What is HSP?

There has been a lot of hype about personality types A, B, C, and D, but there is little awareness of another personality type/ temperament. This personality type is called HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person, and 20% of our population are born with this trait. HSP was researched by Dr. Elaine Aaron in 1991 (San Francisco, CA). HSP is essentially a finely tuned nervous system that causes individuals to become easily overwhelmed by their sensory environment. Dr. Aaron found an outstanding number of people are often being misdiagnosed by mental health professionals and suffering without little knowledge their temperament. Many feel they are different, depressed, or strange when they compare themselves to the rest of the population. Dr. Aaron found that some HSP’s are being improperly diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, depression, autism, or a personality disorder. Yes, HSP’s can suffer with some of these diagnosis, but most are simply experiencing some of the difficulties of their temperament. Before we get into these difficulties, let’s discuss what the HSP trait is and the many strengths of this innate trait.

A Highly Sensitive Person sounds like a person whose feelings are easily hurt, but this is not an accurate description of this trait. There is more to this trait than sensitive feelings. They are often identified as shy or timid as a child by their teachers and/or parents. However, HSP’s are not shy, because they have developed social skills and are not socially inapt. They are viewed as being shy because they proceed with caution and are conscientious people. These characteristics are positive traits, because HSP’s think before they act and are considerate of others.

In addition, Highly Sensitive People tend to be quiet in social setting because they think deeply, they are reflective, and they consider all aspects before responding. Others often interpret their silence as lacking intelligence or interest in the topic. Therefore, HSP’s are often misjudged by others and experience social judgment. HSP’s can be viewed by Western Society as weak, unintelligent, fearful, and other less appealing adjectives. This type of social judgment can lead to self-esteem issues, experiences of rejection, and impacts our sense of self.

Highly Sensitive People are often inaccurately diagnosed mildly autistic, because their nervous systems are overstimulated by sensory information. HSP’s often have a keener sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, or sound than non-HSP’s. Therefore, they are easily bothered by loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, or itchy fabrics. However, this characteristic does not mean they are people with autism. The difference is HSP’s have appropriate social skills, have more than one interest, and have an intense imagination.

Highly Sensitive People are easily overstimulated, therefore, they need more down time than most people. After a long or chaotic day, HSP’s will withdraw and need alone time away from people and sensory stimuli. They tend to avoid situations that are too stimulating, such as crowds, violent movies, and other intense or violent situations.

There is little public awareness of the HSP trait and perfectly healthy people may unnecessarily be treated with medication, given an inaccurate diagnosis, or live life without honoring and understanding the strengths of their personality trait. HSP’s have many strengths, some of them include a tendency to be thoughtful, insightful, great predictors, open-minded, curious, imaginative, and passionate about injustice in the world.

What is a Secure Attachment?

Securely attached relationships are often more satisfying, trusting, and long-lasting relationships. A secure relationship is a relationship that is honest, open, equal, and partners are independent, yet dependent and intimate with each other. This style of attachment usually results from a history of warm and responsive interactions from a supportive & secure partner.

Secure partners tend to be comfortable with themselves and their relationships. They are comfortable sharing their feelings with their partner and are able to turn to their partner for support in times of need. They generally have a high self-esteem, enjoying intimate relationships, seek social support, and can easily share their feelings with others.

Securely attached couples do not have an idealistic bond or in other words a false sense of safety and security. In an idealistic bond, a couple does not have real love, but are emotionally cut-off relationship and way of relating to each other. It is often superficially, sexual, and not a deep emotional connection.


The following describes securely attached people in terms of proximity and how they think, feel, and behave.


Securely attached people feel comfortable with intimacy and independence.

Most secure individuals seek to balance intimacy and independence in their relationship.

Intimacy and closeness are an essential part of a secure relationship. Securely attached people enjoy spending time together.


Can independently explore the world and allow their partners to as well. They do not need to control where there partner explores, because they have mutual trust.

They do not question their partner’s faithfulness and trust that their partners are loyal to them.

They are comfortable depending on others and having others depend on them.


Secure individuals don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept him/her.

Securely attached people tend to have positive views of themselves and their partners.

Secure individuals tend to have positive views of their relationships.

Feel secure and connected to their partner and they believe they are loved as much as they love.


Secure individuals feel comfortable sharing their feelings with their partner.

Securely attached people are able to turn to their partner for support, and also, offer support to their partner when he or she is distressed.

It is easy for secure individuals to become emotionally close to others. They are open with others and generally believe people are safe.

Benefits of Sand Tray Therapy

The grief and loss of a sibling and the anger that occurred.
The grief and loss of a sibling and the anger that occurred.

Sand Tray Therapy is an expressive and experiential therapy.  It can be used with individuals, groups, families, and people of all ages.  The process involves the client to choose objects without thought or a conscious effort and place them in a sand tray.  Essentially, the client builds a world in the sand tray using figures, objects, and symbols. This symbolic world often represents some core issue that is preventing a person from moving forward.  Sand Tray is a powerful therapy that helps people process, work through, and possibly resolve their issues in a non-threatening environment.

