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Apr 29, 2019

An interview Joel Schwartz, PsyD on neurodiversity, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and neurodivergence. Curt and Katie talk with Joel about how often our natural spectrum of neurodiversity is pathologized.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. We are human beings who can now present ourselves as whole people, with authenticity, purpose, and connection. Especially now, when therapists must develop a personal brand to market their practices.

To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Joel Schwartz, PsyD

Dr. Joel Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice in the South Bay of Los Angeles County. He specializes in therapy and testing for the misunderstood. As a therapist, he is warm, compassionate, and strongly humanistic, allowing for all the oddities and unexplored aspects of his clients to emerge and be validated. As a testing psychologist, Dr. Schwartz specializes in difficult and complex cases.

Dr. Schwartz grew up in Southern California. He developed an early interest in psychology, strangely enough, from a childhood filled with science fiction stories. These stories often provided fascinating looks into human psychology and the human spirit. Dr. Schwartz attended UCLA as an undergrad where he conducted research in the field of neurolinguistics. From there, he attended Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf School of Clinical Psychology for his Master’s and Doctorate degree. He has worked in various settings including colleges, clinics, a federal prison, and residential treatment centers. Through his experience with a vast array of individuals he has stuck with one important lesson among many; as the psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan said, “We are all more human than otherwise.”

In this episode we talk about:

  • The problem of the medical model
  • Looking at neurodiversity as a spectrum and a natural part of life
  • Defining neurodiversity and neurodivergence
  • Looking at differences as okay, and not disordered
  • Traditional versus neurodiversity affirmative practices
  • The strain of compensatory behaviors when one is neurodivergent and trying to fit in
  • Problematic assumptions that do not welcome neurodivergent folks
  • Practical ways to create an office that supports the full spectrum of neurodiversity
  • The importance of clear instructions, options, and sensitivity to the different
  • Radical acceptance
  • The freedom and relief of not having to learn, when everything is explained.
  • The debate about ABA and behavioral interventions
  • The social justice aspects of working with neuro-minorities
  • The importance of representation of neurodivergent people in all aspects of society
  • Autistic people are demanding representation, are consulting, and are acting in roles
  • Looking at the nuance of radical acceptance – when intervention is required, rather than acceptance
  • The problem of behaviorism leading to repression and dissociation
  • Having the goal of decreasing a behavior, shouldn’t be the final goal
  • The problems of having ABA therapists not address their own emotions
  • The problem with having neurotypical people setting goals for neurodivergent people
  • Looking at the invalidation of modifying behaviors
  • How to balance what society will accept as well as validating the person
  • How do we set them up for success, without pathologizing their behavior
  • Self-regulatory behaviors – comparing them to coffee drinking
  • The need to move toward societal change


Our Generous Sponsor:

Thanks again to our sponsor Katie Read! Katie helps therapists grow and then OUTgrow their practices. If you're in GROW mode, she can help you grow faster by knowing exactly how to create your therapist website to get the most possible calls with her two courses, Client Machine and Website Whisperer! If you're ready to OUTgrow your office, Katie helps clinicians know the exact right steps to add big extra income streams in coaching, consulting, or courses! Check out for more information.


Relevant Resources:

We’ve pulled together any resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links:

Joel’s LinkedIn Profile

Nick Walker’s notes

Facebook Page

The Neurodiversity Affirming Therapists Facebook Group


Relevant Episodes:

Let’s Talk About Race

Let’s Talk About Race Again


The Modern Therapists Group on Facebook

Therapy Reimagined 2019

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more about Curt at

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more about Katie at

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano