My Therapist the Narcissist
Ideally, a therapist is a well-balanced person who wants to help others.
In reality, though, this may not be the case. This practitioner is a human being, who travels with his or her own set of baggage. All of us are flawed creatures. This includes people with formal training in psychology.
However, with a good therapist, their particular emotional luggage may be light enough, so that it doesn't get in the way of assisting the people who come to see them.
These practitioners are happy with themselves, and they desire the betterment of their clients. They are pleased when someone makes progress, with the eventual goal of ending the sessions, or at least reducing their frequency.
Although therapists, just like the rest of us, have bills to pay and expect to be compensated, making money is not the only reason they're in business. A good therapist truly wants to help the people in their care become happier and better able to weather the blows of life.
Therapists with Malicious Motivations
Unfortunately, not all therapists are like the ones I just described. Some are more focused on money, to the point that it colors their conversations and makes them extremely anxious if they detect potential trouble with payments.
There's also another, far more sinister, motivation for being a therapist. The job gives them near-total power over vulnerable people. If the therapist is a narcissist, and has a malicious streak, they have endless opportunities to exploit.
In the worst case scenario, you could potentially find a therapist driven both by money, and the desire to destroy someone in need of healing.
So, if you decide to seek professional help, in an effort to put your life back together, after it's been shredded by a malignant narcissist, chose your therapist with care.
My "Qualifications" as a "Narcologist"
I'm not a licensed therapist, and I have no formal training in the field, except for a couple of college-level courses. However, I do have a personal interest in malignant narcissism, since I spent a few years "studying" this disorder online, after an experience with a very treacherous female "friend."
This, combined with some earlier experiences, opened my eyes to the horrifying reality that a small, but significant, minority of the population likes to harm others. However, they usually appear pretty normal. That's because they've learned to blend in, in order to disguise the fact they have no conscience. So they're able to commit the most atrocious acts without feeling badly about what they did.
These high-functioning sociopaths are found in all walks of life. They are teachers, doctors, bank executives, car mechanics and that pretty young mom who drives her children around in an SUV. Of course, this group includes psychologists and other mental health professionals.
In this case, forewarned is forearmed. If you know there's a real possibility a potential therapist could be a narcissist, you'll be alert to any red flags. If you see enough of these signals, and they make you uncomfortable, it's time to sever the relationship.
Narcissistic Mental Health Counselors
Don't be blinded by the degree, or the charm or charisma a potential therapist may possess.
As you're probably all too aware, at this point, people with personality disorders often dazzle you at first. However, ,as you get to know them, their carefully constructed mask will slip. This happens more and more over time, until all you see is the disappointing reality of their true personality.
When choosing a therapist, keep this thought uppermost in your mind. Don't forget that people who've obtained degrees, which allow them to counsel others, can also be quite needy. However, a therapist shouldn't put his or her needs above yours. If that's not the case, something's wrong.
Recognizing that a therapist can suffer from human frailties allows us to take a critical look at the client/therapist relationship, in order to decide if this is the right person to help us.
We can also make the choice whether or not to seek therapy in the first place. In my case, I decided against therapy, for a number of reasons. One was that I didn't want to risk bearing my soul to a potential narcissist.
However, please understand I'm not recommending others follow my example. Please read my disclaimer at the end of this article.
Red Flags When Choosing a Therapist
Just knowing the potential exists for a therapist to have severe personality issues gives you a distinct advantage. You will approach the relationship cautiously, and you'll know if and when to beat a hasty retreat.
Here are some tips that a potential therapist may have too many issues of their own, which can get in the way of your recovery. While I'm not suggesting you "diagnose" your therapist, there are some things to look for, which include:
- Excessive talk about money. How you will pay for these sessions should clearly be discussed. Your therapist should also let you know if your insurance covers your sessions and how many sessions are covered by your particular health plan. If coverage is running out, this should also be brought to your attention. However, there shouldn't be any undue focus on payments. Any anxiety about payments, on the part of the therapist, should not be ignored.
- Flamboyant dress and mannerisms. Look for long, manicured fingernails, coupled with edgy and possibly revealing clothing. Although these details, in and of themselves, should not indict anyone, they are part of a bigger picture. Is your therapist down to earth, and focused on helping you resolve your problems? Or is she more focused on meeting her own needs during your sessions?
- Excessive talk about herself. It's fine for a therapist to talk about herself a little, and to reveal small details about her personal life, such as the ages of her children. But there's a fine line that shouldn't be crossed. This means a therapist shouldn't be discussing her own problems at length. Nor should she do most of the talking. Be especially wary if her conversations steer toward self aggrandizement. Narcissists love an audience, and they love to boast of their accomplishments.
- Inappropriate anger. A therapist may be direct and challenge you, but never should she become enraged and lash out at you. This is a terrible sign, and one that needs to be taken seriously.
- A distracted therapist. Unless it's a dire emergency, a therapist should not take personal phone calls or answer text messages during your sessions. Nor should she "tire" of listening to you, or glance around the room as if her mind is elsewhere.
Finding the Right Therapist for You
Dr. Kristen Hick, PsyD, whom you can see in the video below, offers some very good advice on choosing a therapist. She tells us a number of things to look for, which include location, personality factors, qualifications and "theoretical orientation, which means the particular method he or she uses to help you reach your goals.
However, her first recommendation is the one that's most applicable, and, undoubtedly, the most important. She says to go with your gut feeling over whether this relationship is a good match. If you don't get a clear sense that it is, by at least the third session, she suggests finding another therapist.
Pick a Good Therapist
I believe that most mental health professionals truly want to help their fellow human beings. However, the possibility that some therapists are seriously disturbed is a well-known industry secret. Malignant narcissists are dangerous in all circumstances. But this is especially true when they have credentials to hide behind.
In order to protect yourself, in most cases, you don't need to disclose information that would allow your therapist to contact the person who abused you. Although this is a very, very remote possibility, it's certainly a horrifying one. To someone who's never experienced narcissistic abuse, I must sound paranoid. Survivors will understand.
I am not advocating that everyone attempt to recover from narcissistic abuse on their own. Someone who is severely depressed or unable to function should seek professional help. Anyone affected by suicidal thoughts needs to seek help immediately.
Also, I want to stress again that I'm not a professionally trained therapist. So this article is written as an information and discussion piece, and should not be read as if I'm giving advice.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on March 02, 2015:
Hi savvydating, thanks so much for reading. People who've been emotionally abused need to be extremely cautious going forward. Encountering a series of abusers will wear you down for sure.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on February 02, 2015:
Glad to help. Thanks so much for reading.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on January 13, 2015:
Thanks so much DDE. I wrote it just in case others were in need of this info.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on January 05, 2015:
Hi Eveline, I believe you are in a position to help many others. Best of luck with your blog. I can't wait to read it.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on January 03, 2015:
Flourish, that's an excellent point. Thank you so much for raising it. I've wondered about this myself, as anyone can offer these services. I've seen some advertisements that have made me a bit nervous. This is really a buyer beware situation. At least the therapist does have to have therapy himself or herself, which is not the case with these coaches setting up shop.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on January 03, 2015:
Hi macteacher, this is horrifying. I also once knew the mother of one of my daughter's friends, who is also a therapist. Since she has some serious issues of her own, she has the potential to do great harm as well. I am concerned for the innocent and vulnerable people she gets to "treat" as well.
ologsinquito (author) from USA on January 01, 2015:
Hi Alicia, I wrote it after someone commented on another article, about having a narcissistic therapist. How horrible. Thanks so much for reading.