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HSP Topics: Gatherings, Groups and Workshops for the Highly Sensitive Person

Updated on June 8, 2015
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Peter has written extensively about high sensitivity since 1997 when he learned he was an HSP.

This article is part of an ongoing series about the ins and outs, joys and challenges of living life as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). For more background information about HSPs please read my introductory article The Highly Sensitive Person: An Introduction which also contains an index of all my HSP-related articles. If you're uncertain what an "HSP" is, or whether you are one, you can also visit Dr. Elaine Aron's web site and take her brief free "self-test for sensitivity."


The Book Every HSP Must Read!

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You
This is Dr. Elaine Aron's original book on High Sensitivity, written in 1996, based on her years of research. If you are an HSP-- or even think you might be an HSP-- this book is a "must read." Almost all who read it feel like the author is "speaking directly TO them," and I personally had lots of "aha moments" when I read this book. It has changed the lives of millions of people-- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Importance of connecting with other Highly Sensitive People

It often amazes people who have recently discovered that they are HSPs that 15-20% of the overall population is highly sensitive. If you live in the US, that could mean 47 million HSPs!

For many, this statistic offers a sense of relief, at the realization that these "strange feelings" you've had all your life aren't some "weirdness" that's specific to you. For a moment, you relax a bit, as you think "Oh. There are others like me."

When I first learned about the trait, I was also amazed by this statistic-- but at the same time, I was too busy reading-- and trying to understand-- how all the different facets of sensitivity applied to me. After a while, however, I paused and wondered "But where are all these other HSPs?"

It seemed reasonable to me that a good way to learn more would be to talk to someone else who was a lot "like me."

At the time I stared my HSP learning process (1997), the Internet was still a fairly limited place. Sure, there were a few web sites that mentioned "High Sensitivity" or "hypersensitivity," but I was unable to find any references to support groups or workshops where I could learn more.

Fortunately, things have changed considerably, since 1997. There is now a wealth of resources for HSPs-- both online, and off-- allowing us to find peers, groups and workshops and other forms of information and support. In this article, I'd like to share just a few options, along with some tips on how and where to expand your search.

So why does connecting matter? Well, because nobody understands what it's like to be an HSP... more than another HSP.


Connection Approaches for HSPs

There are basically two primary ways to connect with other HSPs:

Online, through discussion groups, forums, web sites and listservs, and Offline, through meetings, support groups, workshops and retreats.

There's no "right" or "wrong" way to go about finding fellow HSPs, although many feel most comfortable taking their first steps through Internet groups. After all, you can be a member of such groups from the comfort and safety of your living room.

The rest of this article will explore some options from each category.

Many HSPs are concerned about feeling overstimulated in social settings, so it's important to note that groups of HSPs are not like other groups of people-- there's a tremendous sense of welcoming and understanding.


HSP Gathering Retreats

"HSP Gathering Retreats" started in 2001 as a way for HSPs to come together for learning, personal development and fellowship. The name "Gathering" was coined as a result of the fact that these events are neither entirely "workshops" nor "conventions" nor specifically a "social group." In more recent years, they have more often become referred to as "Gathering Retreats."

So what exactly are they? In the broadest sense, they could be described as "a self-exploration retreat for HSPs." Typically, an HSP Gathering is a 4-5 day event held at retreat center venues around the US, Canada and Europe, and they typically take place two or three times each year. As of this writing, more than 30 Gatherings have taken place!

As implied by the name, attendees are all HSPs, and the events offer a mixture of learning through workshops, structured activities and small workgroups, as well as social events. Unlike many self-growth retreats which focus on one particular topic, the workshops at HSP Gatherings can be quite diverse, and are usually taught by a variety of guest presenters. Most Gatherings include a "keynote presentation" by Dr. Elaine Aron or another key author/expert on High Sensitivity.

As a tool to help an HSP both learn and feel more connected to the greater global HSP "Community," HSP Gatherings are an excellent option. Although many HSPs are introverts-- and thus often uncomfortable with groups-- the atmosphere at these events tends to be very low key, inclusive and accepting. The upsides include the learning, and the chance to spend a full four days with all HSPs, allowing attendees to gain insights, validation and new friends. The downsides might be considered cost and travel distance, as well as the fact that most fellow attendees will likely live far from your home, unless the event takes place near you.Thus, you may make friends, but many will become long-distance connections.

Would You Attend an HSP Gathering?

As an HSP, does the idea of attending an HSP Gathering Retreat with other HSPs sound appealing?

See results
A path at Walker Creek Ranch in Marin County, CA, a venue used for HSP Gatherings since 2001.
A path at Walker Creek Ranch in Marin County, CA, a venue used for HSP Gatherings since 2001.

Online Groups for HSPs

If the idea of spending five days at an HSP Gathering sounds a bit daunting, another option is to join a group for highly sensitive people. Such groups typically come in two different "flavors:" Online and offline.

Well... most of the time. There are also a few "combination" and "hybrid" groups out there, and I'll talk a bit about those, too.

Part of the beauty of the Internet is that you can find an interest group to fit your needs, almost no matter how odd or esoteric that interest may be. And with the knowledge that being a highly sensitive person affects 15-20% of the population, it should come as no surprise that "groups for HSPs" abound, on the Internet. The first web group for HSPs was started less than a year after the publication of the book "The Highly Sensitive Person," and its successor is still going strong today with a membership approaching 2000 people.

In addition to "general" web groups for HSPs, there is also a wide range of "interest based" groups, covering topics from parenting, work and raising HS children, to HSP writers' groups, HS singles groups and groups discussing HSPs and sexuality.

Finally, there is a wealth of regional and international groups, catering to HSPs in areas ranging from a single city (Chicago, San Francisco) to an international region (Australia & New Zealand).

