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Lorna Hecker, Ph.D.

“Courage is not the absence of fear; it is about taking steps in spite of that fear.”

Lorna Hecker, Ph.D. specializes in neurodiversity. She has edited the book A Spectrum of Solutions for Clients with Autism – Treatment for Adolescents and Adults (with Dr. Rachel Bédard). Her forthcoming book is: Different Planets: Understanding your Neurodiverse Relationship.

Dr. Hecker is a Professor Emerita of Purdue University NW, where she directed the University’s Couple and Family Therapy Center for 25 years and taught couples and family therapy within their Master’s program. Additionally, she has raised a child on the spectrum (who is now a successful young adult)! Dr. Hecker works with couples who are neurodiverse, where both individuals are neurodiverse, or in what she considers a cross-cultural relationship, when a neurodiverse person is paired with a neurotypical person. She has over 30 years of experience working with couples.

Dr. Hecker has seen many couples who were discouraged from getting help because the provider they engaged with did not understand the dynamics of neurodiversity and instead, pathologized it. This can leave couples feeling defeated and misunderstood. Dr. Hecker’s goal is to provide an affirming environment where growth can occur, individuals feel valued, couples can reconnect, and strengths and superpowers are affirmed. Oftentimes, there are issues of burnout, meltdowns, and trust that get in the way and need to be addressed so that a couple can feel connected.

Sometimes neurodiverse individuals have difficulty expressing their goals, especially if they feel put on the spot. This can trigger an “amygdala hijack” where the flight/fight/fright system is activated. Consequently, the first goal in coaching is for people to feel comfortable and affirmed. It is important for clients to BELIEVE they can be helped, and to KNOW they are in an environment where trust and acceptance is abundant. Then we can begin to sort out what is getting in the way of goal achievement and relational satisfaction, and Dr. Hecker then helps structure changes to get needs met. For couples, the general goal is typically better communication or less conflict, but Dr. Hecker will work with you towards more specifics as she understands your particular couples’ dynamics.

Dr. Hecker offers coaching sessions to couples who qualify! (There must be no interpersonal violence, active substance abuse issues, or disabling mental health conditions.)