Whether you've been formally diagnosed as a highly sensitive person (HSP) or have simply begun to suspect some of the undue stress and tension you experience when exposed to certain noises, textures, smells, or even conflict or criticism may be due to this condition, you're probably wondering whether there are any treatment options that can benefit you. Although this condition is relatively common -- affecting up to 20 percent of individuals -- it has only been in recent years that it has been given a name (sensory processing sensitivity (SPS)), and many psychologists and other mental health professionals aren't yet well-versed in SPS management. Read on to learn more about what you should consider when selecting a therapist to help you find healthy ways to manage your SPS, as well as which types of therapy may be the most effective means of treatment.
What types of therapy are most effective for HSPs?
Each HSP's experience and triggers can manifest in different ways. Some HSPs may be social butterflies and drawn to interpersonal interaction, but be unable to stand the sensation of scratchy fabrics or certain odors. Other HSPs may be extremely sensitive to even well-meaning criticism or correction than others, causing them to withdraw from the world. Despite these differences, there are some common themes that can help make certain types of therapy appropriate.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective ways to help manage the anxiety and stress that often goes hand in hand with being an HSP. Unlike the talk therapy frequently portrayed in the media, CBT focuses on providing you with the tools to anticipate potentially stressful situations and cope with them once you've found yourself entrenched.
For example, if your SPS manifests itself in the form of negative self-talk whenever you're criticized or corrected on an issue at work, your therapist may be able to help you come up with some coping mechanisms to help remind yourself that a critique of your work product isn't a critique of you as a person. You may be provided with affirmations to say to yourself or other techniques to help you more ably allow criticism to roll off your back.
If your SPS takes a more tactile form, CBT can provide you with the tools needed to manage the stress you feel when exposed to odors, tastes, or sensations that upset you, as well as help you devise ways to avoid many of these triggers in your daily life without compromising relationships.
What questions should you ask when seeking a therapist for your SPS?
If you don't already have an established relationship with a therapist or psychiatrist, it can often be worth asking some preliminary questions to ensure you select a mental health professional already well-versed in SPS and able to hit the ground running with your therapy. For example, you could ask whether your therapist has assisted other HSPs and which methods he or she found most effective, or whether he or she has attended any continuing clinical education courses on SPS. You may want to do your own research so that you have some information on hand to better evaluate your therapist's responses.
This doesn't necessarily mean you'll need to avoid therapists who aren't familiar with SPS or give a current therapist with whom you've developed a rapport a kick to the curb if he or she is uninformed. Often, by providing your therapist with information (including clinical research) on SPS and HSPs, you'll be able to both improve your own therapy and help your therapist effectively assist other HSPs in managing this condition.
For more information, contact a local psychiatry or counseling clinic, such as Comprehensive Behavioral Health Associates Inc.