Printer Friendly

Addressing counseling needs of gifted students.

Counseling concerns of highly able students may reflect characteristics associated with giftedness. Yet school counselor training programs give scant attention to this phenomenon and to the social and emotional development of these students. School counselors therefore may be unaware of and unequipped to respond to these concerns. Referencing scholarly literature related to giftedness as both asset and burden, the author explores school counselors' potential roles in responding to the needs of gifted students.


According to a recent unpublished study (Peterson, 2005) of school counseling graduate programs (53% response rate) accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, preparatory curricula give little or no attention to the unique developmental concerns and counseling issues related to high ability. Only 62% of programs gave any attention at all in their entire preparatory program, and 47% devoted three or fewer contact hours. Such little emphasis on the overlay of characteristics associated with giftedness on social and emotional development, on both assets and burdens of high capability, and on the need for differential counseling responses suggests that school counselors may not understand or respond appropriately to counseling concerns of those students. Furthermore, like other educators who may be unaware of complex affective concerns of gifted students, school counselors may have attitudes and biases that preclude trusting relationships, and therefore effective work, with them (Peterson, 2006b).

Positive media stereotypes and school images of intellectually gifted students usually do not make a compelling argument that there are, in fact, a multitude of social and emotional concerns in this population. Associating the words disability or risk or needs with the idea of giftedness simply may not resonate with educators, including school counselors. Yet pertinent research and clinical evidence support the idea that counseling approaches, when working with gifted children and adolescents, should be adjusted to accommodate their abilities and needs, both the proactive, developmentally oriented guidance and the responsive services related to personal crises, as advocated by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2005) for all students. Unfortunately, and perhaps most importantly, highly able students' serious concerns may be invisible, certainly not easily demonstrated when arguing for services (Jackson & Peterson, 2003; Lovecky, 1994; Peterson, 2002). In general, their counseling needs may be outside of the awareness of teachers and school counselors until one of the well endowed suddenly underachieves in middle school, drops out of college, develops an eating disorder, or commits suicide. Even then, those individuals may be viewed simply as aberrations in a population perceived to be mentally healthy, self-directed, and basically self-sufficient.

This article will offer pertinent information from scholarly literature about social and emotional concerns related to giftedness. Underachievement, a common presenting issue, will be discussed at length. Finally, this discussion will focus on pertinent counseling approaches presented in scholarly literature and other recommendations for school counselors.


Regardless of the level of their actual academic achievement, and regardless of cutoff scores for identification in their particular school, gifted students are at the upper end of the bell curve of school abilities. Important for teachers and counselors to understand is that students so identified are as different from their average-ability peers in intellectual processing as are the students in the same small percent at the opposite end of the continuum. At the upper end, the "tail" can continue for a long distance, representing increasingly extreme difference. A profoundly gifted child is not likely to have intellectual peers at school--and may have few in the entire nation (see Gross, 1993).

At both ends of the school-ability continuum, students have a difficult time connecting to interaction and instruction in a heterogeneous classroom unless a high level of differentiated curricula is in place (Tomlinson, 2004). Tempo, content, vocabulary level, level of abstraction, encouragement of critical thinking--these are among many aspects of classroom interaction that may be frustrating and uncomfortable for students with high ability, particularly at grade levels where honors, accelerated, or college-preparatory classes are not yet available. Even in kindergarten, bright, capable children may find school unreceptive and unresponsive to their knowledge and talents (Rimm, 2003). Discomfort related to poor fit may continue throughout the school years. Consequent social and emotional difficulties may arise.


Curricula, conceptions of intelligence, measurement, and characteristics of giftedness have received considerable focus in research related to education of gifted students. Neihart, Reis, Robinson, and Moon's (2002) compilation of research related to social and emotional development of gifted individuals attended to acceleration, attributions, gender differences, cultural differences, creativity, learning disabilities, deficits in attention, motivation, career development, underachievement, and asynchronous development (e.g., cognitive development outpacing social and emotional development, Silverman, 1997). Findings in these areas have implications for social and emotional development, of course.

However, Moon (2003) noted the heavy emphasis in the field on achievement outcomes, to the neglect of "other important outcomes, such as happiness, well-being, and life satisfaction" and "helping students develop self-awareness and skills in decision making and self-regulation" (p. 16). Actually, school counselors, gifted-education and classroom teachers (Peterson, 2003), and university-based counseling centers serving gifted youth (Colangelo & Assouline, 2000) can provide appropriate services, and parent groups (Webb & DeVries, 1993) can indirectly offer support. Private and agency counselors (Mahoney, 1997; Mendaglio, 2005) also can provide services for gifted individuals that are as tailored to individual needs and developmental levels as are services for others. In this case, approaches are selected with exceptional ability and related characteristics and concerns in mind. Yet counseling issues and approaches generally have received little attention in the scholarly literature related to giftedness (Reis & Moon, 2002). Characteristics associated with high capability may contribute to counseling needs regardless of culture or socioeconomic status.

