You could always find Mason* in his room with the door shut either reading or working on building his computer. He had a close friend, Jack, with whom he would exchange messages, but he did not meet up with him much and would only occasionally go out with a few guys from marching band. Mason’s family was close-knit; his parents and three younger siblings often did things together like playing tennis or board games, but found it difficult to get Mason to participate. For a while his mom thought he was just a shy kid and would try to bolster his confidence and self-esteem. However, this did not result in Mason making any more friends or doing more. When his parents would come to Mason with their concerns, he had difficulty expressing his emotions and thoughts and seemed closed-off. His parents began to worry—what if he was depressed?
They brought Mason to Outreach Teen & Family Services where he met with counselor Christina Hostutler. “I didn’t find Mason to be particularly shy,” she says. “He was very interesting and easy to engage. He spoke passionately about his hobbies and seemed to feel comfortable with his close friends.” Shy people tend to be nervous about social interactions and concerned with others’ evaluations. Mason was confident in himself and enjoyed having deep conversations with friends about books, theories he had, and technology. However, he did remark that he found the day-to-day small talk at his high school boring, and didn’t particularly enjoy large social gatherings, or going out with groups. While he would sometimes participate in family game night, he felt exhausted afterward and just wanted to spend time in his room alone.
Mason explained that he wasn’t particularly sad as his parents feared, but felt like he was letting them down and that he was an “outsider” in the family. His mom and dad were always throwing parties and his siblings were constantly running around with their friends. His parents often told him that he was missing out on his high school experience even though Mason himself felt fulfilled. Hostutler explained to Mason that his experiences were not all that uncommon, but rather typical of someone who has introverted personality traits. “In contrast to extroverts, who derive energy from social interaction, introverts feel energized through introspection and time alone, usually engaged in solitary hobbies and interests,” Hostutler remarks. After exploring some literature together, Mason strongly identified with the personality profile of an introvert and expressed relief that this meant there was nothing wrong with him.
Hostutler had a family meeting with Mason and his parents. She educated them on introversion and stressed that it is a personality trait that is unlikely to change, but also one that can be appreciated. His parents were relieved that Mason was not depressed and began to be open to ways to support who their son really was. “Society at large is not set up in favor of introverts,” explains Hostutler, “but through understanding and respect for their preferences, meaningful relationships can be developed and an introvert’s unique contribution to society recognized.” Mason began to feel free to pursue his passions and he enjoyed talking with his parents during their one-to-one breakfast dates.
*Mason represents a typical Outreach client. Details do not correspond with any specific case in order to protect client anonymity.
Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer counseling and educational programs to youth and parents that are affordable, accessible, and discreet; all within a welcoming, supportive environment.