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:


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.

109 responses to “What Psychotherapists Need to Know About Gifted Clients”

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  1. Alice Coursier Avatar
    Alice Coursier

    I was lucky enough to work with a gifted therapist for seven years. He was able to understand me better than anyone I’ve met in this complicated life, so far.

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  3. kathryn terrell Avatar
    kathryn terrell

    I finally started seeing a counselor several years after escaping an abusive relationship. I like him, he seems nice enough… but sometimes he just babbles on about things that make no sense to me. I have tried to bring up with him that I think my intelligence is creating a gap between me and the world… I didn’t say it like that exactly. I just said, I can’t seem to connect with most people, if any… because noone seems to care about the world like I do… or the things in the world that interest me… they do not interest most people. If one more female neighbor asks me to come watch Live PD, I am going to crawl in a hole and die.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Don’t give up on trying to explain to him what you need and who you are, kathryn. You can share the link to this blog if you think he’d be open to learning more. Maybe share a link to a particular post that you resonated with or to the quiz.

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  9. SirenQueenOfHeart Avatar

    Hi I think I am gifted but I’ve never been tested. I need help desperately but I don’t know where else to turn.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It sounds like you might benefit from therapy. Perhaps this post will help you find someone. https://yourrainforestmindbbwpc.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/27/how-to-find-a-psychotherapist-who-loves-your-rainforest-mind/

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  11. Teemu Avatar

    Unfortunately, my few experiences with psychotherapy have amounted to them saying “lighten up, you are young, you should be having fun”. Well not literally saying it, but I can read between the lines. It’s very important that the therapist engages with your silliness. Otherwise you are left feeling even more alienated.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Important to find the right match when looking for a therapist. They need to understand giftedness or be willing to learn.

      1. Me Avatar

        You may have to go off the beaten path to find somebody to help. My best counselor at this point is a pastor who was willing to read “Living With Intensity” by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski. This provided a basis for us to begin the conversation. He has been incredibly helpful because he was willing to learn and look at the world from my perspective. Unfortunately, many therapists think the “gifted” thing is hogwash and that everybody is the same. We’re not. Many counselors are not willing to invest the time to read/learn, or perhaps they feel like they know enough. As it is pointed out in the “Living With Intensity” book, “gifted” has been misdiagnosed as ADD, depression, bipolar, and a gazillion other things.

        BTW, I consider “Living With Intensity” to be the handbook for the gifted.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          It definitely takes time to find the right fit. Thanks for this suggestion. And, ahem….have you read my book??

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  14. Neepa Choksi Avatar
    Neepa Choksi

    Hi Paula, a beautiful insight into the amazingly deep mind of the gifted. I am looking for solution for my 8 year old, perhaps gifted, to have a smooth and cherished school experience.He does score high on the iq test. He frequently gets into trouble due to his alarming capacity to argue and challenge himself as well the authorities. Any tip in this would be appreciated.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      School can be one of the most challenging issues for parents of these kids. I’ve written about it in a few posts. If you type into the search engine “school” “schooling” “parenting” you should be able to find them. Also, there are parent groups on Facebook that you can join. Other resources: http://www.sengifted.org, http://www.giftedhomeschoolers.org, http://www.hoagiesgifted.org.

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  17. helenjnoble Avatar

    Reblogged this on helenjnoble.

  18. emergingeve Avatar

    Wow. I’m so thrilled to find this site. I ended up here while researching to make sure my therapist could handle me, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I had lost touch with my gifted self for a long while. Dumbed her down and tried to erase her to fit in. I didn’t have anyone who cultivated my uniqueness either, rather they wanted me to hide. During the process of trying to deal with ptsd from a repressed childhood trauma I reconnected with her, or myself. You know what I mean. I’m going to try hard not to overwhelm my therapist during the next session, but I’m so excited to have re-opened the door to myself like this. It is going to make all the pieces come together more fluidly. Amazingly, I seem to have found a wonderful therapist on first try. He seems to appreciate my chaotic mind and finds the connections I make interesting. Hopefully, when I come to him with this he has already figured it out or he will be open to the information. Thank you so much for this and I only wish I had found it sooner in life.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m so happy that you’ve found us, emergingeve! And glad that you can share this information with your therapist. Welcome!