Among several issues related to educating and counseling gifted students, it is important for school counselors to be aware of identification practices, because problems inherent in these may be related to counseling concerns. Large numbers of bright, sensitive, creative, and insightful children and adolescents, representing the full range of cultural and socioeconomic contexts, may not be identified for programs for gifted and talented students (Birely & Genshaft, 1991; Ford, 1996). Yet these students might especially benefit from having their gifts affirmed and nurtured through participation in a program (Peterson, 1997).

A standardized test often serves as the gateway to participation (Coleman, Gallagher, & Foster, 1994). However, classroom teachers may be asked to refer students for evaluation whose scores on the standardized tests used for initial screening did not qualify them. When teachers consider potential nominees, cultural factors may then play a role, because cultural values have an impact on classroom behavior, teacher-student relationships, students' fit in the school environment, and identification of students for special programs (Peterson, 1999). In one ethnographic study (Peterson & Margolin, 1997), themes in the language of dominant-culture teachers, as they explained nominations of children in their classrooms for a hypothetical gifted program, reflected dominant-culture values. Their ad hoc criteria (as reflected in the themes of good behavior, verbal assertiveness, perceived work ethic, social status, and social skills) might preclude identification of children from cultures that do not value verbal assertiveness and "standing out," as well as students with low English proficiency, behavior problems, low socioeconomic status, and poor social skills.

Limiting participation to students who achieve well on group tests and in the classroom also leaves out highly able students whose difficult life circumstances, skeptical attitudes about school, lack of parental support (Peterson, 1997), learning and physical disabilities (Olenchak & Reis, 2002), depression (Jackson, 1998), behavior problems (Neihart, 2002a), and even temporary or chronic illness might preclude optimal test performance. Regardless of whether their circumstances may change during or after the school years, opportunities for crucial affirmation and support are lost. Teachers and even school counselors may not recognize their ability, even if behavior problems and emotional distress bring these students to their attention.

Sensitivity, intensity, drivenness (Lovecky, 1992), and developmental asynchrony (Silverman, 1997), rather than disability or pathology or a "bad attitude," may actually be at the root of behavior problems. In general, school counselors and other mental health professionals may not recognize that these may be related to giftedness (Webb et al., 2005). Such misinterpretation of behaviors can lead to emotional distress (Moon, 2003), and stress can contribute to depression and anxiety. Some troubled gifted students may self-medicate with substances (Peterson, 1998).

In summary, school counselors should be aware that intellectually gifted and otherwise highly talented nonmainstream students may not be identified either by standardized tests or by teacher nominations. It is important that school counselors be alert to abilities that become evident through guidance-related contact or examination of school records over time. Gifted students may be at risk for poor outcomes for a variety of reasons (Peterson, 1997, 2002), and giftedness in itself can be a risk factor. Lack of affirmation from self and others regarding high capability may actually be a presenting issue and can be addressed in counseling.


Educators, including school counselors, may not have considered that highly able students have concerns related to social and emotional development, and that collectively they may experience development in a qualitatively different way than do others their age. Important for school counselors to understand is that even during unsettling developmental experiences, these students may not feel permission or inclination to express concerns (Peterson, 2002, 2003). Students who excel academically and in cocurricular activities, who appear socially and emotionally well balanced, and whose families are educated and economically comfortable may need no less counseling attention than those who do not have socioeconomic advantages or who perform less well in school. After all, gifted achievers are not exempt from issues often associated with the school years: family conflict, parental separation and divorce, blending and reblending of families, relocation, altered economic circumstances, parental substance abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, for example. In addition, stressful life events such as the death of someone close, friends moving away, accidents, illnesses, and difficulties with peer relationships may occur. Characteristics associated with giftedness, such as psychic overexcitabilities (Piechowski, 1999), may in fact make these significant circumstances especially difficult to cope with (Piechowski, 1997). However, academic pressures and heavy commitment to activities may have equal or even greater impact on well-being (Peterson, Duncan, & Canady, 2006).

A broad clinical population of gifted school-age youth is difficult to access for research, because counseling centers serving exclusively high-ability clientele appear to be in short supply, according to a former chair of the Counseling and Guidance Division of the National Association for Gifted Children (E. Amend, personal communication, December 10, 2005). Thus, it is difficult to ascertain what are common concerns of school-age gifted individuals and what counseling approaches are effective. Not only have counseling needs and approaches not been studied extensively, but, given the continuing problems with identification, it is possible that research samples have not been inclusive enough to attest to the breadth of counseling concerns.

There is a general lack of research consensus regarding whether giftedness is related to greater or fewer counseling needs than those who are not identified as gifted (Neihart, 1999). However, whether these differences exist, counselors should consider the salience of giftedness to interpersonal difficulties, stress, depression, and career indecision, for example. Moon and Hall (1998) noted that "gifted children, especially the most highly talented, often need specialized counseling services to deal with psychological problems related to their giftedness and actualize their potential" (p. 59). Moon, Kelly, and Feldhusen (1997) found that parents, educators, and counseling professionals all believed that gifted and talented youth need differentiated counseling services--that is, attuned to concerns related to giftedness.

