-term solution. They explain that, when a person experiences a stress related breakdown, for example, they can learn how to help themselves in the future.
In conclusion, according to specialists, making sense of emotions and of distressing experiences will encourage people to feel good about themselves and the world around. In new therapies, practitioners thus talk about aiming to empower the person, not treat the disfunction.

Not only the patient, but the therapist gains confidence

Participants at the conference talked about how not only the patient, but also the therapist felt more confident after applying such therapies. They suggest the “step away from labelling” represents the future of psychology. In the video below, they talk about case studies and future perspectives.

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