How Does All of This Affect Couple’s Therapy?
Effective couples’ therapy requires each member of the couple to be willing to reflect on his or her beliefs, behaviors, and impact on the other person. It is necessary for people in couples’ therapy to be able to admit where their behavior or their expectations for the relationship are unreasonable. Narcissists cannot admit their flaws without in their own mind shifting from feeling special to worthless. This makes it highly unlikely that they will actually be able to utilize couples’ therapy to try to improve their approach to the relationship.
Although narcissism is difficult to treat, progress can be made over time. Even weekly sessions over a shorter term can yield benefits. Patients’ functioning and adaptation to reality can improve through gaining some control over their defenses and by working through past trauma (Masterson, 2004). They can learn to manage their anger, rage, and impulsivity. Although narcissists may feign empathy in order to get close or win others’ approval, subclinical narcissists (without full-blown NPD) have been taught empathy by using their imagination to put themselves in another’s shoes (Hepper, Hart, & Sedikides, 2014). Narcissists who are philanthropists or volunteers in the community for the public approbation to boost their self-esteem can learn to empathize and be less self-centered by helping others without personal gain.
It’s not uncommon for people with narcissistic tendencies to experience other mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, anorexia nervosa, and substance misuse. These other issues, rather than narcissistic traits, often encourage people to seek therapy.
There are several approaches to dealing with narcissism, but therapy typically involves these essential steps:
identifying existing defense mechanisms
exploring reasons behind these coping methods
learning and practicing new patterns of behavior
exploring how behaviors affect others
examining connections between their internal voice and their treatment of others
The key to lasting progress often lies in:
helping someone see how positive change can benefit them helping them explore causes of narcissistic defenses without criticism or judgment offering validation
encouraging self-forgiveness and self-compassion to manage shame and vulnerability.
There are a few types of therapy that are particularly useful for dealing with narcissism.
Schema therapy, a newer approach to treatment shown to have benefit for treating narcissism, works to help people address trauma of early experiences that may have contributed to narcissistic defenses.
Other beneficial therapies include:
Mental toughness is about more than just having resilience and control in difficult situations. It relates to a psychological frame of mind that endorses confidence and commitment to success. In his book Developing Mental Toughness, the psychologist Peter Clough describes mental toughness as a combination of the following:
- The amount of control a person believes they have over their life and emotions;
- How much commitment is placed upon achieving goals despite hardship;
- Being able to see potential threats as opportunities for self-development;
- Continuing to strive in changing environments;
- The level of confidence a person has in succeeding despite setbacks.
Mental toughness levels are influenced by many different factors. While genetics are partly responsible, a person’s environment is also relevant. For example, both positive experiences while you’re young and mental toughness training programmes have been found to make people mentally tougher.