Therapy for Gifted Children, Adolescents & Adults, Surrey BC
The identification and support of gifted children, adolescents and adults is as complex as the unique emotional, intellectual and social characteristics attributed to this population. Alison Bell specializes in counselling gifted individuals and their families.
The definition of giftedness itself is one that presents a challenge. Giftedness may be seen as extraordinary intellectual, artistic, creative, emotional, social, moral or physical capability. It can be seen from many vantage points including achievement, developmental potential, intensity, over excitability, and social and emotional characteristics. What is important to keep in mind is that giftedness is a descriptor to help identify various constellations of development including but not limited to, social, emotional, intellectual, moral and creative developmental patterns that are extraordinary and outside typical developmental patterns. Exceptional developmental patterns and qualities are often combined with keen intuitive abilities and heightened sensitivities. Many of the qualities experienced by gifted individuals lead to greater richness in experience and emotions, although they can also lead to increased vulnerabilities and challenges with coping as well as profound potential for inner reflection, self-awareness and growth.
Advanced development in some areas is not always matched in other developmental areas, and this "asynchronicity" requires special considerations. In 1991 the Columbus group defined giftedness as "…asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally."
Giftedness does not make a person superior, although many gifted individuals may have superior functioning or potential in one or more areas. What is important to keep in mind when considering therapeutic support of gifted individuals is that they may have qualities that are outside the norm; they are different, and with those differences come unique challenges and ways of experiencing. Therapeutic support must appreciate and understand the unique ways that giftedness manifests in individuals; it must appreciate the differences that exist and have the ability to authentically connect at a deep and intense level.
All individuals possess an innate, inner drive to be known, to be understood and to connect. Gifted individuals share that need, although the intensity in which it is required and experienced may be extraordinary. With great potential and capabilities in many areas, also comes challenges in finding true peers, coping with internal and external demands and processing social, intellectual and emotional input that may be experienced at a more intense and deep level than the norm.
Counselling and Psychotherapy with Gifted Individuals
There are many areas in which children and adolescents may require specialized support and counselling and therapy for the gifted population is no exception. It is important, when seeking a therapist to nurture, support and guide a gifted child or adolescent, that the therapist have specialized experience and training with gifted populations and the ability to truly connect authentically with gifted individuals.
Gifted children and adolescents often present to counselling and psychotherapy when their ability to cope has been challenged or certain symptoms are being manifested. It is important to be aware that in gifted populations those symptoms may be more related to giftedness than to a mental health diagnosis. The intensity and sensitivity experienced by gifted individuals combined with advanced capabilities can lead to many issues that may be misdiagnosed by a therapist who does not have a keen awareness or understanding of giftedness. Inner turmoil and conflict may be a normative and growth process in a gifted individual and may lead them to engage in a process of destabilization, which can create greater awareness, and higher levels of functioning and meaning.
Many of the characteristics of gifted individuals may also contribute to greater risk in experiencing issues related to mental health and coping. As with most qualities there are both positive and challenging aspects and with characteristics of the gifted being so profound, both the positive and more challenging aspects will also be profound.
Issues that emerge in therapy with gifted individuals may be experienced differently, and it is those differences that must be understood, nurtured and supported.
Alison has significant experience in providing therapeutic support to gifted children, adolescents and adults who experience:
- Self-damaging behaviours
- Adjustment Difficulties
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Existential Depression
- Alienation and Isolation
- Peer Relationship Challenges
- Eating Disorders
- Negative Self-Esteem
- Learning Disabilities
- School and Learning Difficulties
Gifted Children and Adolescents
Children and adolescents require a therapist with specialized skills and experience to understand and support their unique developmental needs. Gifted children and adolescents are no exception, as they require a therapist with significant experience and strong skills to support children and adolescent but also with specialized knowledge, understanding and empathy related to giftedness. Gifted children and adolescents need to have someone to “get” them, to truly know and appreciate them, and to connect with them in a meaningful way. Alison has had many years of experience with children, adolescents and giftedness and brings passion and commitment to her work in this area.
Being a parent provides ongoing challenges and stretches and tests emotional and psychological limits. The unique needs of gifted children can stretch the skills of parents even further. It is not unusual for a gifted child to have one or more gifted parents but that does not in itself prepare parents for the journey of parenting a gifted child. Parents often benefit from parent consultations to address the unique challenges that present in their family as a result of their child’s giftedness and ways of experiencing the world. Parents require and benefit from a safe environment in which they can express their fears, frustrations, triggers and successes that may emerge. Increasing understanding and exploring the most effective ways to respond to each unique gifted child and to nurture and guide their social, psychological and emotional development are the focus of parenting consultations.
Giftedness and Eating Disorders
In all eating disorder treatment it is essential to look beyond a focus on food, weight and shape and to explore other factors that are underlying the need to cope through eating disorder behaviour. In gifted individuals it is essential to appreciate the qualities of giftedness and how they contribute and are interconnected with eating disordered thoughts and behaviours. Many qualities of giftedness and risk factors for eating disorders overlap. Characteristics such as perfectionism, heightened sensitivities, low self-esteem, high achievement, and heightened awareness to the expectations and needs of others are often related to individuals who are gifted and also experience an eating disorder.
In 2004, Alison conducted one of the only research studies to date that has explored the experience of gifted individuals who experience an eating disorder. Her expertise in this area continues to be a therapeutic and academic focus of her work. Expertise in this unique subsection of clinical work has resulted in many clients and families benefitting from advanced knowledge and clinical skills as well as a unique understanding of how giftedness and eating disorders interact. Clients benefit from uniquely designed interventions which target both eating disorders and gifted qualities in ways that may be overlooked in other therapies.
Ready to make a change?
Contact Alison Bell, Surrey BC Family Counsellor, to explore the initial first step in reaching your goals.
Alison will speak to you directly to discuss your areas of concern and determine how she may be best able to assist you. Finding the right therapist to support you is essential and Alison will be very happy to speak with you at any time to discuss your circumstance and hopes for the counselling or psychotherapy process.
Please feel free to refer yourself or a family member directly. Outside agencies or individuals may also refer to the practice.