Therapy for Highly Sensitive People (HSPs)
Have you ever been told “you’re too sensitive”?
It can be common for friends or family to tell a highly sensitive person that they need to “toughen up,” “let things go,” “grow a thicker skin,” “stop crying so much,” or to “stop being so sensitive.” You may feel frequently overwhelmed and struggle with situations that others seem to deal with easily. All these messages and experiences can make Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) believe there’s something wrong with them that needs to be fixed.
What does it mean to be highly sensitive?
Being highly sensitive is not a diagnosis. You’ll find no mention of it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V), which is the professional resource for diagnosing mental health concerns. Sensitivity, instead, is becoming increasingly recognized as a personality trait and as part of a person’s innate temperament, much like being naturally outgoing, reliable or independent.
While this trait of sensitivity can look a little different for everyone, it includes some fundamental elements. People who are highly sensitive notice A LOT about the world around them, including:
The 5 senses—both enjoying/savoring and sometimes being overly stimulated by light, sound, smell, touch/texture and taste.
Strong emotions--A HSP may feel an abundance of joy or excitement and can be equally overcome by sadness or disappointment.
Other people--HSPs tend to be especially attuned to the mood in a room, others’ feelings or even noticing subtle changes in a friend or coworker, like recognizing their half-hearted smile or slumped shoulders indicating they’re having a rough day.
Themselves--HSPs can be perfectionists and may worry quite a bit about performance or about disappointing others. Interestingly, HSPs tend to perform more poorly when they are being closely observed due to their heightened sensitivity to such observation.
These characteristics can add so much richness and complexity to life, on the one hand, and on the other hand, they can create feelings of overwhelm and a desire to hide from the world. If you are tired of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with yourself and are ready to find some peace, we'd love to support you and your growth in therapy.
A brief history of sensitivity
Historically, being highly sensitive may have been referred to as being neurotic or “hysterical.” Thankfully, we’ve gotten away from these words with so many negative connotations! Believe it or not, sensitivity can be a tremendous strength. While a lot of research on the trait of sensitivity is still emerging, we know that about 15-20% of the population has been identified as being highly sensitive. Evolution has even shown this trait to serve its purpose in the survival of the human species. Having people in a group who were especially observant about changes, whether it be a shift in weather or building tension among a group, could help prevent and resolve problems before they got out of hand. Likewise, in modern day, the trait of sensitivity can be incredibly beneficial to businesses, organizations, individuals and even one’s own family and friends.
How can therapy help?
WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND WHO YOU ARE WITH SELF-COMPASSION, LIFE GETS BETTER.
These things start to happen:
You enjoy life more.
You feel more relaxed.
You feel closer to your friends and loved ones.
You feel happy, calm, and mindful more of the time.
You’re able to focus on your goals.
You know that you are good enough, capable and whole.
If we decide to work together in therapy, I'll be right there with you as you work on growing, learning new tools and moving past your pain. When you work with me, you'll have someone in your corner--fighting through the struggles with you, challenging you when you need to be nudged (or maybe pushed), and offering kindness and caring throughout the whole process. I'll invite you to see yourself as I see you.
Our goal in therapy will be to help you know that you are whole--and that allows you to feel more confident, content, joyful, loved and connected, focused, accepting and comfortable in your own skin. We’ll work together to support you in becoming more of who you want to be. And, we’ll work to help you continue your journey knowing that you are deserving, capable and good enough . . . fully knowing that you are whole.
Work with a therapist who understands Highly Sensitive People
While any personality trait comes with a downside, there is also incredible strength and advantage to be found in being highly sensitive. So, if you’d like to explore and deepen your understanding of this complex trait of sensitivity in yourself or in your child (See more about how we work with kids and teens.), call us today for a free 15 minute phone consultation. Arielle, Ivy and Allison are HSPs who love supporting HSPs in their journey!
Get more support in a highly sensitive person coaching group
Being an HSP is a unique experience that involves its strengths and challenges. So, being part of a group of other HSPs focused on supporting one another, understanding and working with the trait and learning new skills can be life-changing. This is why Ivy's created an online coaching group just for HSPs. We'd love to have you in group!
Check out this training I gave to other therapists about how best to support highly sensitive clients. Part 1 covers my own HSP story and lots of good facts, research, and details about what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Part 2 dives into common co-occurring mental health issues and my tips for best supporting clients who are HSPs.