Benefits of Sand Tray Therapy

  • Sand tray may feel foreign or odd at first, but it is a non-threatening method, where clients can choose not to talk
  • Less sessions may be required because issues that are buried deep are often accessed quickly
  • Nonverbal clients may become more verbally expressive
  • It can help children/adults become more in-touch with their feelings and develop more words for their feelings

Who is Sand Tray Therapy for?

  • Any Age and almost ANYONE who is willing to try this method
  • Nonverbal clients: Clients can choose to not say any words during the session and still benefit from the process
  • People who have difficulty expressing themselves
  • People who enjoy expressive means of communication
The fun adventures for a child to explore!
The new wisdom and enlightenment that inspires one to enjoy life fully

What is Sand Tray Therapy?


To further explain how Sand Tray Therapy works, I have provided a personal example.  I share this example to explain the process and to share a personal struggle of mine that I was able to overcome through the process of Sand Tray Therapy.

In the picture I built this sand tray because I was feeling stuck and unhappy in my career.  First, I ran my hands through the sand and unconsciously drew a butterfly in the sand.  The butterfly represented my gentle soul and spirit.   I internally desired to give the world more positivity, happiness, and joy, but was unable to accomplish this, because I secretly was unhappy.  When I sat with the butterfly symbol in the sand I was able to understand what this symbol represented to me.

After drawing this butterfly, I selected another object that stuck out to me.  I called this object  the “thinking person.”  I could have selected all of my objects at one time, but I selected one object at a time to get a new experience from the sand tray.  I placed this object above the butterfly.  The thinking person represented an unconscious decision or conflict I was faced with.  I needed to know more about this conflict, so I grabbed more objects.

At the center of the butterfly, I placed a mummy object as the butterfly’s body.  The butterfly, or rather my spirit was feeling trapped, dead, and stuck.  Symbolically the butterfly was unable to move due to the constraints.  This object helped me to access the source of unhappiness and why I was feeling stuck.  I relate this object to my life and my career at the time.  I felt my spirit was being trapped and unable to fully shine at my job.  My sprit was crushed when people at work complained, were cruel to my students, or criticize my department or myself.  My job was challenging and it was not a happy environment for me.  I needed a career that I felt fulfilled by  and continue to provide meaningful experiences to others.

The mummy object was the first object that was instrumental in helping me to uncover the root of my unhappiness and discover what was causing the feeling of being trapped or stuck. Although, I still needed more time to fully process my thoughts and feelings.  The mummy object did not help me understand the whole story or find a solution. I needed more objects to accomplish this task.

The next object I picked was a “fire woman” and I place her on the right upper wing of the butterfly.  As I placed her, I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of anger.   I was angry and frustrated with abrasive people.  I was not comfortable with this anger, but I allowed myself to sit with my anger and acknowledge my pain.

After I sat with my anger, I was ready to move forward and I needed more objects to gain more insight.  This time I chose a shovel and a wheel barrel and placed it on the opposing side of the angry fire woman.  This represented a rebuilding phase.  Specifically, I had to make a decision to stay at my job or venture out on my own.  The thought of creating my own company caused me physical exhaustion, and I was experiencing a sense of being lost and feeling alone.  My first thought was, ” I am going to have to figure everything out on my own.” This was an exhausting task to rebuild and it brought out other emotions, such as fear.

Next, I selected a cobra and placed it above the shovel and wheel barrel.  This object scared me and represented the great fear I had about starting my own business.  I was left with questions, what if I fail, what if I lose money, and where do I even begin to start?  This fear was so great and it was causing me to question whether I should proceed further toward a private practice.

On the opposing side of the Cobra, I placed bones of a dead animal.  These bones represented my spirit dying.  If I did not face my fears and find a more suitable career, then I believed my spirit would not flourish.  If I was not able to fulfill my dreams, then I envisioned my kind, happy soul dying.  If my soul died in this way, then it was impossible for me to bring positivity, happiness, and joy to others.  I know if I continued to live my life in this unhappy way, then I would become complacent and mean/angry.  I wanted better for my future, so I needed a solution.

The last object I chose was a pair of open hand-cuffs.  This object became my solution and my source of strength.  The hand-cuffs were open, I was no longer trapped or stuck.  This object  represented my freedom and allowed me to acknowledge that I am not stuck and follow my inner pilot that is directing me to do great things with my counseling gifts.  What an amazing message I received from my inner self!

Through the process of Sand Tray Therapy, I was able to process my thoughts, experience my feelings, and find a solution to my problem.  This tray is a meaningful tray that helped me on my path to launch my private practice, Counseling with Love, LLC.   It is amazing what our minds can show us when we listen and let our guards down.  If you have not tried Sand Tray Therapy, then give it a try and see what it could do for you!