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Rogers therapist assembles Avengers to help ASD patient

09/19/18 06:28:pm

Rogers is committed to creating an effective treatment plan for all of our patients. Members of our care team will tell you that this sometimes means having to think outside the box. Incia Rashid, MA, NCC, LPC, assembled the Avengers for one of her patients.

Incia is a family therapist in the anxiety and mood disorders in autism spectrum disorder program at Rogers–Chicago. Providing care for patients in our ASD program often requires a more unique approach in order to make breakthroughs, something Incia is no stranger to.

Incia recently treated a patient who was highly engaged when it came to completing exposures, but struggled with “shame and secrecy surrounding his own mental health and emotions.”

“He was hesitant to talk about how he was feeling and struggled to admit he was anxious, so I thought he would feel more comfortable discussing his struggles if they were normalized for him,” she says.

The patient had a love for the Marvel movies, so much so that he designated his individual room as “the Marvel room.” Incia knew she could use this connect with him. After doing some research, she put together a document showing that even superheroes have negative thoughts. She used quotes from Chris Evans, Ryan Reynolds, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Clark Gregg, and Evangeline Lilly where they opened up about their own struggles with mental health and negative thinking.

Incia went a step further and roleplayed as the Hulk while the patient acted as the Hulk’s behavioral specialist to combat the negative “HULK SAD” and “HULK MAD” thoughts. Don’t worry, she did the voice.

“He was able to step out of his own mindset and understand that others have definitely been on the receiving end of anxiety and mood issues,” Incia says.

The patient was dubbed the Positive Avenger, and “joined” his heroes as a teammate who swoops in and helps them deal with negative thoughts.

This isn’t the first time that Incia has taken a unique approach to make a connection or help a patient break through a barrier in their treatment.

“I’ve made behavior plans that are themed with the patient’s favorite things, had patients insert themselves into their favorite Disney story, and had patients work on exposures together in a group.”

She also uses fun group games like therapeutic Jenga (each piece has a therapy-based question on it), compliment chutes and ladders, and scavenger hunts around the clinic, with goals of giving compliments or asking people about their weekend.

Much of Incia’s compassion and interest in helping those on the autism spectrum can be traced back to her childhood, where she grew up the oldest of three children, including her younger brother who is on the autism spectrum.

“He is my favorite person on this Earth,” Incia says. “I saw how frustrating it was for my parents to not have a clear idea of how to help him as he progressed through school and his development. I want to work with ASD patients because I know how important it is for families and patients to have the specific, tailored support they need to help their child thrive in a world full of neurotypical people.”

Much like depression and anxiety, ASD is something that is still heavily stigmatized by society. She’s had patients say that they “hate” that they have autism or that it “sucks.” Incia helps them think of autism more positively, using a metaphor of Apple and Windows computers.

“I conclude the example by telling them that both computers are perfectly fine and do a lot of great things, and that the difference is how they are wired internally,” she says. “I have them think of their brains in this way and encourage them to not use labeling words so they can continue to make the narrative positive.”

Getting to know Incia

incia-rashid.jpgIncia first came to Rogers as a behavior specialist intern back in 2016, as part of the Counseling Graduate Program at Northwestern University. Since then, she’s become a full-time behavior specialist and then stepped into her current role as a family therapist in May 2018.

For anyone who knows Incia well, it should come as no surprise that she’s able to take such creative paths to treatment for patients. When she first started college, it was as an illustration major. Incia says that she often finds herself working on creative projects in her spare time.

“I love drawing, painting with watercolors, baking, and creative things,” she says. “I also use my creativity to make fun projects and events for the clinic.”

Incia says that she’s the first woman in her family to “attend college, graduate school, have a blossoming career, and be able to fully support myself.”

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