Giftedness as Both Asset and Burden

As asset. Several studies have supported the perception that giftedness is an asset socially and emotionally. Baker (1995) and Scholwinski and Reynolds (1985) are among those who have found positive associations between high intellect and ability to cope with stressors. Researchers routinely note that intelligence is a factor of resilience (e.g., Higgins, 1994), and Neihart's (2002b) review of research noted that other characteristics associated with giftedness also mitigate the negative effects of adversity: problem-solving abilities, a sense of humor, moral regard, and involvement with a talent or hobby, for example. Others have found positive associations in regard to self-confidence (Ablard, 1997), behavior problems (Ludwig & Cullinan, 1984), cooperative play patterns (Lupkowski, 1989), anxiety (Scholwinski & Reynolds), and self-awareness (Jacobs, 1971).

Other studies have found no differences between gifted children and those not identified as gifted--for example, in self-concept (Tong & Yewchuck, 1996), distress and maladjustment (LoCicero & Ashby, 2000), and coping with stressors, although gifted individuals used problem-solving strategies more often (Preuss & Dubow, 2003). Neihart (1999) reviewed studies of depression among gifted children (e.g., Baker, 1993) and concluded that they exhibited similar or lower levels of depression and similar levels of suicidal ideation when compared with children not identified as gifted. A study of gifted victims and perpetrators of bullying (Peterson & Ray, 2006a, 2006b) found that prevalence was similar to that in studies of the general population. Most important, these conclusions warn educators and counselors that gifted students are probably as likely to need assistance in these areas as other students are, certainly an important consideration that counters common assumptions. However, gifted individuals may be reluctant to ask for help when they need it (Peterson, 2002; Peterson & Rischar, 2000).

As burden. Until recently, the burdens of giftedness received little attention (Yoo & Moon, 2006), although numerous research studies have illuminated non-asset aspects of giftedness. Comparative studies have found higher levels of anxiety (Tong & Yewchuk, 1996) and perfectionism (Schuler, 1997). Noncomparative studies have noted heightened sensitivity (Hebert, 2000), loneliness (Kaiser & Berndt, 1985), social isolation (Gross, 1993), suicide (Cross, Gust-Brey, & Ball, 2002), distress related to sexual orientation (Peterson & Rischar, 2000), vulnerability related to creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996), and depression in profoundly gifted youth (Jackson & Peterson, 2003). In addition, a study of gifted college students with learning disabilities (Reis, Neu, & McGuire, 1997) revealed histories of painful school experiences, including punishment for slow work, grade retention, placement in special education classes with students identified as mentally retarded, and negative responses by teachers and peers.

Clinical reports have discussed a number of additional concerns for gifted students, many related to development. Feelings of loss associated with family changes (e.g., structure, location), altered friendships, and even moving to a new developmental stage may be exacerbated by sensitivities (see Piechowski, 1997). Some gifted adolescents also may feel no permission to differentiate from family as they struggle with identity, (Peterson, 2002). High achievers may experience high levels of stress related to expectations of self and others, high levels of involvement in activities, heavy academic loads, and decisions and anticipations related to entering postsecondary education (Peterson et al., 2006).

Because they are able to perceive the complexity of situations, anticipate difficulties, and imagine the ideal, cognitively precocious young children may struggle with existential questions and theological concerns and may feel overwhelmed and depressed as they contemplate present and future (Peterson, 2000b; Piechowski, 1997). High ability also has been associated with active identity exploration (Erikson, 1968), and the latter has been linked to conflict with parents and others in authority (Kidwell, Dunham, Bacho, Pastorino, & Portes, 1995). Behaviors reflecting characteristics of giftedness that are not understood by parents, educators, and counselors may be pathologized inappropriately (Webb et al., 2005). Because of asynchronous development (Silverman, 1993), social justice issues, natural disasters, and war may be particularly unsettling, just as great expectations from self and others may be. When puberty arrives, or perhaps long before that, gifted students may struggle with strange thoughts and feelings but fear that mentioning their concerns to someone would be "too much." Emotions may feel frighteningly uncontrollable, challenging the sense of environmental control that high verbal ability and intellect normally afford (Peterson, 1998). Gifted youth may not have opportunities for normalizing these thoughts and feelings (Delisle, 1992), and they may perceive, accurately, that significant adults' attention is riveted on their performance (Peterson, 2003).

If many gifted youth are not inclined to ask for help, perhaps it is because they are concerned with protecting an image of excellence, do not want to disappoint those who are highly invested in them, or simply believe that they should be able to "figure it out"--even when experiencing significant depression (Peterson, 1998). Findings in Peterson and Rischar's (2000) qualitative study of gifted young adults who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered raised awareness that distress can be masked--even by hyperachievement. Also pertinent here is the finding in that study that only one-third of the 83% of the subjects who had experienced significant depression told their parents about their distress, and none confided in teachers. Of the 72% who had been suicidal, only 31% told their parents, and none told teachers. However, of the 78% who had experienced counseling, 79% perceived counselors as helpful, a finding especially important for school counselors to consider.


