This article presents an example within clinical counseling of a highly gifted 19-year-old male student whose academic capabilities fall in the 99.9th percentile.He entered therapy with a desire to understand his presenting problem of academic decline over the past several years of high school as well as to deal with the impact of his decline, both on his emotional development and his academic future.An analyzed tapescript is presented in which the therapist leads him to recognize and confront his defenses and discover the depth of his emotional distress regarding his current life disposition.
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The client is indicated by the letter "C," the therapist by the letter "A." Some details of place and circumstance have been changed to secure confidentiality.
As the session unfolds, this young man's brilliance will become obvious.
This client is able to use his own verbal precocity to build a highly complex cognitive defense posture.
The defense protects his emotional world, his feelings of powerlessness and his loneliness.
As will be seen, the tapescript provides perspective on the complexity of the client's struggle with self, emotion, achievement, identity and worth.
The author hopes to highlight some of the insights needed in counseling the highly gifted, which include awareness of deep, underlying issues as well as the subtlety with which such issues may present.This young man's dilemma, although unique, is reflective of many highly gifted underachievers.Comments regarding dynamics and issues are included.At times, he demonstrates his ability to use the right psychological verbiage to keep his therapist at bay.His use of words and concepts is often quite appropriate to his behavior and so may entice a therapist to avoid the real emotional material.Clearly, the task for the therapist is to stay highly aware of what may lie beneath of the client's acute verbal ability or risk of being seduced by verbal pyrotechnics.