Another helpful book for the Highly Sensitive Person

The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You
The Highly Sensitive Person in Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You
Elaine Aron's follow-up book to "The Highly Sensitive Person," this book takes on the often difficult issue of relationships for HSPs. It examines both relationships between two HSPs and between an HSP and a non-HSP, with the unique challenges each present.

Groups for HSPs on Facebook

These days, it seems like almost everyone we know is "on Facebook."

The giant social network is also home to a multitude of interest groups-- including several dozen groups for HSPs. Here are some of the more significant ones:

In-Depth Learning about Being an HSP

The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook
The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook
The companion workbook to "The Highly Sensitive Person" is highly recommended for those who want to explore the meaning of being highly sensitive, in greater depth. Also an excellent workbook to use as a group exercise.

Offline Groups for HSPs

Groups for HSPs are fairly easy to find on the Internet, but a little harder to find "out there" in the real world. Whereas there are certain websites that exist to help create real-life groups, most local "in the flesh" HSP support and social groups are either run through a local counselor who specializes in working with HSPs, or pehaps by an individual, getting organized through a local holistic health center or learning annex. Finding them might require a little research, although announcements typically can be found in the "events" area of local newspapers, on bulletin boards in food coops or health food stores, or in "alternative" weekly newspapers.You might also check the public posting board at your local library.

Please keep in mind that many HSP "Support Groups" are offered through-- and run by-- therapists whose interest is ultimately to find new clients. Hence, such groups are not always free, and often involve paying an ongoing membership or workshop fee.

I also mentioned that there are "hybrids" out there. The web site has successfully established itself as an Internet "gateway" for people to establish and participate in local area activity groups through online membership signups. There are currently a number of fairly large meetup groups for HSPs, although these do tend to be centered around larger metropolitan areas

Another type of hybrid combines the benefits of "web groups" with a social networking utlility (for HSPs) that includes a framework for managing local groups.

HSP Workshops

Workshops for HSPs-- specifically about high sensitivity-- come in two basic formats (beyond the "HSP Gathering Retreats," which have already been covered): There is the large scale workshop, usually taught at a major retreat center like the Esalen Institute in California, or the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, NY, and then there are "local" workshops, often taught by a local therapist or life coach, perhaps at a venue such as a learning annex or holistic health center.

The large events tend to be quite broadly publicized by both the teacher and the retreat centers offering them, and thus are not difficult to locate with a bit of searching on google. They often are 2-3 day events, and they can be fairly costly, by the time you add in travel, workshop fees, and room & board. As of this writing (Early-2015) most of these workshops in the US are still taught by Dr. Elaine Aron, herself, although others are starting to teach about the trait.

The smaller local events are often offered by a local counselor or life coach as a free lecture about high sensitivity, commonly used as a tool to make contact with new potential clients. That said, there is nothing wrong with attending, even if you're not looking for a therapist. Attendees often end up making new friends in their local community.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Companion: Daily Exercises for Calming Your Senses in an Overstimulating World
The Highly Sensitive Person's Companion: Daily Exercises for Calming Your Senses in an Overstimulating World
Dr. Ted Zeff's book has many helpful tips for HSPs looking for ways to cope more easily with the stresses and "noise" of everyday life.

This is only PART of the picture!

Hopefully you've found something of use in this article!

This is-- in no way-- intended to be an exhaustive guide to connecting with fellow HSPs. Such a guide would require an entire book, as there are literally thousands of groups for HSPs, across the globe.

However, the intent here was to guide you towards general categories to examine and perhaps "sample," which hopefully will help you do more research on your own.

As more and new resources of note become available, they will be added here.

Please help spread awareness of the HSP trait!

If you enjoyed this article, or got something useful from it, please help help spread the word! The more people who know what it means to be an HSP, the better off we all are.

Share this article with a friend, or use the nifty social sharing buttons at bottom right to share it on your Facebook timeline, your twitter feed, blog, web site or other social media site.

Thank you!

© 2008 Peter Messerschmidt

Talk back! If you are an HSP, have you ever been part of a group? If not, is it something you'd like to try?

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    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      5 years ago from Washington State

      My studies to date have been with Cyndi Dale's books and ideas. I love the workshop ideas. She was the first person I read about on the subject of HSP. I consider myself an empath and emotionally intuitive. Years ago, I got the most help on this subject from reading about Indigo Children. Your hubs are wonderful on the subject.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 

      9 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Yes, all this information is very comforting, like a have a place to go now, a place to stand, a world that fits better than any other I've tried to fit my puzzle piece self into.

      I'm looking forward to the research and learning, thanks.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi...I found out about a week ago that I'm an HSP. I was taking my son to his counseling appointment (we had 5 deaths in the family last year and he's been emotional at school, he's 6). I was talking with the therapist and she asked me if I heard of the book : the Highly sensitive child.....I looked it up and I was like wow. I'm just grateful that I'm not some weak person that "can't just get over it". It's awesome to know that I'm normal. My brother has a lot of the traits too.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi! Just today I found out about HSP! Actually, I'm overjoyed to know that so many other people feel somewhat similar to how I feel! It explained so much...and more than that, it explained *so much* that has caused me so much anxiety and loneliness. :) Anyway, I wanted to second Shannon's comment, and say that if there are any other HSP's reading this around my age (I'm 27) I would love to hear from you! I live in the San Diego area~~~ ;)


      Good luck to all of you out there!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi. I just recently found out about HSP. I am one myself, but I never knew it had a label, or that there were so many others. I knew there had to be some, but the numbers are truly comforting. I'm still in school, so I can't go to any events right now. But I plan on doing so when I'm out. I find everything dedicated to HSP's so touching; that people even care. I would really like to talk to some others, so email me at:


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