A complex population. Low academic achievement is understandably a more common concern than is high achievement. In fact, underachievement was the most common presenting issue at a university-based clinic geared to gifted youth and their families (Colangelo, 2003). In schools where strong academic performance is required to be eligible for participation in programs for gifted students, gifted underachiever might even be seen as an oxymoron. In addition, contradictions and inconsistencies regarding what characterizes gifted underachievers create confusion about the complex phenomenon. In some studies, for example, underachievement has been associated with low self-concept (Van Boxtel & Monks, 1992), but others have found that underachievers do not have lower self-concepts than do achievers. McCoach and Siegle (2003) found achiever-underachiever differences in motivation, self-regulation, goal valuation, and attitudes toward school and teachers, but not in academic self-concept. Family environment and parental style (e.g., Baker, Bridger, & Evans, 1998; Rimm, 2003) have been discussed as contributing to underachievement, but one study (Green, Fine, & Tollefson, 1988) found that families of underachievers were not classified as dysfunctional any more often than were those with achievers.

What is it? According to Reis and McCoach (2000), labeling someone as an underachiever implies a value judgment as to the value of various goals, priorities, and accomplishments. Underachievement is most commonly defined as discrepancy between potential and performance, although simply failure to self-actualize also has been offered as a definition.

Delisle (1992) differentiated between underachieving and nonproductive, noting that nonproducers have confidence in their abilities, whereas underachievers have low self-esteem and a dependent style of learning, with underachievers being at more psychological risk than nonproducers. Mandel and Marcus (1995) discussed six typical underachiever styles, based on their clinical work: Coasters, Anxious Underachievers, Identity Searchers, Wheeler-Dealers, Sad Underachievers, and Defiant Underachievers. Rimm (2003) differentiated between dependent and dominant underachievers. Reis and McCoach (2000) presented descriptive findings in a summary of underachievement research, including personality characteristics such as alienation, withdrawal, distrust, pessimism, anxiety, impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity, distractibility, aggression, hostility, resentment, passive-aggression, a social orientation, and social immaturity. Internal mediators included fear of failure, negative attitudes toward school, antisocial attitudes, fear of success, an external locus of control, perfectionism, and differential thinking skills and styles. Maladaptive strategies included a lack of goal-directed behavior; poor coping skills, including focusing on reducing short-term stress at the expense of long-term success; poor self-regulation; and defense mechanisms.

Numerous factors have been associated with underachievement, with implications especially for the middle school years. For example, Baum, Owen, and Dixon (1991) suggested that strong oral verbal skills may contribute to carelessness and a lack of organization in written work, especially when assignments become longer in the middle school years. In addition, the reality that gifted children usually bring prior knowledge into most academic work may mean that in foreign language and high-level math and science classes, for example, where symbol systems and sounds are new, gifted children and adolescents may initially doubt their ability (see Dweck, 1986). Exceptional verbal ability in elementary school also may set the stage for later underachievement, because the ability to engage a teacher during the early school years may diminish in the context of departmentalized instruction at the secondary level. Then, subjective attributes are likely to have less impact (Saunders, in press).

In important contrast are positive attributes that have been associated with underachievement (Reis & McCoach, 2000). Intense outside interests and commitment to self-selected work (Baum, Renzulli, & Hebert, 1995), creativity (Ford, 1996), and integrity related to rejecting unchallenging work (Reis, 1998) are all aspects that can help school counselors reframe what is otherwise seen as negative.

Prognosis. Adults who are highly invested in underachievers may despair that doors to a productive future will be closed for underachievers. Several studies have explored whether that is the case. McCall, Evahn, and Kratzer (1992) studied more than 6,000 achievers and underachievers for 13 years after high school and found comparatively poor outcomes in postsecondary education and in the work world for underachievers, particularly those who lacked high educational and occupational expectancies and whose families were not highly educated. However, Peterson (2001b) found that some extreme underachievers made significant positive changes late in their 20s and even in their mid-30s. Studying high school underachievers, Peterson and Colangelo (1996) found both episodic and chronic underachievement in a study of the school files of gifted achievers and underachievers, with 20% of underachievers reversing academic underachievement before graduation. A follow-up study 4 years later (Peterson, 2000a) found that 87% of the underachievers had indeed attended college, 52% had attended for 4 years, and 41% had improved academically after high school. However, school counselors should be aware that, though these findings offer hope to underachievers and those who are concerned about them, the phenomenon of underachievement remains perplexing. The above studies also suggest that complex developmental and contextual factors might be involved in reversal.

A few studies of underachievers represent movement toward "linkages and flow of causality among these different characteristics and student achievement" (Reis & McCoach, 2000, p. 205). Several developmental studies call attention to issues and supportive factors that school counselors can be alert to when working with gifted underachievers. For instance, out-of-school interests, personal changes, and being able to pursue topics of interest were among factors associated with reversing underachievement in one retrospective study of underachievement (Emerick, 1992). In another retrospective study (Peterson, 2001b), which focused on professionally successful adults who once were adolescent underachievers, having achieving mentors and models was important, "feistiness" in response to difficult family circumstances was an asset for females, and an achievement-oriented peer milieu also predicted later success. Counselors might keep these findings in mind when working with gifted underachievers, offer them as reason for optimism about the possibility of positive change, and offer support for underachievers during personally challenging periods of development.

