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Autism, counselling theory and the ‘double empathy problem’

Milton, Damian (2018) Autism, counselling theory and the ‘double empathy problem’. In: Division of Counselling Psychology Annual Conference 2018, 6-7 July 2018, Gateshead, UK. (Unpublished) (KAR id:67614)


Embedded within diagnostic criteria for autism is the idea that autistic people have impaired social understanding. A number of psychological theories suggest autistic people have a deficit in empathising with others or in ‘theory of mind’ – the ability to imagine the thoughts and feelings of others, in order to comprehend and predict their behaviour. It is certainly true that autistic people, particularly when young, can struggle to process and understand the ‘quick-fire’ social interactions which many non-autistic people take for granted. Yet to what extent do such interactions require empathy? To what extent do non-autistic people acquire a ‘theory of autistic mind’? What do we mean when we talk of empathy? Where does the ability to predict the thoughts and actions of others reside? This presentation reflects upon the concept of empathy in relation to autistic people and their interactions with non-autistic people, and describes the theory of the ‘double empathy problem’ and its implications. According to the theory of the ‘double empathy problem’, these issues are due to a breakdown in reciprocity and mutual understanding that can happen between people of very differing dispositions. The second part of this presentation critically relates the theory of the double empathy problem with that of various counselling theories and explores how a sensitive use of ‘personal construct theory’ (PCT) can be of potential benefit.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Keynote)
Uncontrolled keywords: Autism, Counselling, Personal Construct Theory, Double Empathy Problem
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Tizard
Depositing User: Damian Milton
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2018 12:57 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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