Today my husband had an appointment with the GP to make a referral for an autism assessment. My husband discussed with the doctor why he thinks he may have autism and why he would like to be referred. The doctor told my husband that he would need to attend around 6 counselling sessions. The program is called IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). Which is aimed at people who suffer with depression, stress and anxiety. The doctor stated that my husband wouldn’t be able to be referred for a diagnosis unless he attends these counselling sessions.
Is it normal practice for patients with suspected autism to be referred for counselling sessions prior to being referred for an autism diagnosis?
In Wales, you can now self-refer to the Integrated Autism Service. I was originally referred, before that service started, by a mental health nurse who unexpectedly suggested I have Asperger's (although I'd already been working it out for myself), and immediately went to get the forms to do an initial assessment to pass to the previous autism service. This resulted in almost immediately being put on the waiting list.
So it seems that what hoops, if any, you have to jump through, depend on where you live. Maybe it even depends on the surgery or particular doctor, but that's just a guess.
You might want to contact your local CCG (clinical commissioning group) and ask for an outline of your local adult autism assessment pathway. They will be able to tell you what you need to do to access diagnostic services, which should give you some clarity on whether this is some arbitrary requirement of the CCG or just your particular GP/surgery.
But no, it's not generally normal. There can be a certain amount of jumping through hoops with some GPs or CCGs but being asked to attend counselling sessions doesn't seem like a reasonable one. They almost definitely will not be trained in counselling autistic people or even recognising autism, so I can't see what use it would be. Asking someone to attend therapy that could be completely unsuitable to them could be really detrimental to a person's mental health, so not only is it probably not a good idea, it's almost certainly a very bad idea (in fact it's not uncommon for autistic people to have trouble accessing these therapies when they do want them for the correct reasons-anxiety, depression-because of the ill-equiptness of the services-I think the feeling is no treatment is better than wrong treatment).
Thank you for your response. Unfortunately in our area the Adult Autism and Neurodevelopmental Service do not accept self referrals. After a little research we have discovered that the service does accept gp referrals. It appears that the doctor had very little knowledge about the Autism spectrum, as he asked what ASD was.
Thank you for your response. We also suspected this wasn’t normal practice. Unfortunately the doctor didn’t appear to have much knowledge about the autism spectrum. He asked my husband what ASD was. He also dismissed my husbands concerns about autism being genetic. Our eldest child received his autism diagnosis last month. Our middle child is on the pathway to being diagnosed with ASD. Our youngest child (19 months old) is also displaying autistic traits. And my husband has suspected autism. However according to the doctor it must all be a random occurrence. After some research we have discovered that the doctor would have been able to refer my husband to the adult autism and neurodevelopment services.
Today was very a disappointing and confusing experience for my husband and I. It took a long time for my husband to realise that he could be on the spectrum. It also took a lot of courage for him to book and attend this appointment. Also the doctor my husband saw today wasn’t even the doctor my husband was booked in to see. There was not even an explanation at the beginning of the appointment about where the original doctor was.
My husband has booked an appointment for next month (first available appointment) to see another doctor at the practice. Hopefully the outcome will be better than today’s experience.