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Even Counselors have to Survive Persons with
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
I read an interesting few lines in an article
by William E. Krill, Jr. L.P.C. The article is entitled, The
Child Victim of a Narcissistic Personality Disordered Parent. Although he is
writing about the experience of children and the non NPD parent, he also writes
about counselors working with persons with NPD. Accordingly:
counselors are always very hesitant if not completely avoiding of treating
children involved in custody cases when a parent is perceived to have NPD
(narcissistic personality disorder). Most clinicians will only very rarely
publicly identify a person as having a personality disorder, lest the narcissist
turn their full wrath on the counselor (meaning hauling them into court to
‘testify’ or more often, ‘harass’ them about their work, competency,
I don’t know where he draws his information
to support his point of view, but anecdotally, this is consistent with my
I have had many clinical counselors seek
guidance and supervision, having gotten caught up in the distortions, outright
lies and manipulations of their client, whom they perceive to have a
narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These clinicians are typically looking
to extricate themselves from the case in order to protect themselves from the
vilification they see perpetrated by the client towards the client’s current
or former partner.
I have also read many child custody/access
evaluations where the issue of a parent’s personality disposition and
egregious behavior is minimized or equivocated on the basis of the other parents
responding behavior. In these cases, withholding a child’s access to the
parent whose behavior is objectively egregious does not make their transactions
equal, but it does spare the evaluator the wrath or vengeance of the person who
presents with NPD.
Having worked on many cases with a person who
appears to meet criteria for NPD, I can fully understand the clinician who looks
to dump the hot potato or the evaluator who wants to survive the evaluation him
or herself unscathed.
Whereas our clients have to survive their one
NPD partner, counselors and evaluators have to survive their many NPD clients
and their wrath can be formidable. Given the Internet, these persons find and
spur each other on and collude to attack the service provider and seek to bring
credibility to their attacks on the basis of their shared complaints. They can
be relentless, much like gum stuck to your shoe. These are the clients who will
write despicable anonymous comments on the Internet and who will make numerous
complaints to the clinician’s regulatory bodies. Their goal is character
As in our work with those who must live or
carry on with the NPD partner or former partner, clinicians too must survive
their work with these clients. Strategies for coping and surviving one’s
clients are the same as what is suggested to the victims of these persons.
In the end how the clinician handles these
situations speak more about the clinician than the diatribes of the NPD former
If you are a clinician worried about your work
with a person whom you view as NPD, then do seek help or consultation or
supervision to manage the case as best as possible. In the end, we want to
continue to serve vulnerable children and adults with less concern for
ourselves. Just as we extol parents to advance the needs of their children over
their own, so too do we as clinicians have a responsibility to advance the needs
of vulnerable and abused clients above our own. Support, consultation and good
clinical practice is key. You remain in charge of your character.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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