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  22. H Avatar

    Dear Paula, thank you for such a wondeful blog. I have started therapy myself fairly recently. Please could you explain more about taking care of your own counsellor. I have a sneaky suspicion I am doing this since I read that sentence!!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I have clients who worry that they’re overwhelming me (they’ve been told in many ways that they’re too intense or too emotional, for example) so they might hold back their emotion or not share everything that they’d like to share. They also might not want to burden me with details of, say, an abuse history, so they watch what they say. Or they slow their speech because they’re used to not having people follow them and they assume that I won’t be able to either. Sometimes it’s a pattern. You’re used to taking care of others so it feels awkward, uncomfortable and a little scary to let someone take care of you, to trust that they’re capable. Do any of these fit for you? (Hm. I might turn this into a post!!)

      1. H Avatar

        Hi thanks for your explanation! Well I think I always hold back my emotion with whoever it didn’t click that that’s probably not what I should be doing in therapy…:/ I internalised that my emotions are irrational and over the top too well. My own thoughts were that As I get to know my therapist,I also avoid topics that I felt might make her uncomfortable. One thing that bothers me is I always had this intense feeling that I’m automatically reading subtle signals from people however I am never truly sure if I’m projecting. Peoples emotions and thoughts. Obviously I can’t read minds but it’s like putting together that person’s experiences and things they’ve said and being in tune with their reactions. I’ve only recently realised not everyone experiences social interactions like that. I feel like I know when she is tired or feeling a bit bored and I find it so off putting I have to look away and change the subject. I feel like when she has shared some slightly personal things with me then I feel over sensitive to how she might react to something I’ve said that’s related. Basically the same things I do with everyone!! I feel like I’m constantly censoring myself. Sorry for the ramble. Am new to seeing myself in this light as I’ve always been “the emotionally unstable one”. Only recently took an iq test. Which I’ve rubbished in my head.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          RFMs are very perceptive and sensitive so you may very well be picking up on her tiredness, etc. Good to try and analyze what’s projection and what’s perception! A good therapist will be open to your talking about all this.

  23. EJ Avatar

    Oh, my. I’m so happy to have found you, your blog, your book! The last therapist I tried spent 45 minutes of our first meeting talking about cancelation policies and whatnot. Then 15 minutes into our second meeting, after I summarized some of the research around my chronic physical illness *because she asked me to,* decreed that my problem was that I “knew too much” and that I needed to lighten up on the knowing stuff if I was going to feel better. Never mind that I’d been learning and advocating for myself for the last 8 years. Never mind that I was a freaking medical librarian before I could no longer work. I’ve been too rattled to try again to find somebody who gets it, gets me. I just hope other counselors will hear your message and welcome the whole gifted patient who comes seeking care.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad you found us, too, EJ. Welcome! You’ll definitely need to look for someone who thinks it’s totally wonderful that you know so much!

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  28. JM Avatar

    I have a huge need to be treated like an intellectual equal in therapy. Believe it or not I have learned quite a bit about your field on my own, and I actually can contribute intellectually to my treatment plan. I do this not to one up you but because I recognize its a lot harder for you to help me if I do not know the right language to use or what symptoms to point out etc. And I really want to do everything I can to help you help me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think many rainforest-y clients would say the same. Of course, you’re an intellectual equal. You don’t need to know the jargon but participating in your therapy is so important.

    2. Shannon Lockhart Avatar
      Shannon Lockhart

      This rings so true to me!!! I write long reflections to my therapist after our sessions, pointing out what I think is important about next steps, reflecting on why I reacted certain ways, etc. I am a therapist myself, but I need to speak on a collegial level just because that is where I am at. I very much want to help someone help me. It was my therapist, who mentioned the part about being gifted, something that I know to be true, and something I have often seen as a curse, to be hidden, and yet I want to be recognized too. This was a really great thing to have her mention, and give permission, for us to talk about this aspect of me. No one else in therapy has ever recognized the ways that this impacts me, and therapy. What a relief to find resources to reflect on, and to hear affirmation that my mind and creative soul DO work differently, and that is not a pathology, but simply another area to acknowledge and explore…

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        I’m so glad you have a therapist who understands giftedness, Shannon. Thanks for writing.

