Neuro-Emotional Technique is a mind-body therapy developed by chiropractor Scott Walker. Like hypnosis and other more holistic therapeutic approaches, NET allows people to bypass talk analysis and get to the heart of their problems without having to come up with a good explanation for the change. This is a less stressful treatment for people with Asperger Syndrome, since they struggle to explain what’s going on in their hearts and minds.
To illustrate how it helps, I’d like to share an experience I had with a patient I’ll call Austen. (Name changed to protect client’s privacy.)
Austen was 17. He had a very supportive psychiatrist, who managed his medications. However, most of Austen’s past psychotherapy had consisted of a safe place to talk and feel supported; yet nothing had changed in his behavior. He’d become more and more withdrawn, angry and self-destructive as he approached age 18. I introduced Austen to Neuro-Emotional Technique, with wonderful results.
Austen came to me one day and said, “I have a problem with my mother. She wants me to clean my bathroom. She even took my laptop away until I clean it.”
“Well,” I said with a wry smile, “How important is your laptop to you?” I was nudging him to get practical and mind his mom.
“Of course it’s vital,” Austen quipped, because he knows that I know his world is the Internet. “But that’s not the problem I want help with. It’s bigger than that. My bathroom does need to be cleaned for sure! The problem is that I don’t do it. It’s the ‘not doing it’ part that stumps me.” Austen was describing a complex behavior that could only be defined by Asperger Syndrome. The issue of cleaning his bathroom was more than a childish power struggle.
The light bulb turned on in my mind. “So let me try to understand this, Austen. Your bathroom needs cleaning, right? And you would like to get your laptop back, right? But there is this in-between step that’s missing for you — the ‘not doing it’ part. Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s it,” said Austen, and he perked up. “Of course I want my laptop back, but Mother’s taking it away won’t make me clean my bathroom. Her actions make no sense to me. I know my bathroom needs cleaning. In fact, I want it clean. What’s that have to do with my laptop?”
“And do you know how to clean your bathroom? I mean some teenage boys don’t know how,” I offered while I searched for the missing element.
“I know how to clean my bathroom, but I don’t. It’s the ‘not doing it’ part I need help with.” Austen was trying to explain the missing element when he didn’t have a word for it.
A second light bulb lit up for me. “I think I understand. Here are some words for what you’re describing. First, you’re motivated to clean your bathroom because it does need it. And it is your responsibility, right?” Austen nodded approval. “And you feel a sense of urgency to get your laptop back, too. Right?” Austen agreed again. “In fact, you would do almost anything to get your laptop back. Right?” One more time Austen is tracking my logic. “It’s just that you can’t connect cleaning your bathroom and getting the laptop back, because they aren’t related. Right?”
“Sure,” Austen says. “It’s so obvious that these things aren’t related. Mother is always trying this stuff. It never works, so why does she bother?”
I smile with Austen’s realization. “Actually, lots of parents think that if we withhold a privilege or a favorite item, we’ll get our kids to mind and do things like clean a bathroom. It doesn’t work and all that happens is a power struggle. But let’s give Mom some slack here and work out your dilemma.”
Austen is ready. I explain, “I think the problem is that we need to connect up your motivation to clean your bathroom to your responsibility to clean your bathroom with a call to action to actually clean your bathroom. That will satisfy the urgency you feel to get back your laptop. You’ll get a clean bathroom. You can please your mother. She will be motivated to give you back your laptop even though the laptop has nothing to do with a clean bathroom. This is a win-win solution, Austen. You already have motivation, a sense of responsibility, and a feeling of urgency. The only thing that is missing for you is a call to action. That’s the missing piece you keep calling the ‘not doing it’ part. Are you ready to connect the dots?”
Austen’s eyes widened, and he smiled. “Yes, that’s it!” he says. “I am missing the call to action part.” He raises his arm to begin the process of Neuro-Emotional Technique. NET incorporates the concept of applied kinesiology, and the meridian system of Chinese medicine. Using acupressure points on the wrist and testing for congruence between mind and body, the patient releases emotional blocks. It allows Austen to communicate with his unconscious through NET.
Without empathy, Austen was stymied about how to accomplish something he was powerfully motivated to do. Once Austen and I had identified the missing piece, we could use the NET approach to integrate the elements he needed to clean the bathroom. Austen got his laptop back the next day.
If you or a loved one has Asperger Syndrome, you may want to consult with a NET practitioner to help not only with connecting the dots but benefiting more fully from psychotherapy.