Do Gifted Children Need a Therapist Who Is a Specialist in Gifted Children?


I am asked over and over, by parents whose children do not respond well to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy or play therapy, “Does my child need a specialist in giftedness for his or her psychotherapy to be successful?”

My answer is, “Maybe.” The therapist you choose for your gifted child should know the behavioral characteristics and emotional issues that gifted children and their parents face at home and at school. It also helps if the therapist you choose is gifted themselves, or the therapist has had experiences in the gifted world. You want to find someone who wants to understand your child’s passions, intensities, emotional behavior struggles, and unique social development.

Not all therapists are interested in emotional issues related to giftedness. Disinterested practitioners can create more problems for your family by ignoring the root cause of your child’s problem. My advice is to try to find a warm and welcoming therapist who thinks outside the box like your child does.

For example, emotional intensity is often seen by traditional therapists as over-reactivity that needs to be eliminated through strict limits or through behavior modification. Say, for instance, that your son only wants to collect dinosaurs. The therapist with insight into giftedness will deliberately promote this interest. An enlightened therapist knows that passion is a part of the gifted child’s identity. Passion creates great minds and profound solutions to all kinds of problems. The traditional therapist will suggest that new avenues of interest are necessary, and tell the parents to put away the dinosaurs.

A hot button for parents who usually think the worst is social interactions. Social problems of precocious children are not symptoms of high functioning autism. Social issues are a result of feeling out of place and misunderstood by same-age peers. Gifted children have to learn how to relate to non-gifted children. Thus, learning goes slowly, because it needs to be experienced with other children.

Obviously, special qualities are important in a therapist for a precocious child. You might ask the therapist you are considering the following questions:
    1.  Do you understand the difference in learning styles between high-achieving and gifted children?
    2.  Do you know what three special experiences gifted children will need at school?
    3.  What are the five challenges of working with giftedness?
    4.  Have you worked with gifted children and their families?
    5.  How are the social differences of gifted children different than those of high-functioning autism?