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  30. Ed Avatar

    I am EvIQ of 157, INFJ, extreme HSP, Polymath, and have mild empathic abilities. I am very lonely and have no idea on how to find anybody that “gets” me. My intensity, though hidden from others, is difficult to live with. I’m mad at God for creating such a freak of nature.

    The idea of a therapist that understands me is intriguing, but how do you find somebody in your area that specializes in the gifted? The other side of the coin is why do I have to resort to paying somebody to simply understand me? I’ve tried a few “normal” therapists and their answers are geared for “normal people” so they have been mildly helpful to me.

    I’ve determined that I am my own best psychologist. So I’ve read everything I can get my hands on as far as psychological self-help books that relate to my profile. But I know this is not the best solution available.

    I feel like I’m fumbling my way through life trying to make the best of what I can figure out. I realize that I have psychosis/neurosis that I can barely manage on my own. I know that I don’t have the resources that I need to function optimally.

    So how does one find a therapist in your area that understands the gifted?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Hi Ed. In this post, https://yourrainforestmindbbwpc.wpcomstaging.com/2015/08/27/how-to-find-a-psychotherapist-who-loves-your-rainforest-mind/ I have some ideas how how to find a therapist. Check Lisa Conrad’s list. I think it’s the most comprehensive. I know it’s frustrating to have to pay someone, but if you find the right person, it’ll be worth it!

    2. Noks Nauta Avatar
      Noks Nauta

      Hi Ed,
      Thanks for your personal comment.
      Be aware that you are not alone in your experiences. Many gifted people have feelings like you describe. It may help you to find other gifted people in for instance in Mensa or in Triple Nine Society. There is a lot of recognition.
      Some therapists who are often gifted themselves and feel they can support the gifted sent their name and address to us to publish on the website http://www.ihbv.nl, we have an international page.
      And about paying: when your eyes are bad you have to pay the glasses yourself too…

      1. Ed Avatar

        Interesting idea. I have never taken the traditional IQ test, so I don’t know if I would pass the Mensa test or not. I have always had the impression that snooty people take the test as a status symbol. I am just a farm boy and have no desire to hang out with snooty people. However, I also admit that my opinion of Mensa has been shaped by Hollywood’s portrayal – and we know how often Hollywood gets it right – almost never!

        I also understand that you have to do a lot of study for the Mensa test – so why would I bust my b*tt to gain entrance to an “exclusive” club. Part of me is trying to make the whole damned “gifted” thing (read cursed) go away. I never asked for this nor do I want it. I just want to be normal. So why would I join a club whose very existence says “we’re better than other people”. I do not see myself as better than anybody – in fact I feel cursed.

        As you can tell, I am very conflicted. I’m actually asking for help in convincing myself to do something like this.

        I wonder if they let you go visit a meeting…

        1. Ed Avatar

          In other words. Please tell me I’m wrong.

        2. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Ed. One thought is that you assume that people in MENSA are “snooty” when, in fact, many of them are lonely and hoping that they’ll find some like-minds if they join MENSA. Many may be struggling, just like you, to find other people with nuclear reactors in their chests! I don’t know for sure. I’ve never been involved with them. But you’re making the assumption that they think they’re “better” and that may be a faulty assumption.

      2. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thanks, Noks. Your website is also listed in that blog post I quote above. You are a great resource. I always appreciate hearing what you have to say, especially from an international perspective.

    3. Ed Avatar

      Can you do a post on managing OEs? Specifically managing an emotional OE in a work environment. This is probably my biggest challenge these days and I can’t find anything on the subject. The closest I’ve found is a page on SENgifted.org (which I appreciated). But her 4th paragraph is just totally impractical in a real-world environment. http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/the-gift-of-emotional-overexcitabilities

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thanks for the idea, Ed. It’s a good one. I’ll put it on the list.

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  33. Tracy Avatar

    Hello, i believe that i noticed you visited my blog so i came to go back the favor?.I’m attempting to find issues
    to improve my site!I guess its adequate to use some of your

  34. Aimee Yermish Avatar
    Aimee Yermish

    Very nice post! Also, very consonant with the findings from my doctoral research, which, along with the clinical guidelines I wrote based upon that research, can be found at http://www.davincilearning.org/sketchbook/research.html.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Aimee. Always helpful to know about the research.

