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-What is Autism and how does it relate to codependency?

-How is “high masking,” a common trait in high-functioning autism, similar and different to codependency?

-How can individuals with autism let go of their codependent behaviors?

Welcome to Episode 137! This week, we welcome back Gina Metcalf, LCSW, to hear about her recent observations of ASD and codependency. You’ll hear about ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and how, due to their neurodivergency, many with autism engage in “high masking” behaviors to please and perform for others. Gina details how autism and codependency relate and differ. You’ll hear how individuals can distinguish whether they have ASD and how they can then address their codependent behaviors they have developed as a consequence. We end with Gina’s take on how we can also be codependent with loved one’s who have autism and what we can do to address it. It’s a must-listen!

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Gina Metcalf is a Licensed Therapist and Founder of North Star Therapy, a therapy practice specializing in supporting female-identifying clients around issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, and codependency. This is her second time on the show. Be sure to tune into her first episode that aired in March of 2022 titled “That’s The Dream.”

Gina’s initial interview on the podcast:

Resources mentioned by Gina:


More deets on the episode:

We begin by revisiting Gina’s definition of codependency: a lack of trust in ourselves and others. Gina describes how codependents often self-abandon, find it difficult to express or know their needs, and fear sharing their truth. Gina encourages her clients to ask themselves: if you could wake up and be honest in your relationships, what would you say? Good prompt to reflect on!

Gina opens up about codependency in her own life and how she has been the “emotional taker” in her relationship with her husband. She points out the “secondary gains” of her role and the “shadow side” consequences of her role. Again, healthy to reflect on your own secondary gains and shadow side of your codependency.

We then shift gears to ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder. Gina educates us on how autism is a neurodevelopmental difference in social functioning and hypersensitivity. She describes “high masking” which is a common trait amongst high-functioning autism where one uses strategies to hide autstic behaviors.

Gina reflects on her experiences with clients and how autism often is missed due to ablesism embedded in the therapeutic process. In therapy and many areas in their life, those with autism can engage in performing and impression-making behaviors in order to “fit in,” however, this results in them feeling lonely and disconnected.

Gina distinguishes autism from codependency since it involves: 1) sensory sensitivity; 2) stemming; 3) special interests; and 4) structured routine. If Gina suspects that a client coming in for codependency is also navigating undiagnosed autism, she has learned to seek neurodivergent education, resources, online assessments, and other content and then present her observations to them. We discuss how loved one’s and family members can do the same if they suspect autism in others.

As a consequence, Gina is then able to help her clients let go of their codependent patterns through awareness, identifying safe relationships to let patterns go, joining strong communities, and practicing self-empathy.

Thanks for coming on Gina! And thank you for listening, my dear listener!
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