Being Gifted Can Be Stressful

Why People Are Referred to the Center

Survey Data Pertaining to Psychotherapy
With People Who Are Gifted

Being gifted can be stressful. If pressed to conform, gifted people may hide their abilities and underachieve. Or they may rebel and become antisocial loners. Whichever path they choose, they may pay a heavy emotional and social price for being different. 

People who are intellectually gifted or have special abilities in the creative and performing arts often feel different.  Their uncommon perceptions, interests, and ideas may set them apart and make them feel at odds with their families, friends, teachers, co-workers, and society in general. In order to fit in and feel accepted, they may hide their abilities and go through life unrecognized and even handicapped by their gifts.

One national survey estimated that nearly 20 percent of gifted students drop out of high school. This often perpetuates their rebellion and underachievement into adulthood and results in a tremendous waste of human potential.   

People with special abilities may need developmental counseling and psychotherapy to deal with conflicts stemming from differences between their own needs and wishes and other people's expectations. They also need to understand the impact their uncommon perceptions, interests, and ideas can have on other people and learn to cope with negative social responses to their intellectual and creative differences.

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Many gifted children and adolescents are referred to the Center because of behavioral or interpersonal problems or because they are achieving at levels far below their intellectual potential.  Gifted adults often turn to Center professionals for help in dealing with the pain and difficulties surrounding important life transitions as well as for assistance in resolving conflicts related to their needs and potentials as gifted people.  They come to the Center seeking a more cohesive and satisfying sense of self, a more meaningful sense of direction and purpose, and a feeling of belonging in relation to others.

Those who seek counseling and psychotherapy at the Center for the GiftedSM know that here their special needs will be recognized; their uncommon perceptions, ideas, and experiences will be understood and validated; and their extraordinary abilities will be viewed as valuable assets for their growth and development.

The highly qualified psychologists associated with the Center for the GiftedSM provide individual, couples, and family counseling, and psychotherapy to meet the needs of gifted and talented people of all ages.

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In 1980 Dr. Suzanne Schneider conducted a survey of the life experiences and psychotherapeutic needs of 254 intellectually gifted adults and adolescents, supplemented by data derived from a small pilot survey of 18 psychotherapists.  The results of this survey suggest that many members of the gifted minority experience painful problems, including feelings of difference, interpersonal difficulties, lack of trust in authority figures, and feelings of social isolation during adulthood as well as during childhood and adolescence.  The survey results also suggest that gifted women experience difficulties as a result of their deviance from traditional sex-role norms and expectations.

The survey data pertaining to psychotherapy are consistent with other

research results demonstrating that positive therapeutic outcomes tend to be associated with therapist variables, including empathy, genuineness, positive regard for patients, non-possessive warmth, and therapists' intensity and intimacy in therapeutic relationships with patients of all levels of intelligence.  At the same time, the survey results suggest that psychotherapists must be highly intelligent and self-accepting enough not to experience feelings of threat, intimidation, awe, envy, competitiveness, and inadequacy when working with gifted patients and clients.  Further analysis of the survey results suggests that therapists need to be aware of the differing perceptions, experiences, problems, and needs of gifted people in order to be optimally effective in working with them.  

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For further information or to schedule an appointment, call the Center for the Gifted at
(215) 849-5077.

Copyright © 2003 by C. Suzanne Schneider, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.