      1. Noks Nauta Avatar
        Noks Nauta

        Aimees research and the clinical guidelines are worth reading!
        Can I add to this an article by Lisa Erickson: http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/resources/professionals/tips-from-professionals/tips-mental-health-clinicians

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Thank you, Noks. I always welcome your ideas.

  35. SD Avatar

    Thank you for the article! I find your blog amazingly refreshing.

    I think the approach depends on what sort of temperament/ genius one is working with. The gifted artist who is not intellectually gifted but is extremely deep in emotional and sensual perception will probably be a great deal different than an intellectually gifted person who is curious but untrusting of their emotional life vs the gifted person who has intellectual, sensual, and emotional OE’s.

    My tips:

    1) Do not ignore faith (yes, despite many derisive articles, there ARE Christians who are also geniuses. Many, in fact.) Not only is the spirit fully one of the strongest portions of the human self (mind, body, spirit, heart) and a person will never reach their full potential with a weak spirit, BUT the Lord made our chemistry and biology amazing. For example, the act of faith (trust) actually inhibits the activity of the amygdala.

    The Bible is filled with CBT and I found it actually to be as much as a biology/psychology textbook as it is a spiritual guide. Even if you are not a Christian therapist, your clients who are Christian need you to understand their faith is key to their being. So when you are saying “you have to take care of yourself first”, your Christians clients will need to understand how to work that into “love your neighbor as yourself” (these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but a Christian client with a heart for people who is also a pleaser might not understand that it is not about taking from others, but more like the “put the mask over your own face so you can help others instead of passing out from the lack of oxygen”. God gives plenty for us and for us to share, but guilt and shame might keep a Christian, earnest, gifted, incredibly caring person from knowing they can take rest, can take “emotional/mental food” etc).

    If you have a Christian client, and you are not a Christian, consider bringing in or consulting with a WISE older Christian (pastor, counselor, teacher, mentor, etc) to help, just like it would be wise to consult a physician to deal with a physical trauma in your client.

    It is not a placation. Helping a Christian client understand the difference between “weak flesh” and “strong spirit” is key to their healing. Trust me on this.

    PLUS, honestly, there are so many abuses (intentional, and more often unintentional) in some churches that your client might be confusing religion with faith. They might be thinking they are not being faithful to God if they decide to remove an abusive, divisive person from their lives when actually the Bible gives them permission to do just that. To deal with the abuse of a wolf by telling them to stay away from all sheep is to ignore the truth in their spirits and makes no sense.

    2) Understand that your client, especially if they have any logical or reasoning or scientific bent, have probably researched this thoroughly. THOROUGHLY. As in, may have read more articles and books than you have 😉

    Don’t get irritated because they know. Treat them like a colleague and they will probably respond, especially if they are intellectually intelligent. Nothing turns many of us off faster than someone who treats us like children or imbeciles. ONE little chuckle, guffaw, tiny bit of snark will shut us down (and is unbecoming of a therapist anyway. If you are derisive at all or pride yourself on your snark, you are in the wrong line of work.)

    3) Sometimes gifted people actually already have the answers and just need permission and lots of affirmation to do what they already know. When you grew up as the only swan in a lake full of geese–folk that kind of look like you and kind of talk like you and you have been swimming with them for so long that you feel more geese-like than swan-like–it is difficult to know if you are just a weird goose or an insecure swan or what is best for you AND for those around you. Questions like these arise: Do the geese really need you to be more gooselike and help them (which plays into gifted empathy and concern for others)? Have the geese around you always just thought you were a weird goose (which causes tremendous self doubt)? Are you ready to be a swan, including being alone (gifted people have the need to be loved and part of a group just as any other person does, and it is scary to think you might lose all your geese peeps–Ugh, sorry about that!–by being a swan)?

