Counseling the Gifted and Talented: A Parallel Process

In 2010, when I made the decision to consolidate all of my practices and open a center in Chicago, my vision was clear. To create a center truly devoted with a team of caring, well-trained, highly motivated people who shared the desire and the vision to provide service that reflected the needs of the gifted and talented. Not a normal counseling or intervention process, but a place where the variance of uniqueness in human nature and experiences are embraced and cultivated.  A center where the sole focus is not just on a disenfranchised population of people, but on a framework of possibility and meaningful growth. With years in the making (30 to be exact) I now feel that vision has been manifested at the Center for Identity Potential. A place where potential activates, identities are formed that fit, and the uniqueness of each client is comprehensively addressed with the potential of that individual respected and not exploited due to perceived or actual gifts and talents. And authenticity serving as our foundation, where the staff provides a complex service along with a congruency for each staff member’s own personal growth process. In so far that we as a staff work towards never taking a client somewhere we have not been or are not willing to go ourselves, so in the process of developing and discussing what we wanted our blog to express, this parallel staff process is where we wanted to start–right where we are as people and practitioners. I have taken excerpts from our transcribed staff meeting on this topic and highlighted that dialogue with some commentary so you can gain a feel for the parallel process our staff engages upon.

To preface this transcribed experience:

Because we don’t work with “normal”(a relative concept by the way), everything we do must be adjusted and accounted for the variance of our gifted and talented client’s unique nature. Normal doesn’t work in our center. In actuality, if we attempt to apply normative approaches to our clients we risk not serving their needs and not creating the fit. So as a staff when we engage in the work, we do so with a commitment to push ourselves not to fall into or regress to a normative or meaningless experience. This particular staff meeting is an example of that push, we were discussing how our blog should start and what the intent will be.

The blog meeting…

Andy: I want to write about what each of you have learned in your experience in this practice and what the practice means to you in terms of the offering.  How do you express to people the meaning from the get go?  Some of that is stated, some of that is unstated.  Start with why, start with meaning.  Start with intent and meaning. For me the meaning is providing people with this practice, with this experience of being able to know themselves and to activate who they really are in the way that fits them.  Not normatively, but unique to who they are and what they need.

Mark: My first response will seem a little over the top, but it’s that this practice saved my life. It gave me everything I already knew about myself and what I needed some clarity and some perspective and it gave me ways to work through it and create in my life what I needed to create. If I wasn’t here I would still be wandering, I would still be lost.

Andy: So what you’re talking about is the parallel process that we engage.

Mark: The parallel process of working on myself to therefore work on these kids and the parents that I then relate to and wanting to understand.  Which is something that I get as well.  It starts off as a really big statement but it’s pretty concrete of what I mean.

Scott: I kind of feel like I am in the same boat as Mark in a way.  The practice and what it means to me is just kind of an outlet.  It’s a place that helps me put together everything that I want to come together, other people, using skills that I feel that I have mastered or that I am really good at.  Being able to work with people, so that I have a place that I can fulfill myself and my own needs, and I’m doing that through working with other people and helping them through the same process.

Brandon: What pops in my head is that I hate this process and that’s why I’m here.

Andy: I love that, keep going.

Brandon: I am used to being listened to, I am used to having the answers.  I am used to being able to control a situation.  But when someone doesn’t allow me to do those things, I feel like I am floundering because I don’t know how to do the other.  And that’s what I need.  And that’s why I’m here.  I don’t change when I’m in control, I just make it the same always. (for reference Brandon is talking about his own experience as a gifted individual)

Andy: Wasn’t that good? Doesn’t that speak to you? That’s real. That’s what people come with.  These are people, bright, intelligent, talented people who are used to being in control.  They come to us in this belief system that they have to know it all, have to have all the answers; they can’t really be authentic in life (so they believe) because no one would really understand them and if they do they are in trouble.

Sheryl: For me the experience of this practice vs on my own is truly human relationship with a place to look at myself honestly.  Knowing why my highly sensitive nature that I was born with can be further refined in relationship with all of you guys, in relationship with the parents that I work with.  But its community.  I’m verklempt right now, having a home and having a relationship with each of you guys and everyone being very authentic.  Every one of you are willing to be vulnerable.  It serves so much; it serves yourselves and it serves the world. And it helps me be vulnerable and I am so grateful. I am just so grateful to be a part of this.

Andy: You see the difference between your writing when you’re more guttural with your expression than if you get heady with your words (I am referring to the verbal discussion here as the true writing process about the practice).  Because there is a lot of headiness in the gifted world.  So the danger for us in a practice is how to dance with people.  In terms of the balance on some level, to extract more and offer more than just one means of being.  So they can have an experience of who they are. Not just their intellectual or not just their creative expression.  The whole combination of who they are as a being and how that all works together.  Are you getting a sense of how all this expression stuff fits together?

Scott: I mean for me I certainly do, when I think of a blog specifically for our practice is to automatically run to information, information, information. In terms of how we would demonstrate our expertise or how we would demonstrate ourselves as being this place that understands you and can support you. I think this conversation is turning this upside down for me. It’s not actually about the information it’s about the expression, the emotion, the personal component, the sharing.  Letting all the work we do — the essence of what we do — through this blog as opposed to information.

Andy: Now, you see how beautifully written that was? He took his experience and he expressed his whole experience.  He demonstrated for you exactly what we do. People come with this sense that it’s all about information, it’s all about the intellect, or it’s about performance.  They come to realize that it’s not what we do, that it’s not what it’s about.

Mark:  And I guess it just takes time, because I think about my own self and my own preconceptions and notions when I came here and where I’m at with it now.  It’s a lot of time and it’s a lot of the same information hammering you over the head until you get to feel it — until you get to experience it.

Andy: I can relate.  I like the way this is going, I think this is a good blog post.  I like the idea of speaking from the self.  It parallels what I believe.  When you start a process with a group of people in the world you start with yourself, you don’t ask people to go somewhere else first, if you’re not willing to go there first. Any other thoughts or reactions?

Brandon: I think, on a blog note, that this is great and I think its clarifying a lot for me. Part of what the agenda was for today was the process of how we are going to go about writing posts.  I can’t do that.  We can’t do that.  We can’t have a conversation about what words you should include in your blog because then you won’t be 100% focused on expressing your truth.  On the other hand, that stuff does need to go in the blogs for the way that they internet works, but that just has to be a second step.  Everyone has to write their truth.