There is a lot of controversy around the treatment of people with narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, with many believing it isn’t possible. Some psychotherapists do believe it is possible such as Elinor Greenberg, who has said ‘there are effective treatments for narcissistic personality disorder. Change is difficult, but possible.’ But there is also an overwhelming number of professionals who don’t think a narcissist can be cured.
This is probably because it is a long process, and the want to ‘get better’ has to come from the person afflicted. Unfortunately, wanting to get help for narcissistic personality disorder immediately conflicts with the condition itself, which is built upon an idea that they are right about everything and superior to everyone. As Karen Nimmo says, ‘You don’t see many narcissists in therapy. That’s because they don’t own poor behaviour. If there’s a problem to be fixed, it’s not theirs. It’s yours — or someone else’s.’
In addition, being forced to reflect on all the ways this isn’t true is incredibly painful for a narcissist, as they are deeply insecure by definition. Therefore, if they do go to therapy, they usually quit prematurely.
Wanting to make the change
They will need specific, psychological help and like with many personality disorders or mental health matters, the want to change needs to come from the person who is afflicted. You cannot stop an alcoholic drinking if they don’t want to stop drinking and you cannot make a Narcissist stop being a narcissist if they don’t want to make the changes on their own.
Making changes takes awareness and a willingness to challenge their inner voice, and some narcissists will want to learn and change. According to Healthline, ‘People with narcissism can develop greater empathy when motivated to do so [such as] when considering the experiences of their children. Someone who shows concern for certain people may be ready to explore further change in therapy.’
Who can help a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Remember, as the partner of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you are not the health professional and will not be the person who can help them. You cannot change a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or make them happy by loving them enough or changing yourself to meet their ever-changing expectations.
Therapy really is best when working with a therapist who has specialised in Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). However, even with a specially qualified therapist, the process is likely to take several years, as it will involve dismantling current thinking patterns and learning new patterns of behaviour and reworking the connections between their internal voice and their treatment of others.
Can you support someone during their NPD treatment?
Therapy is not a miracle cure. It is a long process that will have ups and downs. I know I keep saying it but remember that you can’t solve their problems and your heightened emotions equate to fuel for a narcissist. They want to hear you getting irritated, they want to get you annoyed because when they see this, it makes them feel powerful.
Please, please, please remember that mental health conditions don’t excuse abuse and other bad behaviour. Your wellbeing must always remain your priority, and you must not let your boundaries slip. If this is not possible for you, then it may well be time for you to consider moving on from the relationship.
This is why I offer a free 15-minute discovery call to see how I can help you reduce the cost, confusion and conflict during a separation. Email me to book your free 15-minute discovery call at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my website for more information, www.yourdivorcecoach.com.