The Five Steps to Healing for the Empath & Highly Sensitive Person

By Dave Markowitz

January 5th, 2015
The Five Steps to Healing for the Empath & Highly Sensitive Person


If you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), or empath, you are not alone. There are an estimated 40 million of us in America alone. Empaths & HSPs often face unique challenges; mainly, and what I like to focus on, is that healing modalities that work for most people don’t always work for us. Many of us are still dealing with fatigue, lack of focus, anxiousness, heavy-heartedness (what some call "depression"), tight muscles/unexplained pain (what some call fibromyalgia), or various other forms of pain and illness. Even if we're relatively healthy, it is still very difficult to thrive in a culture where our sensitivities are seen as something to cure or repress – rather than be embraced. Yet, when understood and used appropriately, our empathic abilities can be a divine gift—one that allows us to heal, thrive, and to better serve all humankind.

I was a successful medical intuitive and energy healer for years but in denial of my extreme sensitivity to others’ energies. One day, I had a most unusual wakeup call. The catalyst was an atypical evening out with friends, visiting several bars. I drank no alcohol, only water, the entire evening; but because of my sensitivities I found myself getting drunk—yes, drunk—as in slur-my-words, unable-to-walk-a-straight-line drunk. Even in this empathic stupor, I knew this was a message not just for me but also for thousands of other highly sensitive people. 

As a way of training me to better handle being an Empath/HSP, the Universe then sent me a string of highly sensitive clients. Moreover, these clients had some astonishing similarities:

  • They had done a large amount of self-growth and healing work, yet nothing had permanently shifted their emotional or physical pain or illness;
  • They had an inflated sense of responsibility; and
  • They were all highly sensitive, intuitive, or empathic.

My job? To teach them what I had not yet understood myself.

Fortunately, my intuitive abilities let me clearly hear and share what I now call The Five Steps to Healing for the Highly Sensitive Person.

While some people can do these and get spectacular results quickly, others need more time and patience. If you don't get immediate results, think about it as if you’re learning a new language. The effects are cumulative; just do your best each day!

Here is a short summary of the steps I've been working with for the last seven years. They've raised awareness of empathic illness and have helped thousands of people heal and thrive when all else has failed. 

1. Determine True Responsibility

Too many Empaths & HSPs feel responsible for healing the emotional or physical pain of others – either a loved one, a social issue, or the world. This is the metaphysical equivalent of carrying a loved one (or several!) on your back. How long can you do that without getting anxious or fatigued?

When an HSP operates from this paradigm of responsibility—and its associated guilt, fear, and shame—they feel more resentful than grateful and more constricted than expansive. Resentment and constriction reduce the strength of both your immune system and your energy field, leaving you more susceptible to absorbing and keeping other people’s pain and illness. 

Doing things for others without acknowledging what's truly needed and how best to serve—even with the best of intentions—is often an unhealthy attempt to heal or connect with those persons. Sadly, "do-for-others first" is cleverly disguised by the ego and supported by many cultures as a good deed. This action is unhealthy because it burdens you with what isn't yours. Others need what is theirs; their soul signed up for it. Even worse, perhaps, this is a missed opportunity for the other person. Our job is to be compassionate but not take on other’s burdens—to embrace each person wherever they are on their journey, guiding them from a higher place than our own egoic needs.

Even if you are being paid to be a healer, your responsibility is not “to heal” others (especially by absorbing what’s not yours) but to create safe space for healing by loving them unconditionally—unattached to an outcome of your actions. This, ironically, is part of what leads to healing—for them and for you. 

Whenever possible, slow down and ask yourself if you are coming from your subconscious mind (patterned, conditioned belief system) or your higher self (truth). More succinctly put, ask, "Pattern or truth?" With practice, you'll become more aware that most of our actions are coming from the pattern. Our job as seekers and healers is to notice this and then ask ourselves, "What is my higher truth looking to accomplish now?" and then act from that awareness. This will minimize your perceived responsibility, better allowing you to be in the flow—your truth—and be safely open to life rather than contracted. 

