Everyday Narcissist Behavior in Psychotherapy and How It May Influence ‘Outside’ Relationships for the Client

Everyday Narcissist Behavior in Psychotherapy and How It May Influence ‘Outside’ Relationships for the Client

Article by Marcos Dorados

In the context of psychotherapy sessions, narcissistic behavior by the patient would seem to be ordinary. After all, one of the provisions of the client-therapist contract is that each meeting will concentrate exclusively on the patient and his or her needs, rather than those of the therapist. In this sense, deciding to begin psychotherapy is in itself a kind of narcissistic behavior. Some theorists such as Heinz Kohut believe that therapy functions in a compensative manner, to make up for the manifest lack of acceptable parental empathy and mirroring that engenders narcissism; narcissistic behavior by patients in treatment is for this reason not only to be expected but should be encouraged.

While we expect our clients to be self-absorbed during sessions, such narcissistic behavior outside the situation of psychotherapy would be inappropriate. One of the possibly injurious side effects of treatment, with its emotional gratification of long-unmet needs, is that patients come to yearn for like gratification outside the session. Their connection with other people may then become pseudo-therapeutic. Emotional needs and psychological problems become the focus of their interchanges; in effect, it’s a 24/7 form of psychotherapy, where clients aspire to feel as if they were in session all the time. One of our goals as therapists is to help patients to learn to accept that only inside session is their narcissistic behavior proper. “Outside” relationships ought to be reciprocal; for each individual to have his or her needs met, all relationships must produce gratification for each individual.

At times in the practice of psychotherapy, one meets the client who seems unable to feel any type of empathy for anyone, including the therapist, and can only see him or her in an idealized manner. These people usually come from markedly faulty backgrounds; their extreme narcissistic behavior indicates a desperate need for mirroring and empathic support because no one in their lives has ever been able to give it. These patients can be quite difficult to work with as they have small tolerance for the everyday interruptions in treatment: weekends and vacations, the random personal emergency. They may make occasional “emergency” phone calls; they may desire to have constant contact with the therapist in between sessions and can’t endure any feeling of separation.

If they are even capable of keeping up personal relationships, this sort of client will also prove severely exacting and possessive of their friends and mates. Narcissistic behavior is prevalent in many forms: an intolerance for separateness, a desire to dominate the other person, and self-absorption so severe that they may be heedless of their friend’s or partner’s suffering, needs and wishes. A juvenile type of rage may be the reaction to mental upset or slights.

As a successful treatment proceeds, the patient will learn to take separateness; getting the type of empathy and mirroring that were deficient in their childhood will help reduce narcissistic behavior and nurture a new capacity for empathy. This may begin in connection with the therapist: emotional lessons learned in the situation of treatment will sometime generalize. Progress in the therapeutic relationship then produces growth in outside relationships as well. In this light, psychotherapy is a microcosm of the patient’s larger world; Growth within that microcosm engenders “outside” progress as well.

Joseph Burgo PhD writes a psychotherapy blog for people who want to continue to grow after the end of psychotherapy, with the kind of relationship advice you won’t find elsewhere on the Internet

Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born February 3, 1947) is an American folk singer-songwriter. I do not own the pics nor the song.I have made and uploded this version of psychotherapy because there weren`t any,I used some pics I had on my computer. If you want the mp3 song,send me a message.
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