Hello, I’m Sharon M. Barnes, MSSW, LCSW, Therapist For Sensitive And Gifted.
I help CASIGYs™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted You-s) thrive, heal and fulfill their destiny. I am attuned to your unique needs as a creative, sensitive, intense, intelligent person. I use innovative, gentle, thoughtful, effective methods to powerfully support you as a CASIGY™. I’m here to help you understand your creativity and channel it toward your goals, face challenges, and effectively make the changes you desire. I can help you develop skills to enhance your personal strengths, relationships and work. I can also provide you with effective tips and tools, as well as train you to use them so you can discover your own pathways on your journey to joy, healing and fulfillment.
I am sometimes warmly known as the “Scrap Lady.”
I help CASIGYs™ – and others ─ create beauty and benefit from life’s scraps. Many CASIGYs™ sense their innate differences from an early age, and conclude that they are Misfits who don’t belong. They may feel that in what they received in the metaphorical gene lottery, Life has dumped a pile of scraps in their lap. And when a CASIGY™ faces tough times, such as illness, loss, trauma or other tragedy, it can feel like life has left you with nothing but scraps. As The Scrap Lady, I can help you pick up these metaphorical scraps and make use of them. The very ‘scraps’ that may have haunted you can be transformed to help you to express your distress, heal your past, transform your pain, and in the end, change the meaning and significance of your difficulties, and sometimes your very life.
By virtue of the unique characteristics described by this acronym, CASIGYs™ may be impacted by stressful life events to a greater degree than others. CASIGYs™ and Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are more sensitive than most others. In addition, sensitivity and intensity are hallmark characteristics of giftedness. So when, as a CAISGY™, you experience tough times and life leaves you with scraps – as it sometimes does – I can offer creative, sensitive, intelligent ways to help you get your feet back under you, rebalance your brain and body, and help you heal your soul and spirit.
My introduction to working with CASIGYs™ started when I was a child, growing up in a family full of them. But wait, I’m getting ahead of my story. My first several years after graduate school were spent working in hospitals and other health and mental health care settings. As I learned more about mind-body connections, I helped people cope with lifestyle changes, stress management, chronic and life-threatening illnesses and the challenges that arise when facing death, dying, grief and loss. I then took positions supervising others in my field. As one of my mentors later said to me, I was a slow learner; it took me ten years of working in middle management to realize that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I can therefore empathize with CASIGYs™ who search long and hard to find work that fits. I learned much in my own search, and I believe I can help you with yours.
My training includes a BS in Social Work from Loma Linda University and a MS in Social Work from San Diego State University. I have been certified as an Advanced Practice Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker. As a life-long learner, I am currently in the process of becoming certified as a Jungian/Kalffian Sandplay Therapist.
Not long after I started my psychotherapy practice in 1994, I was hit with significant health problems. As a result, there is an eight year gap in my work history. During this time, my acupuncturist, Dr. Anne Chew, introduced me to information about being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). I learned that I have many HSP traits, as do many others in my family. I also discovered that having work that is meaningful is essential, not only to me, but also to virtually all of us who are highly sensitive. I’ve also lived the frequent paradox that meaningful work can be quite stressful and can also become over-stimulating. Learning about my own sensitivity has been invaluable to me and has helped me understand my parents and many others in my extended family, up, down and across the family tree. Being able to recognize sensitivity in others has enabled me to help my sensitive clients understand and care for themselves, stop fighting who they intrinsically are, and to live in harmony with their sensitivity and themselves.
This time of adversity redirected my life. While grappling with having lost my health and searching for (and finding!) how to rebuild it, I also recovered my creativity and deepened my perspective on life. I discovered and developed what I later came to refer to as Creative and Contemplative Handwork™, a way of making things with one’s hands which demonstrates one’s inner experience and facilitates psychic transformation. I learned it from Jungian Analyst and author Clarissa Pinkola Estes PhD, Leslie Verdi, LCSW, Pat Allen, PnD, and from Shawn McNeff, PhD.
