Sharon Chan MFT, Therapist for Highly Sensitive People (HSP)

Hi Sharon, thank you so much for letting me interview you. It’s wonderful to know there is support for highly sensitive people in the Orange County, CA area. I hope this can help spread awareness, as well as let people know their unique circumstances are real, and that there are people who understand or want to understand.


Sharon Chan MFT

What does it mean to be a highly sensitive person (HSP)? Are there different ways of being highly sensitive?

According to Elaine Aron-Research Psychologist- and her book, “The Highly Sensitive Person”(2006), she describes that the HSP trait is identified in about 15-20% of the population. Aron goes on to describe the trait as an innate, personality trait that it is NOT a disorder. The trademark trait of the HSP is that they take in a lot of information from their environment. Aron describes this as depth processing. An HSP will take in information which can include: sounds, smells, visuals, emotions, touch, etc at a more in-depth level than a non-HSP.

Another trait that has been noted of the HSP is empathy or stronger emotional reactivity to others emotions and moods. The mirror neurons in an HSP is found to be more active and so they may “feel” another’s emotional state more acutely, quickly, and absorb more than a non-HSP. Another key trait is overstimulation for the HSP. Understandably so if an HSP is taking in their environment in depth, they are probably more prone to be overstimulated more quickly and more frequently than a non-HSP.

How can being highly sensitive affect individuals in their daily lives?

Being HSP can have its rewards and challenges. I like to describe it as a blessing and a curse or a double-edged sword. As Aron describes in her book the HSP can be very attuned to their environment and process things deeply and elaborately. This can be a beautiful gift and a place of richness and connection for the HSP and those that connect to the HSP. Many HSPs go into the helping profession and usually this can be a benefit to those around the HSP because the HSP is known to pick up on other’s needs quickly. Yet, the challenge is because of the overstimulation that a HSP faces on a daily occurance, this could mean faster burn out and needing more time and space for refueling their own energy and resources.

How is therapy with a HSP different? What can you offer a sensitive person that other therapists might not be able to?

I think each client will need need a different type of therapist which can also vary from season to season. There are things I can not provide that another therapist might be able to.  I like to think that my HSP trait allows me the capacity to connect with other people’s experiences on a deep level. In my approach, I put a lot of effort into really listening to where the client is coming from, their inner world, their experiences, and what makes them who they are. Many of my clients have voiced to me that they feel safe and have gained a space to find and develop their voice. I like to believe that my HSP trait has helped to shape that space for my clients.


What is a favorite intervention that you find useful when feeling overwhelmed as a sensitive person?

Every person will be different. Each season will lend itself to different interventions, coping skills, and relaxation skills. I work with each individual to find their own oasis, and coping skills which include: grounding, visualization, breathing, and finding life-giving activities outside of session. Boundaries and self assertion are also an important part of protecting the HSP’s trait so that it can be nourished and operate at its optimal level.

Do you have a message or tips for HSP out there?

I want to let you know if you identify with being a HSP that you are not alone.  Being a HSP does not mean that there is something wrong with you. Being a HSP comes with beautiful gifts and a HSP has the capacity to experience life in so many colors. There is hope for the challenges that come with the HSP self and the challenges don’t have to define your entire journey. We can navigate it together.

What if my child or loved one is HSP and I am not? First off, I want to acknowledge that if you are asking this question, I can already see that you are trying to understand your HSP loved one. That step alone can mean a lot to the HSP and to your journey with them. Many people (parents, friends, family members, teachers) don’t know how to understand or guide the HSP because of the different behaviors and bigger emotional reactions. You are not alone in that. That doesn’t make you a bad ___________(parent, spouse,etc) or a less than person it just means that the HSP might need more or less of certain things than your typical person. Let’s learn how to support your loved one together.

Where are you practicing therapy and how can people contact you?

I am currently practicing in Orange County (Tustin) and Pasadena. I am currently on the listing of Knowledge of Highly Sensitive Therapists in Tustin. I also identify myself as highly sensitive person/therapist.

