Working with the Highly Sensitive Person in the Room Workshop with Sally Pendreigh

Workshop Details The term, “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) was first coined in the 1990s by...

Last updated 3 May 2024

Workshop Details

The term, “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) was first coined in the 1990s by US clinical research psychologist Elaine Aron. She estimates that 15 – 20% of the population are HSPs. In Scotland, that’s between 820,000 and just over 1 million people.

The term, “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) was first coined in the 1990s by US clinical research psychologist Elaine Aron. She estimates that 15 – 20% of the population are HSPs. In Scotland, that’s between 820,000 and just over 1 million people. Multiply that by 10 for the UK.

The numbers alone mean that HSPs are likely to be amongst counselling clients and the ranks of the profession. But the core characteristics of HSPs increase this likelihood further.

HSPs think and care deeply, and process constantly. They have intense emotional responses to events and experiences. And a sensitivity to external stimuli – physical, emotional, environmental. All this means HSPs can tend to get overwhelmed and exhausted, and crave space and quiet.

These characteristics – and the needs that go with them – can be ‘too much’ for others. HSPs are often told to ‘lighten up’ or ‘grow a thicker skin’. Which leaves them with strong emotions and nowhere for them to go. They often turn on themselves, seeing their sensitivity as a problem but one which they’re unable to change because it’s innately them. A recipe for constant inner conflict.

All this makes HSPs prime candidates to be counselling clients. Yet they are rarely if ever mentioned as a client group or the subject of CPD events.

In this conversation with John, I will share my experience of working with the many HSPs who found their way to my counselling room and who, latterly, made up 100% of my client load.

What I witnessed time and again was people realising that being highly sensitive was their essence not their flaw, their gift not their shame. I watched them leaving counselling celebrating the difference that had previously set them apart. The actualising tendency in action!

The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of a client group the counselling profession has such potential to help; and to consider how this links through to supervision, including the possibility that supervisees may themselves be an HSP. The conversation will cover:

  • What it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
  • How it shows up in counselling clients and tips about what helps
  • The links through to supervision, especially being/having an HSP supervisee
  • How being an HSP is similar to, and differs from, other types of sensitivity

Who is this workshop appropriate for?

Counsellors & psychotherapists, supervisees, trainees

How may this workshop impact your practice?

An opportunity to consider: (a) another form of sensitivity and difference and how it shows up in the ‘room’ (b) which of your clients and/or supervisees might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) (c) what this might mean for your practice in working with them (d) your own needs if you are an HSP yourself.

Presenter

Sally Pendreigh

I retired as a BACP senior accredited person-centred counsellor in spring 2022. I worked in several settings – with victims of childhood sexual abuse; with people bereaved by murder and suicide; in community health projects; with family carers; as a student counsellor; for Employee Assistance Programmes; and in private practice.

I learned (directly from clients) about the importance of what I came to think of as a person’s ‘operating system’ – how they process information, make sense of the world, and fit in (or don’t); and how this then affects their experiences, sense of self, and relationships.

These ‘operating systems’ were many and varied – auditory processing, autism, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, face and building blindness, and synaesthesia. And, by far, the largest number of clients had yet another type of ‘operating system’ – being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The sheer numbers of HSPs who came for counselling led me to take a particular interest in this group.