Catherine Asta - She/Her
Psychotherapist, Creator of the Late Discovered Club and Changemaker
Catherine Asta is a Psychotherapist and Changemaker. She created the Late Discovered Club - a vibrant community of late diagnosed Neurodivergent women who she supports and amplifies through her podcast of the same name. Catherine is an impassioned champion of women and their stories, with an unequivocal specialism in ‘Bringing Sparkle Back’. In her role as a Psychotherapist, she has worked with hundreds of women and has spent thousands and thousands of hours inside their minds, with an ever increasing focus, and passion, for supporting Late Discovered Autistic women on their journeys of self-discovery. She is also a featured expert across the BBC and the media.
Please tell us about your career
This is what I've always wanted to do and be, however it took me until my mid 30's to take that leap of faith and set up in private practice. I started out by self-funding my way through university with a baby to get a degree in Psychology and got myself into a huge amount of student debt doing so! After graduating with a degree in psychology and sociology, I then had a 12+ year career in Local Government Policy and Research, along with a good few years leading on National Strategy in the NHS and heading up Transformation for a large acute NHS Trust - all the while bringing up my daughter, who is now an adult herself.
Back in 2014 I made the decision to change career and studied alongside working full-time to qualify as a psychotherapist. This was scary - I had no financial safety net, another newborn baby, but I had the determination to create a kinder way of working for myself and doing something I’ve dreamt about. So I then again self-funded my education and studied for my PG cert in Psychotherapy and CBT alongside my very full-time job. I started my therapy business in 2014, working solely with women, and then Autism found me, or I found Autism as well as many late discovered Neurodivergent women. At first, I started small by renting a room at the back of an estate agents and working Saturday mornings and evenings. By late 2015, I had created my ‘Bringing Sparkle Back Therapy’ as a judgement free space, full to the brim of compassion. It was my solution to something I had been looking for all my adult life but had yet to find. By then, I had a full clientbase and quit my full-time job in 2017. I went semi-remote from 2019, which allowed me to reach clients across the globe.By the time the pandemic hit my practice was already fully zoom based, and demand hasn’t stopped since. I embarked on further study with a Masters in Psychology which I graduated from with Merit in 2022. I studied during the pandemic of 2020/21 whilst caring for my young autistic daughter, managing my psychotherapy practice and produced a first class thesis.
I came out as being autistic/adhd in 2022 and made a brave choice to further niche my business - creating the late discovered club both as a community (therapy/group support) and the podcast. It was the best career decision I’ve ever made. It resulted after turning down the opportunity to study for my Psych Doctorate out of kindness to myself and my needs, so that I could say ‘yes’ to other things. I knew there had to be another way of shining a light on these late discovered Autistic stories. A highlight has been getting to interview Morgan Harper Nichols on my podcast, a fellow ND woman whose art and poetry I’ve been a fan of forever!
It's fair to say that I've experienced *quite* a lot in my 40+ years. I’m a late discovered Autistic & ADHD (AuDHD) woman who has experienced life, loss, trauma, and adversity - and it’s those very experiences, and those differences and that diversity, that have gifted me my strengths, and that have filled me up with compassion. I’ve been a young single parent, and I've also been a parent navigating life in the blender that is blended family life. I embarked on motherhood all over again so have children across the age spectrum from 6 years old to 21 years old and I'm navigating new chapters in my life as a 40 something woman.
I feel proud of my career. Now I get to witness first hand how lives can transform and change, how new chapters begin, how pain points can begin to heal, how starting points are not fixed, and how changeable our thoughts about who we are and how we see the world can be. I hope to grow the late discovered club into a social impact company that advocates for change, educates empowers and supports, and to continue to grow the ND team of women behind it, and center Autistic women's voices. I would also like to secure sponsorship for our podcast so that we can make it sustainable beyond season 2.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
Autistic burnout was the tipping point 10 years ago that made me take a great leap into the unknown and to switch careers from NHS Strategist to follow my dream of becoming a psychotherapist, and to find a better way of working that was more attuned to my needs.
I’ve had a 25 year love affair with all things psychology, people and human behavior. I love people, and deep conversations (which is why being a therapist works for me), but find big group dynamics exhausting and overwhelming and small talk without purpose such an effort. It’s not that I can’t do them, rather I endure them - because of how they make me feel. Without consciously knowing it, I have been strength nurturing and attuning my needs to the work I do and the work I enjoy for over 3 decades.
Do you feel that your job/industry is a good fit for an ND woman?
I think there is a lot of stigma in my profession around being ND, but working in private practice I am a step removed from it and honestly, being a therapist plays to my ND strengths. There's no small talk, I get to deep dive into the most complex of stories and simplify with visual narratives and metaphors - it’s a dream job. Plus being self-employed means I get to choose who I work with, how I work and the pace.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
I’d say to other women really understand your strengths so that you can nurture them, along with working out what your unique and individual challenges are. This self-knowledge will help you to navigate your world professionally and personally, and will support you in your self-advocacy role - enabling and empowering you to make the adaptations and adjustments you need in which to thrive in the environments you are in, as well as the internal evidence base to seek out and request accommodations where you need them.
For me personally - that ‘no’ can often be self-care in practice - realizing when the squeeze isn't worth the juice and when I don’t have the spoons to even do the squeezing! It focuses me on the things that I can then say YES to. Not always easy when you have a brain that works at 100 mph hour, sees endless possibility, and is full to the brim of creativity and ideas.