Counseling Highly Sensitive People/Empaths in Kalamazoo

Do you ever feel like you are the only one who “gets it” in relationships or that you are alone in the great, big, overwhelming world? Can you tell what someone else is thinking or feeling before they even do? Or, maybe you can feel others’ emotions in your own body. Are you sensitive to your environment, whether it is light, sound, or what you watch on T.V.? You are not alone! And, you are not going crazy. You are likely in a category of the population called Highly Sensitive People/Empaths.

I offer counseling for Highly Sensitive People (also commonly called “Empaths”) in the Kalamazoo area. In fact, it is one of my specialties because (here’s a secret…) I am proudly one myself! I would even estimate that Highly Sensitive People/Empaths make up around half of my caseload!

If you are in the Highly Sensitive People (“HSP”) category, I have found that it is essential to work with someone who understands what makes Highly Sensitive People/Empaths unique – both challenges and strengths – and how to tailor treatment specific to that person. (This even applies for medical professionals, too!). Unfortunately, though, I have found that very few helping professionals are actually familiar with this concept. Highly Sensitive People/Empaths are not the typical client. For example, I have never worked with someone in the Highly Sensitive People/Empaths category who doesn’t also deal with anxiety. The question is, though, where does the sensitivity end and the anxiety begin? And, vice versa. One needs to manage both in order to be able to live successfully.

Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People/Empaths

For more information about what defines Highly Sensitive People/Empaths, you can check out the blog I wrote on the topic. (I cannot even count how many times I get feedback from the blog with people saying “My entire life makes sense now!”. Even the magazine for which I wrote the article still gets calls about it!). In a nutshell, Highly Sensitive People/Empaths make up around 20% of the population and represent a part of the population who tend to have rich and complex inner lives and become highly affected by unpleasant situations. Some researchers have even found a genetic link to the experience of Highly Sensitive People/Empaths.

It is not that Highly Sensitive People/Empaths are “weak,” “too sensitive,” or offended easily. Their body chemistry is simply different than the rest of the population – they get stressed more quickly, more intensely, and for longer than a non-sensitive person. What would not affect the average person can deeply affect Highly Sensitive People/Empaths, causing them to be anxious or stressed for a very long time.

How do I know if I am a Highly Sensitive Person/Empath?

Dr. Elaine Aron is one of the leading researchers on this topic. (You can find related books on the topic here.) Her website is a wealth of information for Highly Sensitive People/Empaths. You can even take a self-test to see if you are a Highly Sensitive Pereson here. But, remember, while Highly Sensitive People/Empaths may have certain challenges, they also have amazing strengths that those who are not Highly Sensitive People/Empaths cannot even fathom!

Trends in Counseling Highly Sensitive People/Empaths

Highly Sensitive People/Empaths typically need to be very dedicated to their own physical, emotional, and spiritual self-care because they are so sensitive to the world around them. However, finding the balance between recharging after the world drains them and not isolating to trigger depressive symptoms can be difficult. Given a tendency for Highly Sensitive People/Empaths to be “people pleasers”, boundaries (e.g. saying “no”, being assertive) are particularly important so that Highly Sensitive People/Empaths can balance what they need and what they are able to offer others. Because Highly Sensitive People/Empaths are emotional sponges, frequently Highly Sensitive People/Empaths have anxiety that needs to be addressed with their particular sensitivity in mind. Ironically, however, Highly Sensitive People/Empaths also tend to have a running stream of self-critical thinking that is rooted in the belief that perfectionism is necessary in their lives in order to be successful and well-liked. This also means that managing relationships is another theme when counseling Highly Sensitive People/Empaths as Highly Sensitive People/Empaths are often so emotionally intelligent (e.g. empathy, emotional identification, communication skills) that relationships are frustrating because, simply put, others are not as compassionate or insightful as them. This, then, tends to lead to confusion and a sense of loneliness for Highly Sensitive People/Empaths.

Reach Out!

Reminder: You are not alone! And, you are not going crazy. Often Highly Sensitive People/Empaths need extra care to better understand themselves and how to best interact with the world in order to maintain their physical, spiritual, and mental health. The good news: Highly Sensitive People/Empaths are often quick learners! So, reach out. Get support so that you can better understand your uniqueness – how to best address your challenges but also how to embrace your strengths so that you can thrive in your life. As a fellow Highly Sensitive Person/Empath, I would love to work with you to explore this together! It is a growing passion of mine. You have so much to offer the world! I promise!

~Ashley Carter Youngblood, LMSW, LMFT, CADC, ADS

kalamazoo-counseling-ashley-carter-youngblood2Ashley Carter Youngblood is both a fully-licensed Clinical Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist who has been in the field since 2007. She offers counseling at her woman-owned business, Inner Peace Counseling, PLC, for those in Kalamazoo, Portage, Mattawan, Battle Creek, Paw Paw, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Michigan. She is passionate about her work with clients, whether it’s providing individual counseling, couples counseling, family therapy, or life coaching. Her specialties include holistic healing/mindfulness, counseling for women, anxiety, couples counseling, and addictions/substance abuse.

I welcome you to contact me or leave any questions or feedback you have about this post. Please keep in mind that the above information is the opinion of an individual, should not be considered medical advice/treatment, and is for entertainment/educational purposes only. I write these blogs as an expression of my passion for wellness and with the hope to be able to help as many people as possible. So, for more information about how to safely navigate this website and to what terms you are agreeing upon use, visit my Disclaimer page. And, as always, if you are experiencing an emergency, contact 911 or present yourself to your nearest emergency room.

Thanks for reading.