Counseling and Consulting  Services

AuSM's highly trained, certified therapists have committed their careers to helping individuals with autism understand their diagnosis and address both the challenges and gifts that it can bring. 

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AuSM Mental Health Services 
Barbara L. Photo 
Sara Pahl, MS, BCaBA, NCC

Beth Pitchford, MA

Dr. Amy Carrison, PsyD, LADC

Jennifer S. Reinke, PhD, LAMFT, CFLE
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Adult Family Member with ASD Support Group


Independent Adults with ASD Social Support Group


Women with ASD Support Group

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Ask The Therapist

Dr. Amy,

The holiday season is difficult for me for many reasons. One issue is getting together with family and friends and the resulting social interactions and having to deal with changes in my routine. The other issue is that my friends and family often give gifts of clothing and fragrances. I have asked them not to give me these types of items due to the sensory issues I have, yet they continue to give me these types of gifts. When we get together for the holidays or other times, my family mentions that I am never seen in the clothing or wearing the fragrance they've gifted to me, and I'm told I am not appreciative of the gifts they give me. I want to be included in the family holiday gatherings, but I am uncertain the best way to handle these things. Any help you can offer would be appreciated. 

-Stressed By the Holidays
Dear Stressed,

The holidays are a stressful time of year for all. As far as dealing with gatherings of people, keep in mind you do not have to attend gatherings from start to finish. In fact, if you are more comfortable not attending the gathering that is OK. If you decide to go, remember that you can determine the amount of time you spend at the gathering. Also, some people choose to bring their own food and a fidget to the gathering. If you have a therapist or close friend, brainstorm with them potential stress points (whether those are sensory issues or social difficulties) and helpful tools (from avoiding the situation to helpful reminder cards you can look at in the bathroom). Remind yourself of those tools before you attend a gathering.

When it comes to giving and receiving gifts, it can be hard to see that others don't recognize your needs and wants.  The first thing is not to take it personally when the gift affects sensory issues. Keep in mind that the gift giver was trying to give you something you would like, and may simply be unaware of sensory issues.  You can donate the items to a charity or another agency that might be able to use them. If your family or friend feels offended that you did not use their gift, you can tell a white lie, for example "I just wore that piece of clothing or fragrance earlier this week". The point to remember is that we can acknowledge the other person for thinking of us without passing judgment. 
-Dr. Amy
The AuSM Counseling and Consulting Team offers therapy and support:
  • Diagnostic, functional or behavioral assessments for children, adolescents, and adults
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Behavior consultation
  • Marriage and couples therapy
  • Training for organizations and service providers
To inquire about our services or to make an appointment please contact AuSM at 651.647.1083 or e-mail
Established in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is a self-funded organization committed to education, advocacy and support designed to enhance the lives of those affected by autism from birth through retirement.