Gifted adults often come into therapy with a unique set of problems: they tend to be highly sensitive, they are perfectionists, and they are more likely to fall victim to anxiety and existential depression than others. Beyond this, they are often haunted by a sense that they are not understood by others, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and alienation. Luckily, certain counselling techniques can help gifted adults cope with their specific set of challenges.
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For the gifted adult who finds himself caught up in a cycle of misery due to existential depression, existential therapy may be the most effective technique. Existential depression is common among gifted adults and often involves becoming overwhelmed by a search for the meaning of life, death and existence. Existential therapy works to instil a sense of freedom in the client as well as an awareness that he himself is ultimately responsible for his happiness (or lack thereof).
Gifted adults usually have sharp minds and tend to be high achievers. Due to these qualities, they are often perfectionists who get stuck in a dualistic mindset by judging themselves as good or bad, and right or wrong. Too often they will decide that their accomplishments are not "good enough." Gestalt therapy helps to relax this black and white viewpoint and instil an appreciation for the various shades of grey. It can also help gifted clients to live in the present moment instead of obsessing about the future.
One defence mechanism that gifted individuals are prone to using is intellectualization. Because they are both smart and emotionally reactive, intellectualization is an obvious defence mechanism because they are able to rationalise away their feelings and prevent them from becoming overwhelming. However, the rationalised feelings still exist within the client; they are simply kept at bay. A counsellor should work to help the gifted individual become aware when she is intellectualising and work to uncover the deeper feelings underneath.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
For gifted adults who are struggling with anxiety problems, cognitive behavioural therapy offers a way in which they can master their own mind and emotions instead of being a slave to them. This technique is based on the concept that our thoughts actually produce our emotions, and therefore changing our way of thinking results in a change of our emotional experience. This technique is very practical and often produces quick results, which is compatible with the gifted adult's desire for accomplishment.
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- Gestalt Therapy: History, Theory, and Practice; Ansel Woldt, et al.; 2005
- Counselling the Gifted: Giftedness and Academic Underachievement