    And sometimes you have encountered geese who flat out don’t believe you are a swan or don’t understand what it is like to be a swan, and therefore, as a swan, you need someone to tell you what swans do and how swans are different from geese. In a gifted person, this might look like imposter syndrome OR it might be a constant downplaying of abilities (if I can do it, it can’t be special) or actually having been overruled so many times that one starts to think they are dumb, not smart. When you are the only one with a right answer, how do you know it is really a right answer? (that is a really key question, therapists. Might float that one by some of your clients and see how they answer, if it resounds with them or not)

    4) If they obviously know what to do and “it’s not working” or they give all the right answers and are honestly bewildered by why this pattern of thought change or that habit change is not working, then the problem is not the problem. The problem is deeper and this is just a manifestation, a symptom. For example, if a person comes to you with, say, chronic anxiety that developed after starting a new job, and KNOWS all the relaxation, the reasoning, every trick and cure in the book and is still struggling, then the problem is probably not chronic anxiety from perfectionism related to the job. The problem might be, for example, a deeply rooted fear that started in childhood because their dad got into a car accident on the way to work or they overheard an argument between their parents about a new job or their first time selling girl scout cookies was traumatic for some reason. Every layer peeled back will probably reveal another layer. To get from the 31st floor of their anxiety/depression/loneliness/sorrow/grief/etc to the ground floor of their healthiest selves, you often have to go allll the way through each of the floors and look at what each floor (period of time, incidence, pattern of thought, etc) contributed to or steeled them against their problems. The gifted mind is a complicated mind–expect LOTS of floors and a really tall elevator 😉

    4) Also, if the person’s constant refrain is “it’s not working” then consider that they have put on the badge of victimhood and, again, the problem is not the problem. Any time spent on various forums for neuroses or even physical problems will reveal, I have found, four groups of people: those who are new, those who recovered and trying to help, those who are in the middle of their recovery but are making progress, and those who honestly still want to be sick. This is not a judgment call, this signifies that the problem they are saying they have (say, anxiety) is not the problem they are actually dealing with (a desperate need to be affirmed by something OTHER than being sick).

    Once someone has an identity rooted in a disease or disorder, to recover means to lose their identity. If they spend 8 hours a day online with their fellow sufferers, then to recover means to lose a)the main focus of their identity and what they get sympathy and attention for b)their main entertainment/distraction and how they spend their days c)the group of people they have bonded to.

    To see themselves well is to know they will suffer loss. I honestly am not sure how much of the gifted population has trouble with this one, whether intelligence buffers against this or not. But thought I would throw that out there.

    This one is a big one: Know that you may not be dealing with “one mind”. Some of what helps someone who is recovering is to remember their true identity, to find their root selves. For example, a fire fighter with depression might be helped by getting back in touch with their passion for saving lives. However, a gifted person can be more than one person with more than one frame of thought and even pattern of behavior. NOT because they are broken or out of touch with reality but because they can actually BE many people. A great actor can put on many different roles, but at the end of the day they are the person they are. However, a gifted mind is, actually, capable of many different “people” inside. This is difficult to explain as it is not multiple personality disorder but rather more like a multipotentiality of the personality. Just like someone can be a “Renaissance man” intellectually, a gifted person can be a Renaissance man personality wise–being an ambivert (both introverted and extroverted) or trusting feeling AND fact or being the artist AND the warrior (each of which will require a different “emotional/intellectual suit” to be put on). Sometimes gifted people can be the Bo Jackson of the emotional world–able to function in more than one realm but not really knowing who they really are: a football player that plays baseball or a baseball player that plays football. So you have to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of each “mind” and the identity can get muddied up sometimes.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for your tips, SD. I’m not Christian so it’s very helpful to have your Christian perspective. I love this: “To get from the 31st floor of their anxiety/depression/loneliness/sorrow/grief/etc to the ground floor of their healthiest selves, you often have to go allll the way through each of the floors and look at what each floor (period of time, incidence, pattern of thought, etc) contributed to or steeled them against their problems. The gifted mind is a complicated mind–expect LOTS of floors and a really tall elevator ;)” Your ideas will be appreciated by many.

    2. Songs Avatar

      “When you are the only one with a right answer, how do you know it is really a right answer? ”

      This is precisely the reason why I spent a large part of my early life creating a triangulating platform that would help me discover the resonance within a situation rather than relying on emotional responses (either mine or that of another). I have taught this platform to others and found that it’s brilliant for maintaining my salt circle (my autonomy and Self, using the Alchemy idea of casting a protective salt circle before engaging outside entities of any kind).