When I was young, I didn’t know that there was any other kind of people except those who were Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted, since my family is full of people with these traits. I had to learn later how to be ‘out there’ in the world, around these less sensitive, not-so-aware, not-so-creative people. I eventually learned that they were considered to be ‘normal’ people, and I was considered odd. Learning about giftedness helped me to understand that my oldest son’s insistence on demanding to know the relevance of a household chore that I gave him before agreeing to do it, was not just his own obstinacy and stubbornness, but that this lunacy (my point of view, of course) was very common for many CASIGY™ teens. It helped me understand my youngest son’s sensitivity. We would have a house full of boys for the night; they would all play the same games and watch the same movies. He would be the only one to wake up in the night with a nightmare. And he would do it almost every time. It also helped me understand some of the struggles of my middle son, who joined our family at age 18. He’s and artist and a techie at the same time. This knowledge about CASIGYs™ has also helped me understand the sensitivities of my three daughters’-in-law and my grandchildren as well. And this life-learning of course informs my work with CASIGY™ families as I help them find harmonious ways of living together.
Creativity has always been present in my life. My mother was a teacher and an artist. She taught me to see life through the eyes of an artist. I have many other family members for whom creative expression is essential, whether it is writing; carpentry; photography; knitting; writing, playing or singing music; sewing/quilting; gardening; cooking….this list could go on and on. Creativity is another personal trait that is often misunderstood. Creative expression enriches life. The results of one’s creative expression enrich those who are exposed to it. Some people laud creativity, others envy it, but living with it reveals that it can also complicate one’s life. If a creative person does not have or make opportunities for frequent creative expression, life can get dry and unlivable.
Creative blocks can be torturous. Making time for creative expression can also be difficult, and this need is often not understood by those who don’t have it. Creative people often experience what is considered to be attention difficulties; distractability, hyperfocus, inability to focus on things that seem irrelevant to them, and more. My own challenges in this area, and the learning this has necessitated, along with the work helping my clients with these and similar issues through the years informs my current work helping creative people thrive, heal, become fully alive and fulfill their creative destinies.
Once I learned about high sensitivity and giftedness, I soon recognized that over half of my clients through the years had always been creative, curious, complex, sensitive and acutely aware individuals. CASIGYs™ had been finding me, even when none of us had the words to describe anything about these characteristics. The more I read and studied, the more I understood why I was getting referrals to work with families with gifted children. The more I learned about being gifted, the more I understood why clients who had this long list of (supposedly unusual) characteristics were more easily helped by the things we did together than were my clients who had different (more “normal”) characteristics. These “unusual” (CASIGY™) people were also easier and more fun for me to work with than were the “normal” people. CASIGYs™ , by and large, understand me and find the creative coping tools I teach helpful, whereas the “normals” just look at me blankly.
It took quite some time for me to gather the courage to identify working with CASIGYs™ as my primary specialty. I’m delighted that I did because it has helped both my clients and me. Because of both my personal and professional experience, my clients tell me that they feel like I “get” them, understand who they are, where they are coming from, and what they have been through. Because of our similarities, more of my clients readily understand and can use the tools and ideas I share. And, I’m not sitting here banging my head on the wall wondering why I can help some people but not others.
One aspect of this process of connecting the dots of gifted characteristics has been the gradual forming of the acronym that is sprinkled throughout this page: CASIGY™. As I began to speak with my clients and others about these characteristics of Creativity, Acute Awareness, Sensitivity, Intensity and Giftedness, it soon became apparent to me that many people connected to one or two of these characteristics when in fact, they carried most, if not all of them within themselves. I found that identifying and owning all of them is very valuable for most, if not all of those who don’t already have the full picture of this in relation to themselves. Developing and using this acronym has been a tool to help CASIGYs™ understand and accept themselves, and live their lives as who they really are.
I also work with CASIGY™ couples. This aspect of my work also arises from both my training and my life experience. When my husband Gary (a business coach, rock n’ roll drummer and guitarist) and I were engaged, our friends and college classmates took bets on how long we would not last. Yes, you read that right. We are so different that our apparent incompatibility was obvious to everyone – but us! By the time we had been married six or seven years and had our first child, we hit a wall. We loved AND hated each other. We couldn’t get along and kept hurting each other. We didn’t want to, but we couldn’t stop ourselves. We read books, went to workshops and began counseling. With help and self-reflection, we learned how to identify and express our emotions and our needs. We learned how to fight fair. We learned whose “stuff” was whose, how to take care of ourselves, and how let each other deal with his or her own individual stuff in our own, unique ways. We did individual healing and growth work that made our success possible. Now, we have been married over 40 years. Our kids are married, some with kids of their own. And, although we still have our moments, especially when life brings new stresses and challenges, we find that continuing to use the tools and skills we learned so long ago, the tough times turn into memorable moments that strengthen our relationship. I now help CASIGY™ couples learn effective, healthy relationship skills and do the inner healing work that makes positive, lasting change possible in lives and relationships.