My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd

photo courtesy of Jan Traid, Unsplash

I’m an introverted psychotherapy nerd.

I know there are other ways to live. But I don’t care.

I’ve been a client in some type of therapy since I turned 31. I’ve tried it all. Rebirthing. Holotropic breath work. Support groups. 12 Steps. Talk. Journaling. Polarity. Attachment theory. Jungian analysis. Enneagram. CBT. EMDR. EFT. HRT. Tango. Bodywork. Reading. Acupressure. Energywork. Process work. Hakomi. Fly fishing. Shamanic journeying. Grief work. Reiki. Bioenergetics. Art. Nature. Naturopathy. Psychodrama. Astrology. Couples counseling. Somatic experiencing. Massage. Soul collage. Meditation. Mindfulness. Yoga. Dreamwork. Diving into the abyss. Blogging.

Well, maybe not all. I haven’t tried antidepressants. Or ayahuasca.*

And, OK, blogging isn’t therapy. Per se. Although, it’s therapeutic. For me. If you must know.

I used to think that I was deficient because I spent all most of my time introspecting. I didn’t have much of an outer life. I didn’t join a bowling league. Or get season tickets to the opera. I didn’t follow the Grateful Dead around the country. (Hey. I live in Oregon.) I didn’t own a blender or a table cloth. I didn’t send my nonexistent kids to college. I almost didn’t have partners.

OK. I’m exaggerating. A little. I did take breaks from introspection. I was a teacher of gifted children for a number of years. An actress in community theatre for about a decade. Danced the Argentine tango in Paris. Wrote angst-y emails to attentive girlfriends. Married. Divorced. Watched my niece and nephew grow up.

I have loved. I’ve been loved.

See. I’ve done stuff.

But I can’t deny the truth. When it comes down to it, I am excessively, undeniably, inner focused. And it can appear a little weird. But, hey. There is a heck of a lot going on in my psyche. It’s really lively in there. Very entertaining.

And now that I’m a psychotherapist, I have a good reason to continue to be obsessed living this lifestyle. I get to put my experience as a client to good use. I get to guide brave souls into their abyss and show them around. So they see what they need to see. Feel what they need to feel. Find out who they really are. Then I guide them out of their abyss to live their authentic life and find their purpose(s).

Not only that. Now that I have my blog and book, I get to meet fabulous humans living all over the world who want to understand their own nerdly-ness. And I don’t have to leave my living room.

What could be better?

But why am I writing this, you ask? Am I justifying my somewhat unconventional life to you? Am I a teensy weensy defensive because I still don’t have a table cloth?

And what does this have to do with being gifted? Are all rainforest-minded souls introverted, introspective, abyss divers?

No. Some of you are extraverted, introspective, abyss divers.

The rainforest-minded are complex thinkers. Deep feelers. Analytical. Seeking self-understanding. Questioning. Empathetic. Highly sensitive. Striving to live meaningful lives. Wanting to create a better world.

But I understand. You aren’t necessarily in therapy. You may have very active, even conventional, outer lives. Kids. Opera tickets. Blenders.

But still.

If you’re introverted. If you have one nerd-like obsession or many. If you feel weird and deficient. If you’re leading an unconventional life.

And if you never get that table cloth or that blender.

Meet me in Oregon. We’ll go bowling.


(*Note: Ayahuasca is not actually therapy. I wrote that for the humor factor. I don’t recommend it. Ayahuasca. I do recommend humor.)

(Another note: If you want to know more about psychotherapy and giftedness, click on this link. If you want to read a great description of why therapy matters, not written by me but by Heather Havrilesky, click here.)

(Last note: In case you’re wondering, I’m not writing this to surreptitiously influence you to see me for therapy. I actually am only licensed to practice in Oregon. I can, however, meet you for a consultation that would be focused on questions around your giftedness. OK? No surreptitiousness here, my darlings.)

To my bloggEEs: So happy to have you here. Your comments provide so much depth and beauty. I’m so appreciative. Are you introverted? What’s that been like for you? How have you created a life that respects your introverted needs? If you’re extraverted, how do you grapple with your needs for human contact? And: Having a rainforest mind can feel weird no matter what. That’s why we’re here. What are you feeling nerd-ly about these days?


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.

26 responses to “My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd”

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  1. Some of My Best Friends Are Introverted, Sensitive, Introspective, Smart, Empathetic, Overthinking, Perfectionists | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] you Introspective? You may be seen as self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or even narcissistic. This is frustrating […]

  2. michaeldepth Avatar

    I too am a lover of introspection. I am a therapist and have been in therapy for many years. I find inner space to be most exciting and when I go there in a deep way, I feel I am touching, not only the depth of me, but the depth of the universe and the spirit.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome Michael. Nice to see another therapist here. And, yes, to the depth of the universe and spirit. Most definitely.

  3. Rebecca MKT Avatar
    Rebecca MKT

    Great post. For me, blogging is my therapy!

  4. j'adore champagne Avatar
    j’adore champagne

    I have a blender – because I like margaritas. 🙂
    I think if most of my friends knew what went on in my brain that they would run. But my close tribe and I would have a glass of wine and discuss. One of my greatest fears is a scenario of a “mind-reading” technology hacked by the government. I’d immediately be imprisoned. But hey! I would have my mind. At least for awhile.
    Thanks for your post.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad that you have a close tribe. They would save you from the mind-reading technology! Thanks for being here with our tribe!

  5. My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd – Jadorechampagne's Blog

    […] via My Life as an Introverted Psychotherapy Nerd […]

  6. Mark V Avatar
    Mark V

    Man I hear you Paula. I have also tried nearly everything during a similar period of time (anyone wanna buy some lightly-used new age crystals??). This included some very intense group therapy programs which were not exactly tailor-made for introverts. Hell, I’m pretty sure the word “introvert” was never a part of “group” vocabulary back then, so if you were at all reticent when it came to sharing or participating, it was insinuated that this was yet another symptom of your underlying problems.

    Which is to say that sometimes therapy doesn’t work. And sometimes it can make things worse, (as I have written here before).

    Being misunderstood by a professional can be devastating, especially if you are young and have only just begun to figure yourself out. I was a scared, vulnerable, but brave 19 year old when I first stepped into a therapist’s office, and I had the bad luck of being very misunderstood by a succession of therapists and doctors.

    While a good therapist or doctor can be an indispensable guide to helping you find out who you are and what makes you tick, an ignorant one can be like Gollum sending you off to the spider’s lair. And before you even realize you took a wrong turn in Albuquerque, (apologies for the cheesy mashup of LOTR/Bugs Bunny metaphors), you might be really, really lost and may have heaped a whole lot more guilt and shame on yourself for your failures to be “a good patient”.

    I still don’t have access to a good therapist. But my point is not to bemoan or belabor this point yet again but to say that while I am not generally an optimist, I am at least open-minded which lead to a thought: maybe the universe has conspired to get me so lost that I am compelled to use my gifts and talents as a beacon for myself and others who have similarly become lost in Mordor. Maybe there are others who have also slipped through the cracks by some design in order to shine a light in their depths.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, it’s important to “shop around” until you find a good match for therapy. I’m so sorry that you’ve had these painful experiences, Mark. Love the idea of slipping through the cracks “to shine a light in their depths.” Yes!!

      1. Mark V Avatar
        Mark V

        Hi Paula, thank you.

        Of course I am not against therapy, I am against BAD therapy that results from ignorance, incompetence or arrogance (shall we dub these The Three Ants?).

        I brought up my group therapy experiences as an example of the “one size fits all” therapy mentality that is still quite pervasive. Every once in awhile I’ll look around to see what is available out there on my budget, (read: free), and invariably the intake worker of whatever community services program I happen to be talking to will try to shove me back into some group therapy program.
        “Umm, thanks but no thanks. ”

        My personal life is as bad as it has ever been. Depression, anxiety, worsening poverty and social isolation; dealing with greedy landlords, battling incompetent bureaucrats, unending red tape and other horrors….they’re firing on all cylinders at the moment.