      Using my platform in combination with Somatic Experiencing, EFT, TRE, nervous system repair practices has utterly transformed my life- no more constant panic attacks, debilitating endless brain chatter, no more dread and anxiety at my core level. I’m at the point now where I can regulate myself so well I’m ready to navigate the next chapter- uncovering what my creative block is that causes me to lock up whenever I go to do the things I really want. I can *feel* the shift in my brain happen, like a log jam, so I suspect it’s both physiological/neurological/somatic as well as emotion based. My ability to map my physiology is now a lovely experience rather than being a hellish engagement with massive overload and collapse.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Sounds like you’ve worked really hard on many levels to reach a place of self-regulation. All the best to you on your continued journey to your creative self!

  36. Dona Reggio ggio Avatar
    Dona Reggio ggio

    I have a B. A in psychology and for a while now I have been thinking of attaining a masters degree in order to become a counselor / therapist for the gifted. However, I can’t seem to find a masters in psychology program that addresses this. Could anybody kindly point me in the right direction. Thank you in advance

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I don’t think there are any formal programs for psychotherapists that focus on the gifted population. At least none that I’m aware of. You can get your Master’s degree and then get extra training on your own. http://www.sengifted.org has online courses and credit classes at their yearly conference (going on right now!) and there are some good books. Linda Silverman’s book was published years ago but is still great, titled Counseling the Gifted & Talented. The text by Barbara Clark, Growing Up Gifted, is also a classic. There’s a great need for counselors who understand giftedness!

      1.  Avatar

        thank you for your prompt reply. i was hoping there was one. thank you very much

  37. michatkinson Avatar

    Hi there.

    Im a gifted young adult in a great psychotherapeutic relationship. Have also experienced a lot of trauma and effects from that. I recently brought up giftedness with my psychotherapist as another factor in unravelling some of the stuff I experience.

    I periodically come back to info re giftedness and it rings very true with me. However, everyone looks for meaning and things that affirm them. What is the evidence base for the standard claims made about giftedness? I dont even know what part of academia it comes under so have no idea where to start.

    Now ive found your website I will probably show it to my lovely psychotherapist.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, yes, Michelle. Please show my blog to your therapist. Much of what you might read about giftedness is anecdotal. You might want to look at James Webb’s book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults for some of the research. That could be a good place to start. I’m so glad you have a psychotherapist who is “lovely!”

  38. noksnauta Avatar

    Thanks Paula for this!
    Could I add here that the Gifted Adults Foundation (IHBV) has a website with a lot of resources for gifted adults ánd for professionals who work with gifted adults. We have an English page too.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh yes, Noks. Thanks for adding your wonderful resource!

  39. made58 Avatar

    Reblogged this on HelpingOthersHelpThemselves.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  40. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    Oh holbart, this will be so useful to readers of this blog, I’m sure. And if it’s OK with you, I might quote you and build on some of your ideas in another post. “…permission to use my rainforest mind on my own behalf.” Oh yes, oh yes! Thank you for your contribution.

    1. holbart Avatar

      Sure, no problem. 🙂

  41. holbart Avatar

    I have lots and lots of ideas about this subject, but here are two for now.

    As far as the therapist goes:

    Provide an “identity affirming counter space”: Co-create a therapeutic space where there is a notable absence of discrimination and stigma. I got this concept from a colleague who told me about this article on how Black students find ways of coping with racism: http://www.academia.edu/1616053/Why_the_black_kids_sit_together_at_The_Stairs_The_role_of_identity-affirming_counter-spaces_in_a_predominantly_white_high_school. I think this concept may apply to many stigmatized groups. I would do just about anything to have just 10 minutes where I don’t have to deal with the threat of my rainforest mind being mislabeled or my character denigrated unfairly. I think this blog functions this way, so thank you, Paula.

    As far as being a client goes:

    I stayed in a damaging relationship with a therapist far too long because my idealism, conscientiousness and sensitivity (and history of trauma) made it difficult for me to “reject him” (aka, fire him). I was really strung up because I didn’t want to “behave narcissistically” or “be too perfectionistic.” Awhile ago, I came across some trauma literature that talked about how we all have ego resources that allow us to meet our emotional needs. These include: intelligence, ability to make self-protective judgements, ability to see and set boundaries, will power, ability to introspect, and sense of humor. It took me a long time to realize that I had all but the ability to make self-protective judgments and see and set boundaries in spades, like, at least two decks of spades. Seriously.

    A great deal of my work has been getting to a place where I can give myself permission to use my rainforest mind on my own behalf. That has been an important part of me being able to stay safe in relationships, even with a therapist.

