What Psychotherapists Need to Know About Gifted Clients

photo from Anne Allanketner
photo from Anne Allanketner

If you are a counselor or other mental health practitioner or if you’re gifted and want to see a psychotherapist, there are some things that you need to know.

The rainforest mind is complicated. Like the jungle, it’s breathtaking in its capacity to create: Thoughts, emotions, questions, sensitivities, worries, beauty, and iPhones. It’s intense and overwhelming.

The rainforest mind, in counseling, needs deep, empathetic, authentic understanding of its fascinating and convoluted intricacies.

Your counselor will need to recognize how you are different. Here are some clues a practitioner can use:

A gifted adult may have any or all of the following:

  • Advanced vocabulary, existential questions and concerns from an early age, multiple in-depth interests
  • A range of deeper than normal emotions and sensitivities (often underground in men), advanced analytical abilities, need for precision in fields of interest, perfectionism, rapid thinking, talking and learning
  • Excessive worry, great empathy for all living things, unusual insight into oneself
  • Avid reading, unending curiosity and passion for learning (not necessarily for schooling)
  • More complex ethical, moral, and justice concerns, insight about things that others don’t notice, tendency to argue for fun or for intellectual stimulation
  • Idealism, wit, imagination, creativity, questioning authority and the meaning of life
  • Loneliness, anxiety (particularly when bored or during extreme bouts of thinking), existential depression, self-doubt even with seeming successes
  • As a child: Difficulty finding friends, serious schooling frustrations, uneven development, and all of the above

Once your counselor recognizes your rainforest-mindedness, he or she needs to be able to do the following:

  • Help you differentiate between struggles caused by giftedness and difficulties caused by other factors.
  • Be extremely sensitive and authentic.
  • Create a very large container so that you can be as intense and complicated as you are.
  • Be aware that you might hide your pain and level of trauma through your capacity to achieve, your care-taking of others (including your counselor), your sense of responsibility, and your optimism and idealism.
  • Understand why you might have been misdiagnosed in the past. (Giftedness can look like ADHD, OCD, and even  bipolar disorder.)
  • Acknowledge his or her limits.
  • Provide parents with strategies and resources for themselves and their children, particularly around the schooling conundrum.

Places where your counselor can find help:

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences in counseling. What would you like a psychotherapist to know? What works for you in counseling? What doesn’t work? If you are a counselor, what questions and comments do you have?


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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.

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