If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy?

3282093961_aebeedf676Smart people don’t have problems. Smart people will be fine on their own. Smart people don’t need help.



But that’s what you hear. And that’s probably what you think.

If I were really smart, I would be able to solve it, rise above it, fix it, ignore it, rethink it, or forgive it. Fast.

Not necessarily.

Not when it comes to serious emotional distress, or high levels of sensitivity, or childhood trauma or your crazy Uncle Fred.

The thing is, you probably took on lots of responsibility in your family when you were younger. If things were dysfunctional or traumatic, you may have been the one who picked up the pieces. Or protected your siblings. Made everyone laugh. Or got out as soon as you could. You were likely quite resilient at the time and developed very effective coping strategies.

But now you may notice that you’re anxious or depressed. Maybe you keep picking the wrong partners. Or you’re way too angry at your kids. So, of course, you say you should know better. Smart people don’t fall into painful patterns that are the result of early losses—losses of confidence, identity, safety or trust. 

Oh, yes they do.

Sometimes, even you, with your gorgeous rainforest mind, need to find a guide, a counselor, someone to walk with you on the path when you run into all of those boulders and can’t see how to get past them. Someone who will hold the ladder for you as you climb out of the abyss.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

 https://www.flickr.com/x/t/0093009/photos/87781710@N02/8343819455/   CC
https://www.flickr.com/x/t/0093009/photos/87781710@N02/8343819455/ CC

I’ve always had to solve problems on my own. No one will be able to help. I’ve tried and I can out-think them all. They can’t keep up with me. I’ll overwhelm them. I’ll talk too much. I won’t talk enough. I’ll end up taking care of them. I’ll be bored. I’ll be boring. I won’t do it right. I can’t be that vulnerable. It’s too complicated. The past is past. What’s the point?

Am I right?

I knew it.

Here’s the thing: Therapy is a very helpful process. Especially if you’ve experienced any type of abuse, neglect, trauma or even a garden variety dysfunctional family. At its best, it can provide guidance and support for healing the past and for rediscovering your creativity, your self-acceptance and your authenticity.

But how do you find the right person?

Shop around. Look for someone who understands g-g-giftedness or who is willing to learn about it. Ask your questions and see if they love your intensity or are intimidated by it. They need to love it. Use your intuition and see how you feel when you’re in the office. Find out about the different types of psychotherapy and look for a counselor who practices in the areas that appeal most to you. Make sure the person is highly sensitive and empathetic. Look for a rainforest mind.

Oh, yes, and check to be sure the counselor has been a client in therapy.

And has been to the abyss.



First photo: https://www.flickr.com/x/t/0099009/photos/lungstruck/3282093961/ CC

To my dear blogEEs: I’m a little anxious that you’ll think that this post is an advertisement for myself. Ack! Glug! I suspect that I’m just worrying for no reason, but I had to mention this anyway. Long distance counseling is not particularly effective as far as I know and licensed counselors can’t practice in states where they aren’t licensed. OK?

There are more types of psychotherapy than those listed in the Huffington Post article above. Another resource that explains more about therapy is here.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing from you. If you’d rather write a private comment, there’s a form on the About page.


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

29 responses to “If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy?”

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  1. What Psychotherapists Need to Know About Gifted Clients | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] My blog! And, my book that will be released by the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Press in the spring of 2016 entitled: Your Rainforest Mind–A Guide for Gifted Adults and Youth […]

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    […] and showing your rainforestness here and here. I write about how psychotherapy works here and here.  Career paths here and here. Parenting, here. And I suggest some books here. Maybe you spend […]

  5. If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Need Psychotherapy? Part Two | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] if you start. With yourself. And your family. What if you take some time to examine your very own fears, doubts and despair. What if you take a trip into your past to understand the legacy your dysfunctional family […]

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  9. Tabitha Hall Avatar
    Tabitha Hall

    I am a teacher of the gifted in Albuquerque, NM and I am gifted as well. I am thrilled to have found a blog that speaks my language. My school district has shrunk gifted services to almost non-existent which means that many kids go unidentified. I have always detected a difference in the way that gifted kids experience life, and I am happy to discover a blog that discusses this affect. Thanks for existing.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for letting me know, Tabitha. I’m very happy to exist!!

  10. If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Lonely? | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] you have to know who you are. Figure out who you are. Use psychotherapy or yoga or meditation or painting or dancing or science or astrology or acupuncture or reading or […]

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    […] 4. Therapy is self-indulgent navel-gazing. […]

  12. Reese Avatar

    This blog is amazing. Thank you so much. I’ve been thinking about trying to find a good therapist lately, because in researching giftedness for my son, I’ve learned a LOT about how discombobulated my own mind is.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Ah, yes. I’m familiar with discombobulation! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Shame and Resilience–Chainsaws in Your Childhood | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Find a therapist who knows his or her way around the […]

  14. kimbol Avatar

    Therapy was one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me. They’re great people, but when you’re a “more” person it can take backup.
    An anecdote, for fun:
    My most effective and last formal therapist (when I was 22-30) cemented our relationship during our first session. I’d been speaking of past non-useful therapy with other practitioners. She leveled a look at me, and said,”I can tell you’re smart. You’re probably smarter than I am. But I’m sitting in this chair, and you’re sitting over there. And I get paid no matter what you do.”
    I remember thinking, Well, sure. And I worked hard until the work was done. Worth every hour and every dollar, and it’s been a continued blessing to my husband and my kids.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I love that “when you’re a ‘more’ person it can take backup.” Yes, indeed. I think it’s very helpful for others to read about the benefits of therapy because there are so many misperceptions out there. Thanks!

