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Do you recognize some or all of the following characteristics in yourself or your teenager? Then you’ve come to the right place.
- asynchronous (very advanced in some areas but not in others)
- twice exceptional (gifted + learning disability or other challenge)
- highly sensitive
Are you or your teenager experiencing some or all of the things below? Then you’ve come to the right place.
- high anxiety
- job frustration
- serial relationships
- cravings for intensity that you can’t figure out how to meet
- existential dread/angst/apathy/etc.
Click “Teens” or “Adults” to jump to that section!
If you’re the parent of a gifted adolescent, some of this will sound very familiar!
She rolls her eyes when you talk about living up to her potential.
He is impatient, frustrated, and bored.
You know your teenager is off-the-charts smart, and you just can’t understand why she seems anxious, angry, hypercritical, or apathetic. You know that he is extremely intelligent and loaded with talent, but he insists that he’s stupid and won’t make it in the world. You’ve tried praise, and you’ve tried punishment.
You and your teenager agree that you don’t want things to keep going like this. And it doesn’t have to.
Gifted adolescents are poised to excel, and paying attention to their social and emotional development alongside academics is critical. These young people can otherwise be at risk for school problems, self-esteem issues, perfectionism, and the feeling that they don’t belong. They’re too often wrongly diagnosed and pathologized by systems that don’t understand them.
Adolescence is a time of rampant growth. Adolescence for the intellectually gifted teen is simplified in some ways and complicated in others. The pressure to succeed can be motivating… and suffocating. Building an identity around school-smarts can lead to fears of not being as smart as people think they are. Teens’ high IQs can result in an acute awareness of the shortcomings of the systems, culture, and people around them. Confusion, frustration, and high anxiety can come of it.
The mother of a teenage client offered this:
My oldest son is extremely intelligent. Off the charts really. This created many problems with teachers, counselors, and everyone involved in his life. It was only when we began working with Gordon Smith that I found hope that he would be able to pull it together and be successful in life. Gordon was able to connect with him, to understand him, and to help him heal and find his voice.
Intellectually gifted teens can be incredibly creative, witty, and analytical. They think fast, sometimes faster than their parents. And for a lot of teens, those strengths are turned into weaknesses by the world around them.
For the teen who isn’t understood and empowered, his creative problem-solving is cast as non-compliance or disobedience. Her critical thinking skills are rejected as oppositional and disrespectful. His quick mental processing is seen as impatience or attention deficit. Adventurous natures are seen as irresponsible and dangerous. Sensitivity to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of those around them is seen as moodiness.
I went through some extremely difficult experiences with him. His behavior became unmanageable, and I was at my wits end. His grades dropped. His behavior worsened. He became very unhappy. I can gladly say that my son is now very successful as an adult. I cannot imagine how we would’ve succeeded without Gordon’s help. I recommend him highly.
Counseling is especially powerful for intellectually gifted teens because they are extremely resilient, and they rapidly comprehend the opportunity offered by a therapist who is there to understand and empower them.
That’s what I do – Identify teens’ strengths and families’ strengths; Build trust and understanding; and empower people to become the people they want to be.
Counseling offers you and your teens the chance to be heard. I have seventeen years of experience working with adolescents and their families to find their way forward. I’ve seen young people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder grow through counseling into relaxed, self-assured young adults.
If you haven’t had intellectual testing done with your teenager, I can refer you to the best in town. If you haven’t had good experiences with past counselors, I can promise you a different experience.
I tried rewards systems, natural consequences, numerous counselors (most of whom he simply outsmarted), special diets, doctors, lots of sports, acupuncture, medications, and every possible route to find help and support for him. I’m deeply grateful that we were able to work with Gordon. His intelligence, understanding, compassion, and deep dedication to his field is invaluable.
You didn’t suddenly become gifted, but you may have suddenly realized it in your adult years. People talk to you about your intensity – of thought, of emotion, of imagination or sensuality – like it’s a bad thing. You find yourself struggling to adapt to work environments that just don’t suit you, and you suffer chronic dissatisfaction as a result. Conformity just isn’t your jam. You cycle from fascination to mastery to boredom. You are talented in multiple ways and haven’t figured out how to explore all of your different interests while making a living and raising a family.
Your strengths and talents were muffled as you tried to fit in to a world that doesn’t understand you. Or you may have taken on perfectionism and anxiety as ways of life. You may have taken a deep dive into substance abuse in an effort to meet your needs for intensity, cope with depression, or dampen your heightened sensitivities to the world around you. You may have a nagging sense of being incomplete and disconnected from the world.
Those critical years during which identity formation is at the forefront can leave gifted adults with some treasured beliefs and some destructive ones. If your strengths were pathologized, it’s time to reclaim them as the strengths they are. If you were taught negative self-regard because of your giftedness, you should know that those thoughts can be re-examined and revised in the light of who you are and who you want to become.
Counseling helps the intellectually gifted adult to better understand how genetics, upbringing, and self-determination have gotten you to where you are today. It helps you to establish a direction for yourself, and it empowers you to get from here to there in the healthiest, most expedient ways possible.
What Does Gifted Look Like? Clearing Up Your Confusion by Paula Prober, M.S., M.Ed.
“People are astonished by how much you can do. You think you’re lazy. There’s so much that you’re not doing.
People tell you how smart you are. You feel dumb. You know how much you don’t know and you still haven’t decided what you want to be when you grow up.
People admire your (musical, artistic, mathematical, linguistic, etc.) talents. You think they’re patronizing you. You notice all of the mistakes you make. Surely, they do, too, but they’re too polite to mention them.
How is it possible that you see yourself as a lazy not-so-smart slacker and others see you as so-lucky-to-be-gifted? How can your sense of yourself be so different from how others see you?
Like life in the rain forest, it’s complicated.
Maybe it’s your super high expectations. You don’t realize that others don’t have similar standards. Doesn’t everyone want to create beauty, balance, harmony and justice all of the time? Don’t all people value precision?
Maybe it’s your enthusiasm for learning about, well, everything. Isn’t everyone obsessed with reading and researching multiple disparate topics instead of sleeping, which is such a waste of time? Aren’t all people thrilled that MIT is offering classes online? Doesn’t everyone dream of changing career paths every 3-5 years?
Maybe it’s your capacity for observing and perceiving and noticing. Isn’t everyone bothered by the buzzing florescent lights, the crooked pictures on the wall, the house in your neighborhood that was painted chartreuse?
Maybe it’s your extra sensitivity and empathy. Can’t everyone feel the distress in the room? Isn’t everyone overwhelmed by the news? Don’t all humans want to save the world?
So, if you’re confused by the difference between the feedback that you get and your own self-perception, time to get unconfused.
Maybe it’s your highest standards, your zest for learning, your keen capacity to perceive, your intense sensitivity and your exceptional empathy.
Maybe that is what gifted looks like.”