Peterson's follow-up study (2000a) and two qualitative 4-year longitudinal studies (2001a, 2002) explored underachievement in terms of developmental task accomplishments. In the longitudinal studies, convergence of developmental task accomplishments was associated with motivation for academic achievement. Resolving family conflict, probably a common counseling issue in general, was always one of the accomplishments when developmental successes converged. Peterson's (2006a) 12-year longitudinal study of a gifted survivor of multiple traumas found impact on both social and emotional development and academic performance, but the subject's intelligence and ability to engage support from others, including counselors, were factors of resilience. Grobman's (in press) recent study of extraordinarily talented psychiatric patients who presented with significant depression and self-sabotaging behavior also underscores that developmental tasks related to identity and relationships may be related to underachievement. Asynchronous development also might play a role, because socially and emotionally the subjects may not be prepared to cope with either intense adulation or their own sense of power (J. Grobman, personal communication, November 12, 2005).


There is little in the research literature, in terms of approach, to guide the process of counseling for gifted students, although advocates have argued for differential counseling approaches (Colangelo, 2003; Moon et al., 1997; Silverman, 1993), including considering the overlay of giftedness in the areas of academic planning, life and career planning, and psychosocial counseling (Van Tassel-Baska, 1998). Probably most critical is that school counselors be part of a continuing process of discovery about the social and emotional development of gifted youth and about approaches to counseling them, including across cultures and socioeconomic levels. Researchers who study giftedness generally have not explored the prevalence of; factors associated with, and the subjective experience of, for example, eating disorders, self-mutilation, substance abuse, sexual abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, parent-child conflict, arrested development, physical disability, and response to life events (e.g., loss and grief, divorce, serious illness, accident, relocation). However, school counselors should be alert to these phenomena when working with gifted students, even when focused on academic, life, and career planning. In general, highly able students, though able to compensate for or disguise many concerns, and though often wanting to solve their problems independently, can be responsive clients (Thompson & Rudolph, 1996).

Rather than focusing on specific traditional counseling approaches, the following suggests that gifted children and adolescents are well served when school counselors, perhaps collaboratively with gifted-education personnel, acknowledge potential concerns and provide opportunities to relate with peers noncompetitively, normalize developmental challenges, and gain communication skills. In that regard, a developmental template is an important framework for school counselors when conceptualizing concerns of gifted students. Significant adults in their lives may focus largely on academic or talent performance, but the students also face normal developmental challenges that deserve and warrant attention.

Thus, the proactive approaches promoted by ASCA (2005) are warranted and appropriate, including large- and small-group guidance. When group membership is homogeneous in ability, gifted students at any age may be more inclined than otherwise to relax, remove a facade of invulnerability, find developmental commonalities, make connections with others who can relate to their feelings and experiences, and gain skills and language related to expression of feelings and concerns. School counselors might facilitate or cofacilitate such group-oriented guidance with gifted-education personnel (Peterson, 2003). In addition, calling attention to factors of resilience (see Higgins, 1994) may appeal cognitively, affirm strengths in gifted children and adolescents, and contribute to feelings of hope in the midst of difficult personal situations. School counselors can help gifted students normalize and make sense of feelings, thoughts, and struggles and can encourage nonproducer underachievers to "be selfish"--getting what they need from the school system, rather than sacrificing themselves to it.

School counselors also can collaboratively engage other adults in non-school activities. Hebert and Olenchak (2000) and Ford (1996) found support for male mentors for gifted males across cultural groups, and Hebert (1999) found that sensitive young men appreciated meaningful community service opportunities. Bibliotherapy (Hebert, 1991, 2000), biography (Hebert, 1995), and guided viewing of films (Hebert & Neumeister, 2001) also have been effective in generating discussion of social and emotional concerns.

Several proactive, school-based, affective-curriculum approaches to developmental guidance have been developed for gifted students, though without empirical support. Two dimensions of the Autonomous Learner Model (Betts & Kercher, 1999) attend to affective concerns of gifted adolescents. In Bucscher's (1987) two-tier model for counseling gifted adolescents, key developmental issues form a proactive curriculum for adolescents and their parents, teachers, and counselors. This model purposefully increases knowledge about self-development, social realities, and the interaction of conflict and intimacy. Peterson (2003) presented a multifaceted affective curriculum for gifted adolescents, including weekly small-group discussion focusing on developmental tasks, guest lectures by community professionals on developmental concerns, and regularly encouraging self-reflection after special program and academic activities. In Silverman's (1993) Developmental Model for Counseling the Gifted, career development, skills for conflict resolution, and realizing talent potential are potential areas of focus.