  15. Amy Avatar

    Thank you for this – it gives me hope that I can find someone that fits me. I have tried a few, and like your “misconception” said – nobody “got” me. I do admit I’m hard to understand, LOL. Gifted, introverted, highly sensitive, adopted and raised by parents with their own trauma (and so few therapists seem to get the depth of this loss/trauma and how I can look and sound so normal and well adjusted but actually be terribly depressed and lonely), mom to a large family with kids with multiple health/educational issues. Going though midlife and peri-menopause. I’m sure there is ONE therapist out there for me though, just have to find her.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Amy, you’ve made an important point here that I didn’t mention in the post. Gifted individuals are so good at adapting and functioning that therapists can often miss their very deep pain. Sounds like you sure have a lot to handle. Don’t give up on finding the right therapist for you. On occasion, we need a team. So it’s also possible to work with other practitioners, too. (like maybe a naturopath or gynecologist for the peri-menopause issues)

      1. Amy Avatar

        I didn’t realize adaptation was a gifted skill – that makes sense. I always “blamed” it on the adoption because it is common there too. Guess I have it doubly! Thanks for your reply.

  16. telperion1214 Avatar

    Thank you for this, Paula. I’ve heard those messages much of my life. To me, they are “old ideas” that no longer work for me. Why would I buy into them now? It would be people-pleasing, not because I believed them. I know better.
    Even if you were self-promoting — and I know you are not — the fact of this blog could be a real asset to someone.

  17. paulaprober Avatar

    That’s great, Jay. I’ll check it out on your blog later.

  18. Jay Avatar

    Thank you for this post. I hope it encourages people to seek out a willing and experienced therapist who is up for the ride! And I honestly don’t think anyone who has read your previous posts would think for a second that you were self-promoting.

    P.S. Spoke to my therapist on Monday about your blog. I explained the battle between the “othered” part of me who wanted intellectual, imaginational and emotional giftedness to be the answer; and the critical inner voice shouting that I was absurd for even entertaining the possibility. He didn’t know about over excitabilities theory so asked him to read up and get back to me. He also recommended Alice Miller’s Drama of The Gifted Child. He wanted to have a look at it first though before I read it.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Your therapist sounds like a gem! Alice Miller’s books are quite good. Thanks, Jay! (and thanks for the topic suggestion–it isn’t quite about clients in therapy but related…)

      1. Jay Avatar

        He is SUCH a gem! I’ve posted now about the whole session and I’ve linked to your blog as an explanation. Hope that’s okay x

  19. amandasmills Avatar

    I’ve been diagnosed with complex ptsd from major childhood trauma (also on the autism spectrum, but hey, thats just how my brain is wired, its a blast) and it took me ages to com to a point where I felt ok to talk to people.

    A major issue keeping people from seeking therapy are the misconceptions of what and who therapy is for and directly related with erroneous beliefs about mental health
    primary being
    -seeking help is a sign of weakness, (sin or flaw) if a person were strong enough (positive enough, persistent enough, etc) they wouldnt need help – its just mind over matter right?? (no) this makes it shameful or a sense of shame settles in not just with the person, but also loved ones, families.

    I remember this feeling clearly. While it is our right as individuals to choose who to disclose to, we do not need to treat our mental health issues like a dirty secret. We do not need to be closeted about it.

    – its only for people in crisis, or only for the diagnosed
    you know, maybe I wouldnt have ended up at a crisis point five years ago if i’d felt I could seek help prior to that

    Also, from personal experience – bad experiences with therapists can lead to distrust and lack of motivation to find someone new, someone who fits.
    Its an extreme example, but in 1988 I was 13, and was dragged down a street by the hair (by a family member)and lost my shirt and the skin on my back. As a part of the investigation that followed I was sent to receive an evaluation. I recounted to the nurses beatings, sexual abuse, neglect, and verbal abuse. They insisted I needed to relate this to the doctor. I was in the doctors office for only five minutes. He didnt ask me anything about my statements. His final words to me were : “anything that has happened to you is your own doing”

    It took me twenty years before I went to see someone.
    No offense to yourself, but finding a GOOD therapist is sometimes very challenging, and if trust has been betrayed it’s hard to trust again. Its difficult to go out and find a new person, especially with the stigma mentioned above.

    Your suggestions on HOW to find someone are good ones. First appointment should be more of an interview of the therapist.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I appreciate what you’re saying here, Amanda. There is still a stigma about seeing a counselor. And if you’ve had a bad experience, it can be so hard to try again. I’m so sorry that doctor said that to you. And I’m glad that you didn’t give up. Thanks for sharing.

  20. C A Avatar
    C A

    Hello Paula 🙂 well you know I enjoy your posts ever so much..and yes you pegged it exactly…that’s been my experience you end up looking after them or helping them or entertaining everybody and who wants that…we gifted amazing folks need help too…. even more help…like Robin Williams God bless the man…but but! I know it exists because Ive got it..and you are right …seek and ye will find …I found my wonderful gifted counsellor through the Internet and he is all those things you mentioned….he has been to the wall and back and he gets me…he doesn’t think I’m weird….he thinks I am wonderful and a joy…we like each other…I looked about my area and there weren’t any gifted counsellors…so we phone each other…he is in another Commonwealth country but it works ….it way works …thank you Paula …you are right! 🙂 awesome!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’m so glad you’ve found a counselor who gets you. Yeah!