  42. Elise Avatar

    I felt condescended to, I felt humoured. Never did I feel like I was actually listened to. The worst bit was that I could see and feel it. Bringing this disconnect up only resulted in defensiveness on the part of my therapist, and a deeper feeling of frustration and isolation on my part. LE. SIGH.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So sorry, Elise! You ought to be able to express frustration to your therapist and have her listen and take responsibility for her errors.

  43. ARY Avatar

    Yes! I was in grief therapy a LONG time after my big sister died. She helped with processing the grief (even taught me that word in that usage), but did not at all understand giftedness or Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities. In looking for what was “wrong” with me, she went toward ADHD, which sort-of fit–at least in her diagnostic checklist–better than autism/Aspergers, which I had been wondering about because of SENSORY STUFF.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Therapists really need to understand the differences between giftedness, ADHD and Aspergers. There are similarities in the traits that confuse people. And, of course, there’s nothing “wrong” with you when someone close to you dies. You’re grieving!

      1. ARY Avatar

        The “what’s wrong with me” was more of a what has been going on all my life, not directly related to the grief. And grieving unresolved for 17 years . . . not necessarily typical.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Oh, I see. Thanks for clarifying.

  44. Celi Trépanier Avatar
    Celi Trépanier

    “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.” <— Oh boy, that one hit home. One of my sons would always manage to convince his therapists he was fine and the therapist would look to me as though I was overprotective, or lying.

    Not only is being gifted a challenge because giftedness is so often misunderstood, but it is equally challenging to find a therapist who understands giftedness. Like teachers, psychotherapists also need to understand gifted individuals. This article brings this issue to light so well.

    Thank you, Paula, for such a beautifully-written article on a critically important topic!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for your feedback, Celi!

  45. peggymulkey Avatar

    I got Zane to read & he got it, he saw u, me, him, RG, Lia, Tripp, Jay & how each one of us had different aspects of the whole spectrum. HE & I were almost complete opposite in the traits that would make us gifted if w!e were/are. Thank You!1  

  46. l padina Avatar
    l padina

    Would you say there is a therapeutic approach best suited to gifted clients? If one were to train in an approach, which would be the ideal for working with this group, if you had to choose?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’ve found the more in-depth approaches to be the most effective. Psychodynamic, object relations, Peter Levine’s work with trauma, Jungian-related models, and internal family systems. I use a combination of these. CBT techniques and mindfulness processes are useful but not as the center of the therapy, particularly when a person comes from trauma, abuse, and alcoholism. Thanks for the question!

      1. Ro Avatar

        I came back to this post. Thank you for validating what I’ve been leaning towards Paula… as soon as finances allow, I’m beginning Jungian analysis. It feels like potentially the right fit for me (at last I might have found it!). I’ve fallen head over heels for Jungian psychology and have started reading the series ‘Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts’ published by Inner City Books. Psychological theory has never felt truly relevant before. This brings me great hope and I already feel a mild sense of being understood by the authors of these books. I’m really struggling with trauma at the moment, so I’ll grasp any hope I can. Laura London also hosts a podcast at speakingofjung.com and it’s fascinating. Best wishes!

        1. Ro Avatar

          P.S I’m awaiting a book on Internal Family Systems Therapy to arrive from the library 🙂 Looking forward to getting my teeth into that as well.

          1. Paula Prober Avatar
            Paula Prober

            Yes, I love IFS. Is the book Self Therapy? That’s a good one for individuals to use on their own outside of therapy. It’s a wonderful creative approach to introspection and healing.

            1. Ro Avatar

              Yes, that’s the book. I’m pleased to know you recommend it! As for Jungian analysis, I love the symbols and metaphor. It really engages me and I feel at ‘home’ with it. This evening I read out some sentences and passages I’d highlighted (in ‘The Scapegoat Complex’ by Sylvia Brinton Perera) to my husband. He isn’t usually too interested in psychology, but he loves mythology and history. He liked what I read out so much, that now he wants to read ‘Man and His Symbols’.
              Best wishes Paula. Thank you for your responses, it’s so nice to feel someone excited for my plan (I’m always working on plans…).

              1. Paula Prober Avatar
                Paula Prober

                What a lovely way to connect with your hubby, Ro.

