Today we are surrounded by narcissists in our personal and professional lives. Narcissists have entered every profession and many of them are highly successful psychotherapists. Narcissists are often very intelligent. They frequently attend the finest universities, get first rate clinical training and have the confidence and drive to establish a successful clinical practice. Even today graduate schools and medical schools and those in charge of internships do not do an adequate job of weeding out applicants who are not psychologically suited to treat individuals who are suffering from a variety of mental disorders. Most licensing for psychotherapists of various kinds require very little private therapy on the part of the applicant. If your grades are good and you have succeeded in your internships and passed the exams, you have earned a license for practicing psychotherapy.
I have had a lot of experience with clients who have had either mediocre or poor quality psychotherapy that not only didn’t solve their issues but made them feel more helpless, frightened and discouraged. Some clients have been drawn into inappropriate sexual relationships with their therapists and had to deal with severe emotional and mental fallout from this deep level of betrayal. A serious transgression of this kind can cause the patient to emotionally regress and lose ground from all of the work they have done in the past. They have to start over again, finding a professional whom they can trust and is worthy of this role. Narcissists have severe boundary issues. Everything belongs to them. People are their possessions, created for them to do their bidding. When a narcissistic therapist crosses the sexual line with a patient he/she has no conscience about the devastating effects of these actions. The therapist controls the patient, is having his ego and sexual needs fulfilled and doesn’t give a damn about the psychological consequences to someone whom he is professionally and ethically and legally required to protect. The client is in a vulnerable position of transferring powerful feelings and fantasies on to the therapist. Narcissistic therapists often take full advantage of these emotionally fragile individuals who are at their mercy. (There are psychotherapists who are not narcissists who have sexual relationships with their clients.) Fortunately, in some cases, the therapist is reported to the appropriate authorities and his/her license is revoked. However, there are many more instances in which the patient is discarded by the person they trusted the most. They believed they were in love with the therapist and now are mercilessly discarded to fend for themselves. Some patients end up hospitalized and in a very fragile psychological state as a result.
Many narcissistic therapists are never caught and quickly move on to their next victim. The outrageousness of these acts cannot be overstated. A client comes to a professional therapist in desperate need of psycholological help. (There are both male and female narcissistic therapist perpetrators. Male therapists are still more prevalently reported in the literature). Her guard is down—she is highly vulnerable. She believes that a trusting therapeutic alliance is growing between them. The psychotherapist breaks the boundaries of trust and professionalism, has sex with his client and when he is finished with her, he moves on to leave his previous client’s life in a state of emotional and psychological chaos. The majority of psychotherapists are professional and ethical. I am speaking about the exceptions. Nevertheless, narcissistic therapists do a tremendous amount of psychological damage to their patients and to the profession itself. Visit my website: www.thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.