          You can contact me a 626-656-3158 or
          Please visit my website at .


What Types of Video Games are There?


Ever wonder about the different types of video game genres, or how to describe them to others? Well, fear not! An online friend, David Arceneaux (INTP), identified and described several genres with examples to illustrate each type. Thanks, David! <3 


Real-Time Strategy game, a genre where you control almost every aspect of an army in real time in order to beat up some other dood's army, be it computer- or player-controlled. This is your Starcraft or They Are Billions type game.


Japanese Role Playing Game, a genre where you control a party through menus and usually turn-based combat against computer-controlled monsters. This is the kind of game that rewards persistence over raw twitch reflexes, as the player gains power through working through the game's scenarios, and this power makes prior challenges easier to overcome. Examples include Final Fantasy games


Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, a genre where you and a team of other players team up to beat up other players and destroy their base, defending yours in the process. This is your League of Legends (LoL), Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), or Smite


This genre is like a real-time puzzle solver where sneaking through some predictable obstacle course to achieve a goal is the main gameplay element. Examples include the Metal Gear Solid series, or Thief.


Multi-User-Domains/Dungeons. This is a genre that gives the player a text-based interface where they navigate through areas and engage in combat with computer-controlled baddies or even other players by typing console commands. Think of it like classic Zork, but with other players along for the ride.


This is a genre where the user goes through a randomly-generated environment to achieve some well-defined objective using abilities/items randomly dropped from the randomly-generated monsters or events, and failure is unrecoverable. Examples are varied, going from spaceship combat game FTL to rhythm-game hybrid Crypt of the Necrodancer, to arcadey Binding of Isaac.


This is a genre where users control a fighter and beat up another fighter using a series of timed joystick and button presses to execute defensive & offensive moves. This is your Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat type of game. (trailer has violence and blood)



A genre where the player is thrust into a scenario where there is a spooky scenario, and the player has limited health/attack abilities to use against whatever spooky scenario in the game, which range from jump scares, to seemingly insurmountable opponents. Examples include the Resident Evil series, Insomnia, and Outlast. (video can be suspenseful, creepy, contain violence, and gore)


First-Person Shooter. The player controls a character where you see what they see, usually using ranged weapons to attack computer- or player-controlled opponents. Play consists of maneuvering through the play area to collect weapon upgrades, ammunition, and health items, and achieving goals, all the while fighting off baddies. Examples are the venerable Doom and Wolfenstein series, and even multiplayer online versions, such as Call of Duty. (gameplay has gunfire, violence, and some blood)


Massively-Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games. These are, as the name says, scaled up and networked RPGs where some opponents are tough enough to require social coordination to take on, but also with enough things for solo players to work through. Examples are World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy 14, and Elder Scrolls Online.


Turn-Based Realtime? Strategy. (I think the RT is a typo). This is a genre where the player controls an army/nation and gets to make decisions in a discrete timeline. It's like RTS games, but built around more analytical deliberations. Examples include games in the Civilization series, or Galactic Civilizations (made by another company from the one that makes Civilization). 


Player controls a game area and has to reach some goal condition to win, or at least rack up more points. Gameplay can range from matching colors/shapes of objects operating under gravity (Tetris, Bejeweled) to solving equations (Sudoku) to moving objects around a play area to get an item from one place to another (Sokoban). 


Grand Strategy:

Much like the Realtime/Turn-based Strategy games, this is a genre where the player controls a nation/army, but the computer handles all the micromanagement aspects. Examples include Romance of the Three Kingdoms series. 


I can only guess this means Realtime Strategy-Arcade. Wikipedia doesn't even know about it. LOL so, no examples!


Action RPGs, where timing and reflexes in combat come into play against baddies, as well as gaining power by making it through the game's scenarios. Examples include the long-running Zelda series


The player simulates a real-world sports game, where the rules and activities are modeled as closely as the UI & hardware can allow for. 

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