        2. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          That’s so exciting, Ro. Jungian analysis can be a great therapy for gifted adults. It’s so deep and rich and full of symbols and metaphor! I’m so glad that you found a fit.

    2. Josh Shaine Avatar
      Josh Shaine

      A few reflections:

      The more tied to a single approach a given therapist is, the less likely they are to be able to meet the needs of somebody with multi-potentiality.

      It would be lovely if there were more Dabrowskian (Theory of Positive Disintegration) therapists out there, but don’t hold your breath.

      Mostly, any of the therapies *can* work, if there is trust developed between client and practicioner, but absent that, none of them is very effective.

      Even if one is not a Rogerian therapist, unconditional positive regard goes a long way.

      I would train *every* new therapist in ecclectic methodologies because I would want them to pull from whichever school seemed to best meet the needs of the client.

      I would teach about giftedness, which is seldom (but not never) mentioned, despite the majority in a small survey having said that they think it is important. I would teach about _underachievement_ which most therapists encounter and *none* are taught about formally – there is *one* course taught on the topic in the United States.

      *climbs down from soapbox*

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Josh.

  47. Ro Avatar

    One last comment: Don’t try hackneyed mind-games on me in the name of ‘therapy’. They will always, always backfire. I will not trust you again and I will also lose respect for you (in other words, you won’t be seeing me again). Straight-forward honesty is key.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  48. Ro Avatar

    Don’t be shocked or treat me like I’m scary because I can read your emotions like a book, despite you thinking you’re doing well hiding your angry mood (etc). The ‘vibrations’ radiate from you and hit me hard. I’d prefer you to come in the room and start off by being totally honest that you’re feeling like thunder.

    That would be my number one request, I guess. It was especially pertinent in the past. Also; Don’t assume I’ll be a clingy client because I have ‘high needs’. I never clung to my therapists because I knew it would be unhealthy (I learned this after one particular relationship with a therapist during my teens – I was encouraged to be dependent, and the day I heard myself yelling at my therapist the words “You are not my mother!”, I knew I would not return to see her).

    Also; Even though I might converse about topics you find irrelevant, the conversation is still helping me process things.

    Also; You probably can’t tell me anything about myself that will shock me.

    Also; Just because I seem to be going around and around in circles, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying to recover. There will be no ‘easy fix’ for me. Your frustration or anger at my seeming lack of progress can never match my own self-flagellation that’s guaranteed to be going on. If you choose to add to it, you are not the therapist for me.

    Also; Acknowledge your client’s giftedness, and the ways this may affect them in life (and in the therapist’s office).

    Last; I wish somebody had introduced me to secular mindfulness a long long time ago. Please consider checking out if this might assist clients.

    This is all I can think of right now.

    Your post is right on the money, Paula. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh boy, Ro. That’s so true. I know my clients can read me and my moods so well. It really keeps me working on myself so I can be as authentic as possible. This is a great list. I’ll google “secular mindfulness.” Of course, I’m familiar with mindfulness but haven’t heard of the secular brand.

    2. Heidi Avatar

      So very true, Ro! I just called around for a new therapist (many dont call you back) and left a fire-hose message for one that basically said this: ” I am a highly-intelligent teacher about to begin my doctoral degree and I am riddled with anxiety and existential doubt. My old therapist couldnt help me get to where I need to go, I need to get all snotty and intense on your couch. Hers was white leather. As a teacher, I can put on an act and lesson plan the whole thing right from under you. Can you help me?” Amazingly, she called me back!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Wow, Heidi! That’s great!

  49. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    This is a fabulous overview! So insightful and clear – something most of us are not taught in grad school! Great information for clients and therapists alike. And thanks for including me in your list of resources. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Well, you are a great resource, Gail. Maybe if you and I keep writing, they’ll start teaching this in grad school! Maybe they’ll make our blogs required reading…

  50. litebeing Avatar

    Try being a gifted therapist in therapy. This post is eerily accurate. As a gifted therapist, I am better equipped to give this to my clients than to receive it as a client. I have had a few clients that I perceived as gifted and it was natural to provide them with a large container since I was giving what I would need. Many bipolar folks I have found to also be gifted in my practice.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Linda. It might be important for you to allow yourself to receive the support that you so freely give, eh? I hope you’re starting to feel better.

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