Counseling should be part of interventions to reverse underachievement (Reis & McCoach, 2000), although such counseling treatments have received scant research attention. Based on extensive clinical work, Mandel and Marcus's (1995) conception of underachievement, as mentioned earlier, offers a helpful framework. Pirozzo (1982) viewed underachievement as potentially related to personal adjustment difficulties as well as to limited academic programming in school and recommended that both sets of variables be considered in remediation. Rimm's (2003) trifocal method for addressing underachievement, with collaboration between teachers and parents, has some empirical support.


According to scholars, highly able students potentially have social and emotional concerns that may be related to characteristics associated with giftedness, and which are best addressed with counseling responses that consider the impact of giftedness. Lack of, or inappropriate, attention to affective concerns may contribute to gifted students' discomfort in the school environment, and their distress may not be apparent, because gifted students may be reluctant to ask for help. Not only can school counselors reflect on their own attitudes about giftedness, be open to the possibility of somewhat unique concerns, and address related concerns appropriately, but they also might become part of much-needed scholarly exploration of the affective concerns of gifted school-age individuals and of effective counseling strategies. Group work, intentional focus on developmental challenges, and focus on developing expressive language related to social and emotional development can help school counselors and gifted students themselves access an inner world that parents, teachers, school counselors, and even the field of gifted education may know little about. The references at the end of this article offer pertinent literature to build a knowledge base about social and emotional concerns of this special-needs population.


Ablard, K. E. (1997). Self-perceptions and needs as a function of type of academic ability and gender. Roeper Review, 20, 110-115.

American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.

Baker, J. A. (1995). Depression and suicidal ideation among academically gifted adolescents. Gifted Child Quarterly, 39, 218-223.

Baker, J. A., Bridger, R., & Evans, K. (1998). Models of underachievement among gifted preadolescents: The role of personal, family, and school factors. Gifted Child Quarterly, 42, 5-14.

Baum, S. M., Owen, S. V., & Dixon, J. (1991). To be gifted and learning disabled: From identification to practical intervention strategies. Mansfield, CT: Creative Learning Press.

Baum, S. M., Renzulli, J. S., & Hebert, T. (1995). Reversing underachievement: Creative productivity as a systematic intervention. Gifted Child Quarterly, 39, 224-235.

Betts, G., & Kercher, J. (1999). Autonomous learner model: Optimizing ability. Greeley, CO: Autonomous Learning Publications and Specialists.

Birely, M., & Genshaft, J. (1991). Gifted adolescent: Understanding the educational, developmental, and multicultural issues. New York: Teachers College Press.

Buescher, T. M. (1987). Counseling gifted adolescents: A curriculum model for students, parents, and professionals. Gifted Child Quarterly, 31, 90-94.

Colangelo, N. (2003). Counseling gifted students. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (pp. 373-387). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Colangelo, N., & Assouline, S. G. (2000). Counseling gifted students. In K. A. Heller, F. J. Monks, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), International handbook of giftedness and talent (pp. 595-607). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Coleman, M. R., Gallagher, J., & Foster, A. (1994). Updated report on state policies related to the identification of gifted students. Chapel Hill, NC: Gifted Education Policy Studies Program.

Cross, T. L., Gust-Brey, K., & Ball, P. B. (2002). A psychological autopsy of the suicide of an academically gifted student: Researchers' and parents' perspectives. Gifted Child Quarterly, 46, 247-264.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: HarperCollins.

Delisle, J. R. (1992). Guiding the social and emotional development of gifted youth: A practical guide for educators and counselors. New York: Longman.

Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41, 1040-1048.

Emerick, L. J. (1992). Academic underachievement among the gifted: Students' perceptions of factors that reverse the pattern. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36, 140-146.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.

Ford, D.Y. (1996). Reversing underachievement among gifted Black students. New York: Teachers College Press.

Green, K., Fine, M. J., & Tollefson, N. (1988). Family systems characteristics and underachieving gifted males. Gifted Child Quarterly, 32, 267-272.

Grobman, J. (in press).The psychodynamics of underachievement and self-destructive behavior in a group of exceptionally gifted adolescents and young adults: A psychiatrist's view. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education.

Gross, M. U. M. (1993). Exceptionally gifted children. London: Routledge.

Hebert, T. P. (1991). Meeting the affective needs of bright boys through bibliotherapy. Roeper Review, 13, 207-212.

Hebert, T. P. (1995). Using biography to counsel gifted young men. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 6, 208-219.

Hebert, T. P. (1999, September). Parenting kids who care: How can we nurture empathy in our gifted children? Parenting for High Potential, 18-21.

Hebert, T. P. (2000). Helping high ability students overcome math anxiety through bibliotherapy. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 8, 164-178.

Hebert, T. P., & Neumeister, K. L. S. (2001). Guided viewing of film: A strategy for counseling gifted teenagers. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 14, 224-235.

Hebert, T. P., & Olenchak, F. R. (2000). Mentors for gifted underachieving males: Developing potential and realizing promise. Gifted Child Quarterly, 44, 196-207.

