–Jan and Bob Davidson
Most people hear the word “gifted” and assume that the person behind this label is lucky, entitled, full of her- or himself, and automatically set for life. Unfortunately, these are myths. While people who are identified as gifted or creative are likely to experience some benefits, like all people, they also often have to contend with their own set of struggles.
Psychotherapy and Consultation
Gifted, Creative, and Highly Sensitive Youths
Parents often bring their children or adolescents to psychotherapeutic treatment because of difficulties that may, at least in part, be related to their gifted identity or makeup:
- Depression, anxiety, or existential angst
- Heightened emotional sensitivity and intensity
- Problems with authority, rules, and social conventions
- Boredom, underachievement, or lack of motivation
- Acting out at school or at home
- Perfectionism and harsh internal critic
- A sense of differentness and isolation
- Social and peer-related difficulties
- Identity development conflicts
- Frustration due to uneven cognitive, emotional, and physical development
Parents of Gifted, Creative, and Highly Sensitive Youths
Parents of gifted youths often seek consultation or treatment to:
- Better understand their child or adolescent
- Develop parenting techniques that are compatible with their gifted child’s needs
- Understand how their own giftedness has impacted their personal development and, therefore, their parenting style
Gifted, Creative, and Highly Sensitive Adults
Adults who are gifted and/or creative rarely consider these factors important in their identity development or current functioning. Rather, in addition to the reasons listed above, they typically seek treatment for the following reasons:
- Feeling that they are “too much to handle”
- Difficulty relating to others
- Work problems (e.g., competitiveness, frustration with their and others’ “incompetence”)
- Perfectionism, low self-esteem, and self-scrutiny
- Difficulty focusing intellectual and other pursuits, due to too many interests
- Loneliness or isolation, due to feeling different
- Difficulty setting appropriately protective boundaries
- Intellectualizing and having difficulty with feeling emotions, being vulnerable, and having needs
I focus on assessing individuals who may score in the “gifted” cognitive range. Depending on the circumstances, an assessment battery also may include tests to measure other characteristics commonly found in individuals considered to be gifted, including:
- Twice exceptionality (e.g., giftedness and AD/HD)
- Learning disabilities
- Emotional, social, or behavioral difficulties
Many people find the assessment process to be clarifying and enlightening. Results often validate difficulties, strengths, or characteristics that you already may have suspected. You also may learn about aspects of yourself that you had not recognized, as well as about new ways of understanding your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Individuals who are gifted often have special educational needs. Like all individuals, they need to be challenged appropriately so that they can find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in their learning endeavors. A cognitive assessment helps us distinguish if you might be considered “gifted” for a particular school program. A cognitive-educational assessment helps us obtain information about your cognitive abilities and level of academic achievement. Your scores may be compared to those of others your age and/or grade level. Your specific strengths and areas for growth also can be clarified. This information can be useful in targeting the most effective ways for you to learn and achieve your educational and learning goals.
Those who are gifted are not immune to having emotional and behavioral difficulties. Among other things, gifted individuals can be emotionally sensitive and intense; may have difficulty with social conventions or authority; may struggle with boredom, perfectionism, and generating motivation; may feel alone and misunderstood by others; and may experience existential depression and anxiety. An emotional-behavioral assessment helps us gain a better understanding of your emotional and behavioral functioning and needs. It also can help your therapist rule out or clarify a diagnosis so that you can receive optimal treatment. Test results can provide information about your sense of self, interpersonal functioning, coping strategies, and emotional functioning. Furthermore, psychological symptoms and/or a formal diagnosis (based on the most current DSM) can be clarified if necessary.
Individuals who are gifted academically and/or creatively may find it hard to focus their interests. Often, they have divergent interests or excel in a multitude of areas, finding themselves pulled in many directions and unable to choose an academic or career path to pursue. A career assessment can help us clarify your areas of interest. Results can be helpful if you are trying to figure out a college major or to make decisions about a career.
A thorough written report with recommendations is an essential part of the assessment process and will be provided (often along with a feedback session to discuss the results).