Ideally, a therapist is a well-balanced person. A happy person. A whole person.
He or she wants to help others. This is the driving reason, above and beyond anything else.
In reality, though, this may not be the case.
This practitioner is also a human being. Who may come with his or her own baggage.
All of us are flawed, in one way or another.
Including people with formal training in psychology.
Advanced degrees are no guarantee that someone doesn’t have serious issues. Problems that preclude being in a position of authority. Such as having no empathy or other characteristics of malignant narcissism. Malignant narcissists are extremely dangerous.
In fact, the guy who first identified this condition back in the 1960’s described it as the “quintessence of evil.”
That’s why you need to shop VERY carefully for a therapist.
Because some of them may not have your best interests at heart.
Is Your Therapist A Narcissist?
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I do believe there are many good therapists out there. People who really can help you get through a rough patch. Selfless, caring individuals.
They do get paid. Some get paid well. But money is not what makes them tick.
Profit driven personalities, however, may be more concerned with money, than with making you whole again.
Or (horror of horrors) a therapist may be a narcissist. (This possibility is well known among mental health professionals. See link to a short Psychology Today article below.)
Think about it, for a moment. Why does this professional attract the best of the best? And the worst of the worst?
Being a therapist gives someone near total power over vulnerable people.
If the therapist is a narcissist, with a malicious streak, this position affords endless opportunities to exploit people.
Worst case scenario is love of money, plus a desire to destroy someone who needs to be healed.
Such as someone who’s just survived an encounter with a malicious person.
So, if you decide to seek professional help, in an effort to put your life back together, after it’s been shredded by a narcissist, choose your therapist wisely.
Did you know that professional therapists are well aware that narcissists exist within their ranks?
That’s why those who do hiring in the mental health field are on the lookout for warning signs. So you should too.
Because narcissistic therapists are a reality.
I still think therapists with personality disorders are in the minority. And that most mental health professionals truly want to help their clients.
But it’s something to consider, if you decide to seek professional help.
My motto is “Forewarned is forearmed.” I think this is especially true when it comes to malignant narcissists. Just knowing they exist gives us an edge. (Remember when you had no idea some people could be so devious? I remember when I was blissfully naive about personality disorders. So this made me a sitting duck.)
Also, knowing the potential exists for a therapist to have a severe personality disorder gives you an advantage.
You can then approach the relationship cautiously. And beat a hasty retreat if you see any red flags.
I’m not a mental health professional myself. So don’t make major lifestyle decisions based upon what I write. But you don’t need an advanced degree to know when something is amiss.
In my own personal opinion of observing narcissists in action, here’s what to watch for:
Money, money, money: Too much focus on money is a very bad sign. Of course, everyone expects to get paid. But excessive focus on method of payment should make you think twice. it’s certainly okay for a therapist to discuss insurance coverage. So you know what’s feasible. (I don’t expect therapists or anyone else to work for free.) But I don’t expect to see dollar signs in their eyes either.
Flamboyant behavior: Oftentimes, people with personality disorders dress and act in a flamboyant manner. This doesn’t mean everyone who fits that description is a malignant narcissist.But it’s something to watch for. Especially if it’s coupled with an entitlement mentality, or anything else that makes you uncomfortable. Trust your gut feelings. They’re often correct. Personally I would prefer someone more down to earth.
Me, me me: A therapy session should be about you, Not the therapist. A little sharing is okay. But not 50 minutes of it. You don’t need to hear about her dog, her house, her problems, her husband, her boyfriend or her children, especially if it cuts into your therapy time.
Moodiness: This is something you just don’t need, and it’s also a really bad sign. Healthy mature people are able to compartmentalize their emotions. So they don’t lash out when they’re frustrated. Or they don’t walk around with a dark cloud hovering over their heads just because things aren’t going their way. Of course, we all slip. None of us are perfect. But, as a rule, a therapist should be even tempered. Stable people are even tempered.
Distraction: This is your session. So, the therapist should be focused on you. Unless it’s a real emergency he or she shouldn’t be texting. Nor should a therapist “tire” of listening to you or glance around the room in a distracted manner.
So choose wisely. Malignant narcissists exist. Some of them are therapists. Credentials are little protection. So go into therapy with your eyes wide open.
Can Therapists Be Narcissists?
Mental health professionals are well aware that some of their colleagues may have personality disorders of their own. So I think everyone else should be aware of this too. Especially the most vulnerable. Who seek therapy, oftentimes in order to heal wounds caused by narcissistic abuse.
So they don’t need to invite another abuser into their lives.
A good therapist should be invaluable. I’m not advocating against counseling. Just shop carefully for a good professional. Look for red flags, as you must do with any other new relationship.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all dangerous people are male. Female narcissists exist and they are dangerous.
In fact, in my own non professional opinion, I believe the problem of adult female narcissists hasn’t gotten enough attention. So I wrote a book called Are Women Getting Meaner, in which I try to explain whether this is really happening or it’s just our imagination.
Also, since the only real way to break free of a narcissist’s death grip and move on with your life is to forgive this person. Because you owe it to yourself to do this. You do it for you, not them. I wrote another book called How To Forgive A Malicious Person for people who believe they’re stuck in this step.