Will therapy with a narcissist help?
Perhaps you’ve begun to feel desperate after realizing that all your attempts to improve your communication and appease the narcissist’s ever-changing mood swings have only resulted in everything becoming worse.
Instead of things going back to the way they were when you met, you are mocked, ridiculed, and blamed for your relationship taking a wrong turn.
Maybe you feel helpless and defeated as your partner insists that you aren’t the same person as you were in the beginning. And instead of experiencing the lovely bond you felt with them during the golden period, your life has become a living hell.
With the narcissist’s persuasion, you think back to the times you had nuclear meltdowns as you pick up the phone and dial your insurance company to find marriage and relationship counselors in your area.
You have been feeling high-strung and confused lately. Maybe seeing a therapist will help you slip past your toxic partner’s defenses, leading to an improved relationship. And just maybe, you will finally succeed in making the narcissist see how much you’re hurting and what the two of you can do together to turn things around.
The hard truth is that in my experience working with clients who have been pathologically abused–as well as the hours of research I’ve done–I’ve not come across one success story as it relates to couple’s therapy with a narcissist.
Not one. (It sure did nothing to help me!)
Sure, the narcissist might agree to go to counseling with you, but it’s not to make any improvements or lasting change.
Narcissists don’t go to therapy because they finally realize they’re selfish and have been mistreating you.
They do it to keep you feeling hopeful (in order to keep you trapped longer) by enhancing their facade of trying to “make it work”.
Narcissists don’t go to therapy with goals in mind (such as improving their relationship with you). They go to therapy with agendas in mind.
There are many reasons therapy with a narcissist always ends in failure, including:
- Narcissists are masters at creating great impressions. Because of this, some naïve therapists side with the narcissist regarding the extreme and despicable claims made against the true victim – the one being emotionally and/or physically abused!
- Narcissists are creatures of economy. By the time they agree to go to counseling, they’ve committed numerous relationship crimes, and the easiest way to get you to forgive them is to feign remorse and agree to go to therapy.
- Because there’s such a lack of applicable experience dealing with narcissists, most therapists have been trained to address subjective perceptions. Due to this, narcissists get away with playing the victim, which puts them in a one-up position in regards to the abuse dynamic that will inevitably get worse at home.
- On the topic of subjective perceptions, the victim often goes along with what the therapist says, thus working double-time to improve the relationship…all in vain. The narcissist will not appreciate any efforts extended by their victim, and in fact may mock them, causing further emotional damage.
- It’s not unusual for the narcissist to insist on seeing the therapist first. This gives him or her the opportunity to lay down false accusations and give the therapist a wrong impression of what’s actually going on in the relationship.
- Many narcissists come into their relationships already “seeing a therapist”. This is a strategic move in order for them to pave the way for forgiveness when they commit relationship crimes, allowing them the perfect opportunity to justify their actions with the comments, “I’m seeing someone for that. Are you going to give up on me? How can you just leave me when I’m down?”…and all variations of guilting to keep their target enmeshed.
- The victim, feeling safe and encouraged by the therapist, usually expresses their pain, disappointments, and may possibly confess to serious emotional or physical assault. This often makes things much worse for them at home and strengthens the trauma bond, thus making it harder to leave.
- Typically, the narcissist goes into the therapist’s office and morphs into a fictional, decent character. Once back at home, they return to their normal, abusive selves.
Before you start going down the list of marriage and relationship counselors, it’s important to consider that going to therapy with a narcissist will accomplish three things: 1) waste time and money, 2) keep you in a relationship that is doomed to fail anyway and 3) likely result in your feeling like more of the “crazy lunatic” the narcissist keeps claiming you are.
Why Therapy With a Narcissist Never Works
Unlike many other mental health conditions, people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) leave victims in their wake.
If a narcissist enters your life, especially in the form of a romantic partner, they will completely drain you of your entire sense of self. When you finally break free, you’ll find yourself starting over from scratch – questioning everything you thought you knew about yourself.
This is because narcissists don’t experience or process emotions as you or I do. To the narcissist, emotions like love, sadness, or remorse are vulnerabilities to be exploited – not normal elements of the human experience.
The narcissist’s dangerous lack of social and emotional development stems from their nonexistent comprehension of two key concepts: whole object relations and object constancy.
They can’t comprehend that good people aren’t perfect. To the narcissist, you’re part of their mental hierarchy: you’re either above their status and should be envied or you’re below their status and worthy of chronic disrespect.
Whole Object Relations
This is our ability to see the “oneness” that brings us all together – it’s what drives our sense of humanity.
Whole object relations allow us to see another person’s qualities in an integrated way: we accept that people can be generally good, yet still sometimes do rude or hurtful things. We forgive people we care about who make mistakes because we know that everyone is human and, therefore, will act out on occasion. (This is one reason non-disordered people so easily forgive narcissists for their cruel behaviors).
Narcissists don’t understand this concept. Instead, narcissists view people as either all good or all bad. To the narcissist, if you are no longer special in their mind, you have fallen to a low status. Quite literally, they’ll categorize you as being among the dregs of society.
This is why they can go from making you feel special, to making you feel like dirt underneath their shoes. By the time you’ve fallen from grace, they feel that you have no redeeming qualities and believe you deserve to be mistreated.
This is where universal unconditional love comes from. For most of us, we recognize that we can still have a positive relationship with someone even if they make mistakes or occasionally hurt us – because chances are, they really didn’t mean to cause harm.
Narcissists don’t possess the capacity for object constancy. Therefore, when it comes to the broadly known ‘devalue and discard’ phases, they feel such dislike for you, they have no problem treating you with cold indifference and loathing.
The narcissist understands that you, on the other hand, have object constancy and they’re keen on exploiting this trait.
The narcissist knows you’ll stick around through all the abuse because you’ve experienced their good side and how well they can treat you – when they believe you deserve it, of course.
But this “good side” is all a façade and part of the cycle to keep you hooked and begging for that next fix. In fact, when the narcissist is being kind, it’s an integrated part of the abuse.
The narcissist is incapable of ever seeing themselves as anything other than the victim. It is impossible for them to see things your way. The narcissist will always see you as competition that must be kept below their status. This is why therapy with a narcissist never works.
Breaking Free from the Cycle of Narcissism – for Good
Please understand that this article is not meant to discourage anyone from seeking individual therapy. This post was written to highlight some of the reasons why therapy with a narcissist is a recipe for disaster.
There are some very competent therapists who can detect an individual’s narcissism within minutes of meeting them. Those who are skilled in this area will usually inform the abuse victim of their observations regarding the emotional abuse and exploitation dealt out by the narcissist, usually due to the narcissist’s sense of entitlement and tendency to be self-focused.
Lack of human decency is a common abusive tactic that narcissists use to treat victims with little respect and consideration in order to manipulate them.
Finding a support system can be helpful for individuals who have been in relationships involving emotional blackmail and abuse. The focus is best placed on victims learning how to engage in self-care, feel validated, and identify their own personal needs.
If you’re ready to start NOW with a deeper approach, consider enrollment in The Essential Break Free Bootcamp. Therapists agree it’s the best online program for narcissistic abuse recovery because it leads you through all the painful sticking points towards a clear path to healing your life.
Develop effective ways to break free from narcissistic abuse. Reduce conflict, stress & drama! Learn more now!