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ACA 2018 Conference & Expo Sessions

166 - You are a Superhero: Counseling Highly Sensitive People From a Resiliency Approach

Apr 27, 2018 2:00pm ‐ Apr 27, 2018 3:30pm


When a client presents with anxiety, sensitivity and interpersonal problems, it is standard to look for pathology. However, for approximately 20 percent of the population, these symptoms may be indicative of a genetic temperamental characteristic, heightened sensory processing sensitivity. These individuals, also referred to as highly sensitive people, commonly seek counseling. This session will provide case studies, assessment strategies and differential diagnoses, as well as strength-based and resiliency intervention approaches.

This topic is based upon Aron's (1996) theory, has extensive empirical research, and clinical counseling implications. I have found that most counselors have never heard of this disposition; and yet, these individuals are very likely to present in counseling themselves or through parent or school referral because of their significant impairment in functioning in most modern environments. These individuals often come to counseling seeking to rid themselves of this trait believing that something is seriously wrong with them. The theory behind this characteristic is that individuals with these temperaments and traits are gifted in identifying issues and protecting their 'tribe' or community. They are the advisors, thinkers, and planners; therefore, these individuals have been key to humanity's survival and success. However, when this characteristic is not recognized and honored, it leads to extensive anxiety and functioning issues. Through identification, psychoeducation, resiliency, and strength-based approaches, counselors can literally change the client's life.

Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will be able to define the characteristic of sensitivity, as well as to identify signs in a client that they may be a Highly Sensitive Person.
  • Participants will be able to describe how these characteristics can be misdiagnosed as other disorders, and why certain effective counseling treatment strategies will be entirely unsuccessful for this population.
  • Participants will be able to outline developmentally-appropriate, strength-based counseling techniques for working with clients who are HSPs.


  • Misty M. Ginicola, PhD, Professor/ Counselor, Southern CT State University/ Self-Employed
  • Taylor Carson, MS, Graduate Student Intern, Southern Connecticut State University 

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