Higgins, G. O. (1994). Resilient adults: Overcoming a cruel past. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Jackson, S. M. (1998). Bright star--black sky: A phenomenological study of depression as a window into the psyche of the gifted adolescent. Roeper Review, 20, 215-221.

Jackson, S. M., & Peterson, J. S. (2003). Depressive disorder in highly gifted adolescents. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 14, 175-186.

Jacobs, J. C. (1971). Rorschach studies reveal possible misinterpretation of personality traits of gifted students. Journal of Personality Assessment, 47, 303-304.

Kaiser, C. F., & Berndt, D. J. (1985). Predictors of loneliness in the gifted adolescent. Gifted Child Quarterly, 29, 74-77.

Kidwell, J. S., Dunham, R. M., Bacho, R. A., Pastorino, E., & Portes, P. P. (1995). Adolescent identity exploration: A test of

Erikson's theory of transitional crisis. Adolescence, 30, 785-837.

LoCicero, K. A., & Ashby, J. S. (2000). Multidimensional perfectionism in middle school age gifted students: A comparison to peers from the general cohort. Roeper Review, 22, 182-185.

Lovecky, D. (1992). Exploring social and emotional aspects of giftedness in children. Roeper Review, 15, 18-25.

Lovecky, D. (1994). Exceptionally gifted children: Different minds. Roeper Review, 17, 116-123.

Ludwig, G., & Cullinan, D. (1984). Behavior problems of gifted and nongifted elementary school girls and boys. Gifted Child Quarterly, 28, 37-39.

Lupkowski, A. E. (1989). Social behaviors of gifted and typical preschool children in laboratory school programs. Roeper Review, 11, 124-127.

Mahoney, A. S. (1997). In search of gifted identity: From abstract concept to workable counseling constructs. Roeper Review, 20, 222-227.

Mandel, H. P., & Marcus, S. I. (1995). Could do better. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

McCall, R. B., Evahn, C., & Kratzer, L. (1992). High school underachievers: What do they achieve as adults? Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

McCoach, D. B., & Siegle, D. (2003). Factors that differentiate underachieving gifted students from high-achieving gifted students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 47, 144-154.

Mendaglio, S. (2005). Counseling gifted persons: Taking giftedness into account. Gifted Education International, 19, 204-212.

Moon, S. M. (2003). Personal talent. High Ability Studies, 14, 1-21.

Moon, S. M., & Hall, A. S. (1998). Family therapy with intellectually and creatively gifted children. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 24, 59-80.

Moon, S. M., Kelly, K. R., & Feldhusen, J. F. (1997). Specialized counseling services for gifted youth and their families: A needs assessment. Gifted Child Quarterly, 41, 16-25.

Neihart, M. (1999). The impact of giftedness on psychological well-being: What does the empirical literature say? Roeper Review, 22, 10-17.

Neihart, M. (2002a). Delinquency and gifted children. In M. Neihart, S. M. Reis, N. M. Robinson, & S. M. Moon (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 103-112) Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Neihart, M. (2002b). Risk and resilience in gifted children: A conceptual framework. In M. Neihart, S. M. Reis, N. M. Robinson, & S. M. Moon (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 113-122). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Neihart, M., Reis, S. M., Robinson, N. M., & Moon, S. M. (Eds.). (2002). The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Olenchak, F. R., & Reis, S. M. (2002). Gifted students with learning disabilities. In M. Neihart, S. M. Reis, N. M. Robinson, & S. M. Moon (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 177-191). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Peterson, J. S. (1997). Bright, troubled, and resilient, and not in a gifted program. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 8, 121-136.

Paterson, J. S. (1998). The burdens of capability. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 6, 194-198.

Paterson, J. S. (1999). Gifted--through whose cultural lens? An application of the postpositivistic mode of inquiry. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 22, 354-383.

Peterson, J. S. (2000a). A follow-up study of one group of achievers and underachievers four years after high school graduation. Roeper Review, 22, 217-224.

Peterson, J. S. (2000b). Preparing for college--beyond the "getting in" part. Gifted Child Today, 23(2), 36-41.

Peterson, J. S. (2001a). Gifted and at risk: Four longitudinal case studies. Roeper Review, 24, 31-39.

Peterson, J. S. (2001b). Successful adults who were once adolescent underachievers. Gifted Child Quarterly, 45, 236-249.

Peterson, J. S. (2002). A longitudinal study of post-high-school development in gifted individuals at risk for poor educational outcomes. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 14, 6-18.

Peterson, J. S. (2003). An argument for proactive attention to affective concerns of gifted adolescents. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 14, 62-71.

Peterson, J. S. (2005). [Survey of CACREP-accredited school-counseling programs regarding attention to giftedness]. Unpublished raw data.

Peterson, J. S. (2006a). Gifted and traumatized: Intelligence as a factor of resilience. Manuscript in preparation.

Peterson, J. S. (2006b). Preparing administrators and counselors to respond to secondary-level gifted students. In F. Dixon & S. M. Moon (Eds.), The handbook of secondary gifted education (pp. 649-671). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Peterson, J. S., & Colangelo, N. (1996). Gifted achievers and underachievers: A comparison of patterns found in school files. Journal of Counseling and Development, 74, 399-407.