2. The Keyhole

A trained empath’s gift lies in their ability to tune in so that they can see/hear/feel/know what is needed in a particular situation, elevating their awareness of—and compassion for—the other person. That is why Empaths/HSPs make such wonderful healers, friends, and intimate partners! Empathy—when used well—is your divine gift! But many HSPs block incoming energy out of fear of empathic overwhelm. This blocks the good as well as the bad, because it’s very difficult to allow one while denying the other. If you’ve been wondering, “Why have I not yet healed?” or “What is my right livelihood?” or “Where is my soulmate?” or "Why do I feel so blocked?" trust that the answers are just on the other side of the very wall you’ve put up for protection. Opening up to this information, while EFFECTIVELY letting other people’s negative energy go through you, is the difference between a skilled empath and a walking sponge. The specific instructions to do so are in both my books, mentioned below.  

3. The Body Scan

I’ve broken down energetic blockages into two categories:

~what’s been absorbed from others, and

~what’s inherently yours to work with.

The reason so many of the Empaths/HSPs I work with hadn’t experienced permanent results before they found me—even after seemingly trying every practitioner and modality available—is that you can’t get good results addressing what's been absorbed using the tools for what's inherently yours! Similarly, you won't get good results addressing what yours using the tools for what has been absorbed.

But fear not. There is a way through.

Determining what’s yours and what isn’t can be very difficult at first. Not because you’re un-spiritual, or unintelligent, or for any other reason the mind will make up, but rather just because when there so much in the way, clear vision/hearing/knowing is more difficult. While some can do this on their own, I’ve found that not everyone can. So do your best to create safe space and ask for guidance. Reach out to someone who can co-create a safe environment to address what can be painful blockages. It is estimated that when working with a supportive partner or practitioner, you can go up to ten times deeper into your own experience, bypassing the mind and accessing the body's innate intelligence far easier than on one's own. The goal is to go inward and ask your body what type of energy you’ve absorbed, whose it is, and where it is being stored—and be open to hearing or feeling something unexpected! Warning: because this can be challenging, the ego will convince you this is bogus, or distract you. To this I can respond, these steps have worked for thousands of people already and with patience and trust, will work for you, too. 

4. Return to Sender

“Cord cuts” and random “Send it back to the Universe” techniques are all very well; however, they do not teach you how to become a strong, connected empath, capable of opening up your heart at any time without fear of energetic or emotional overwhelm.    

Once we know what we’re dealing with, we must metaphysically return it to the original person(s) we’ve absorbed it from. We do this with love, compassion and permission. 

When doing so in this way, we can better understand what we’ve been doing and the end results of such. You’re not a bad person for carrying others’ energy. In fact, I’d say you’re a wonderful, loving, nurturing caring person, who is only missing these fine-tunings of your gifts so you can heal and then help others. The specific steps to do this are both of my books as well. 

NOTE: The mind will always tell you that you’re done before you are. Stay with the process until you feel a physical shift. Your body speaks higher truths than the mind!

5. Recalibration

Typically, after doing the first four steps, you will find yourself feeling alive, open, and spacious. This can be disorienting, as feeling so good may be unfamiliar! Sitting in silence a/o journaling after each Body Scan and Return to Sender helps you integrate any shifts and remain permanently at the higher state of health! Think of it like Shavasana at the end of yoga, where you're allowing the benefits of the practice to sink in.


In closing: know that you are not crazy and that there is hope.  By practicing the five steps summarized above, you can prevent and heal empathic illness and finally begin to thrive. For more detailed instruction, check out  Self-Care for the Self-Aware: A Guide for Highly Sensitive People, Empaths, Intuitives, and Healers and the latest, Empathipedia: Healing for Empaths & Highly Sensitive Persons.

To see if I can be of assistance, feel free to schedule a free, 15-minute, no obligation consult. If I intuit we're a good match, I’ll tell you so. If I intuit we're not, I'll tell you that as well! 

There are also numerous pay-what-you-can livestreams you can join!


Please share this far and wide; odds are high that someone you know needs this information, too!

Blessings and gratitude,




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Disclaimer: The author of this article does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems. The intent of the author is only to offer information of a general nature to help you in your quest for emotional and spiritual well-being. In the event you use any of the information in this article for yourself, which is your constitutional right, the author and the publisher assume no responsibility for your actions.