        And yet somehow I am both exhausted and energized by this. As much as I’d like to be free from a lot of my suffering and have something closer to a normal life, I also believe that smart, sensitive, creative, compassionate people – in other words rainforest minds – SHOULD feel some anxiety in a world that sure seems to be going (even more) mad, and by many indications perhaps even suicidal.

        I am reluctant to call myself an activist, but having experienced and survived so many things, I think it is important that I share those experiences because I wonder how many would-be world changers are out there that have been “benched” by incompetent education, therapy or psychiatry, and how different would our world be if they were still “in the game”?

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Glad that you’re staying “in the game” Mark.

          1. Mark V Avatar
            Mark V

            Am I still in the game? It doesn’t feel like it.

            Or maybe this is all a simulation as some theorize…perhaps it is PRECISELY a game. A computer game that simulates real life.

            Gosh. I must be playing on “damn-near impossible” mode. 😉

  7. Demus Avatar

    I’ve forgiven myself for not wanting a small tattoo, or go parachuting. Still unsure if I would enjoy a wine tasting. I do have a blender but I never use it.

  8. annahjamesart Avatar

    Well, I think that might fit. It sure feels more true than just being an extravert. Sure need a lot more alone time these days.

  9. annahjamesart Avatar

    I’ve been feeling like I’ve changed from being an extrovert to being an introvert. Yes, I still want some folks around, and I like having a roommate who is as focused on their personal work as I am. But lately…I find myself quiet in a group. Listening. Taking in energy without judgement. And not feeling compelled to be in the thick of it. It’s a new insight, one I don’t quite know about yet. But I’m learning! Ha.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Maybe you’re becoming an introverted extravert, Annah…Sometimes people aren’t clearly one or the other. It can also depend on a situation. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Pam Simon, MSW Avatar
    Pam Simon, MSW

    You neglected to talk about humor, your humor and how funny you can be. I love the line drawn through the actual words you want to say. As usual, very engaging and relevant blog. Thanks for sharing so much of you with us, Paula.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s so therapeutic and rewarding for me to write about my own quirks. Knowing that y’all will benefit. Thanks for sharing, Pam.

  11. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Great post, Paula. Wow – you have been prolific! I wouldn’t say you’re a nerd – more like an explorer or adventurer! As you (we) know, lots of people are terrified of psychotherapy, so afraid to delve into themselves and discover what is there. People who do things that I think are incredibly brave – like jumping out of airplanes, or even ziplining – are sometimes SO afraid of self-exploration. So give yourself the credit you deserve for your bravery.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, I do give myself credit, Gail. It is funny, isn’t it? What people consider to be brave. What people are afraid of. I certainly know that self-exploration takes quite a bit of courage. I wish more people were willing to do it. Thanks, as always, for being here.

  12. Cheri Miranne Avatar
    Cheri Miranne

    I feel so validated for my unique lifestyle. I don’t need permission for all of the “not normal” pursuits that interest me. I am living, maybe a different style of living but very fulfilling in my inner world. Thanks for the encouragement and self disclosure.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m glad my story helps, Cheri. It’s therapeutic for me to write about it, especially with humor. Thanks for commenting.

  13. EwaB Avatar

    Also do not have a tablecloth, in case of emergency a bedsheet works as well.
    I am okay in busy places and enjoy meeting people, but I just love 1 on 1 contact as well. And I need alone time too.
    Introspection, yes plenty, acording to my now therapist a bit to much and I should try living every now and then.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I guess “living every now and then” is a good idea… 🙂 Thanks, EwaB.

  14. cathytea Avatar

    I don’t have a tablecloth, either . Got a blender, though, for applesauce ! And feel quite alien in nearly every social circumstance while simultaneously feeling blissfully , divinely connected to all and everything and, even , everyone ! It’s a conundrum . Thank you for this cheerful post !

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I have a blender now, too. 🙂 So important, that Divine connection!! Thanks, cathytea.