Peterson, J. S., Duncan, N., & Canady, K. (2006). The impact of life events and other stressors on social and emotional development during the school years. Manuscript in preparation.

Peterson, J. S., & Margolin, L. (1997). Naming gifted children: An example of unintended "reproduction." Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 21, 82-100.

Peterson, J. S., & Ray, K. E. (2006a). Bullying among the gifted: The subjective experience. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50, 252-269.

Peterson, J. S., & Ray, K. E. (2006b). Bullying and the gifted: Victims, perpetrators, prevalence, and effects. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50, 148-168.

Peterson, J. S., & Rischar, H. (2000). Gifted and gay: A study of the adolescent experience. Gifted Child Quarterly, 44, 149-164.

Piechowski, M. M. (1997). Emotional intelligence: The measure of intrapersonal intelligence. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (2nd ed., pp. 366-381). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Piechowski, M. M. (1999). Overexcitabilities. In M. A. Runco & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (Vol. 2, pp. 325-334). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Pirozzo, R. (1982). Gifted underachievers. Roeper Review, 4(4), 18-21.

Preuss, L. J., & Dubow, E. F. (2003). A comparison between intellectually gifted and typical children in their coping responses to a school and a peer stressor. Roeper Review, 26, 105-111.

Reis, S. M. (1998). A response: Equal does not mean identical. Educational Leadership, 56(3), 74-77.

Reis, S. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2000).The underachievement of gifted students:What do we know and where do we go? Gifted Child Quarterly, 44, 152-170.

Reis, S. M., & Moon, S. M. (2002). Models and strategies for counseling, guidance, and social and emotional support of gifted and talented students. In M. Neihart, S. M. Reis, N. M. Robinson, & S. M. Moon (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 251-266). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Reis, S. M., Neu, T.W., & McGuire, J. M. (I 997). Case studies of high-ability students with learning disabilities who have achieved. Exceptional Children, 63, 463-479.

Rimm, S. B. (2003). Underachievement: A national epidemic. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (pp. 424-443). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Saunders, C. (in press). Counseling underachieving students and their parents. In S. Mendalio & J. S. Peterson (Eds.), Models of counseling the gifted. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Scholwinski, E., & Reynolds, C. R. (1985). Dimensions of anxiety among high IQ children. Gifted Child Quarterly, 29, 125-130.

Schuler, P. (1997). Characteristics and perceptions of perfectionism in gifted adolescents in a rural school environment. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Silverman, L. K. (1993). A developmental model for counseling the gifted. In L. K. Silverman (Ed.), Counseling the gifted and talented (pp. 51-78). Denver, CO: Love.

Silverman, L. K. (1997).The construct of asynchronous development. Peabody Journal of Education, 72, 36-58.

Thompson, C. L., & Rudolph, L. B. (1996). Counseling children (4th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2004). Sharing responsibility for differentiating instruction. Roeper Review, 26, 188-189.

Tong, J., & Yewchuck, C. (1996). Self-concept and sex-role orientation in gifted high school students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 40, 15-23.

Van Boxtel, J. W., & Monks, F. J. (1992). General, social, and academic self-concepts of gifted adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 21, 169-186.

Van Tassel-Baska, J. (1998). Counseling talented learners, in J.

Van Tassel-Baska (Ed.), Excellence in educating gifted and talented learners (pp. 498-510). Denver, CO: Love.

Webb, J. T., & DeVries, A. R. (I 993). Training manual for facilitators of SENG model guided discussion groups. Scottsdale, AZ: Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted.

Webb, J. R., Amend, E. R., Webb, N. E., Goerss, J., Beljan, P., & Olenchak, F. R. (2005). Misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis of gifted children and adults: ADHD, bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, depression, and other disorders. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.

Yoo, J. E., & Moon, S. M. (2006). Counseling needs of gifted students: An analysis of intake forms at a university-based counseling center. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50, 52-61.

Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D., is an associate professor with the Department of Educational Studies, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. E-mail:
COPYRIGHT 2006 American School Counselor Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Peterson, Jean Sunde
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Previous Article:Helping build lives: career and life development of gifted and talented students.
Next Article:Understanding the concerns of parents of students with disabilities: challenges and roles for school counselors.

Related Articles
Enhancing student learning: school reform and school counselors. (From The Editor).
Collaborative action research and school counselors.
School counselors and school psychologists: collaborating to ensure minority students receive appropriate consideration for special educational...
The impact of vulnerabilities and strengths on the academic experiences of twice-exceptional students: a message to school counselors.
Helping build lives: career and life development of gifted and talented students.
Understanding the concerns of parents of students with disabilities: challenges and roles for school counselors.
Counseling exceptional individuals and their families: a systems perspective.
No Child Left Behind: gifted children and school counselors.
Culturally responsive school counseling for Hispanic/Latino students and families: the need for bilingual school counselors.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |