Therapist: The Ideal Career for a Highly Sensitive Introvert Obsessed with Changing the World.
I had no idea, when I started out as a psychotherapist, how well the profession would fit my sensitive, introverted nature.
Not only that, more recently, I’ve become a blogger-author. And, because of the power of the internet, my introversion is doing just fine, thank you very much.
Let me explain.
As a therapist, I get to have deep conversations, powerful experiences, and emotionally intimate relationships, one person at a time. No small talk, no pressure to be pithy, no loud, obnoxious, collaborating co-workers. My sensitivity, my empathy, and my ability to listen deeply are all valued and essential.
But, one day, I decided I wanted to do even more. To expand my reach beyond my counseling office. Connect with humans around the world. Make a larger difference. Do my small part in creating a better world.
First, some background:
In my 20’s and 30’s, I’d worked as a teacher in the public schools with gifted children. These kids were more intellectually advanced than their peers, and needed different approaches and content. They typically were frustrated with the slow pace in the regular classrooms, and already knew the material that was being presented.
Because they could also be highly sensitive, empathetic, creative, and emotional, they were misunderstood by other children and their teachers.
Eventually, I was ready to leave my teaching career. So at the age of 39, I went to grad school for a counseling degree and started a career in mental health. I knew the children I’d worked with in the schools had particular mental health needs because of their giftedness, so I specialized in treating gifted youth and adults when I started my practice.
Their advanced abilities would often lead to serious frustrations in relationships and careers, anxiety, depression, loneliness, perfectionism, and misdiagnoses.
It became apparent that what I knew about the social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of these highly sensitive, complex individuals needed to be shared with kids, parents, educators, other psychotherapists, and gifted adults.
What’s an introvert to do? An introvert who wants to expand her reach and make a difference?
Start a blog, of course. Now, I’m in my 60’s, so I had no idea what that might actually involve. Turns out, it’s pretty remarkable. I mean, really. I’m interacting with people from all over the world from the comfort of my kitchen table. I respond when I want. I take all of the time that I need. People share their experiences with me. There are no parties.
And then, the unexpected happened. A small press noticed my blog and asked me to write a book.
So I did. A book about the psycho-spiritual needs of humans with rainforest (gifted) minds.
With the blog and book, you’d think the pressure for an extraversion conversion would be on. But no, I’m still at my kitchen table, communicating via webinars, podcasts and Facebook. From the quiet, safety, and sweetness of my little introverted nest.
Pretty impressive. I remember my first webinar. It was kind of bizarre. Alone in my kitchen, talking to my laptop while about 65 people listened in. This was before the technology that allowed you to see each other. I liked being an invisible voice. Although not knowing what my listeners were thinking was a little unnerving, if you must know.
People like me. They read my blog and buy my book. I’m at home. It’s a miracle.
Now, I realize that if I were Dr. Phil or Deepak Chopra, I would have to leave my nest. Go on a book tour. Actually talk to groups of people face to face. And maybe that would be okay. Perhaps I might override my introversion for a TV show.
Maybe. But, for now, I tell you, I have my introverted dream job. My ideal career.
No small talk. No pith. No parties.
But, still making a difference.
Paula Prober is a licensed counselor, consultant, author, blogger, and tango dancer in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. She’s spent over 30 years working with gifted youth and adults in her practice and in schools, universities, at conferences and webinars. Paula invented the expression ‘rainforest mind’ to describe humans who are highly sensitive, intense, curious, smart, and misunderstood. She consults internationally with rainforest-minded adults and parents of gifted children. Her book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016. She blogs at Your Rainforest Mind, a blog in support of the excessively curious, creative, smart and sensitive.