Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

Can a Narcissist Actually Change

Can a Narcissist Actually Change?

Dr. David B. Hawkins, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Marriage Recovery Center answers a common question: “Can a narcissist actually change?”. He talks about the Narcissist Spectrum and how you can determine if they can change.

Can a Narcissist Actually Change?

The topic of whether a narcissist can change is a complex and often debated one. Many individuals who have had troubling experiences with narcissists often question if there is any hope for change. In this article, we will explore this question and examine whether narcissists can truly transform their behaviors and attitudes. While there are varying opinions on this matter, it is essential to understand that it is not a black-and-white issue.

Understanding Narcissism

Before delving into the possibility of change, it is crucial to have a basic understanding of narcissism. Narcissistic individuals possess a grandiose sense of self-importance and a deep need for admiration. They often lack empathy and have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. They tend to manipulate and exploit others for personal gain, and they struggle to take responsibility for their actions.

Hope for Change

Despite the skepticism surrounding the potential for change in narcissists, there is evidence to suggest that some individuals with narcissistic traits can indeed undergo positive transformations. The director of the Marriage Recovery Center, who has worked extensively with narcissists, states that a significant percentage of them can make positive changes.

Recognizing Denial and Avoidance

Narcissists employ various strategies to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and to protect themselves from experiencing healthy shame. These strategies include blame-shifting, avoiding issues, making excuses, minimizing, sanitizing, and partialization. These defense mechanisms are rooted in denial, which stands for “don’t even notice I am lying to myself.” Denial hinders their ability to recognize the damage they have caused and inhibits their potential for change.

Interventions and External Motivation

Under the right conditions and with the assistance of a skilled intervention specialist, some narcissists can experience change. When their primary relationship is threatened, and their world is in jeopardy, there is a crack in their hardened ego and pride. This vulnerability can create external motivation for them to listen to outside counsel.

The Role of Intervention

Interventions play a crucial role in facilitating change in narcissists. By bringing an intervention to bear on the narcissist, there is a chance to break through their protective armor and address their attachment issues and broken relationships. This process requires the involvement of a trained clinician and an extended period of intensive work.

The Spectrum of Change

It is important to acknowledge that not all narcissists are treatable. Some individuals may be resistant to change despite interventions and external motivations. However, with the right intervention and significant time investment, many narcissists can experience transformation and develop a sense of healthy shame, leading to breakthroughs in their behaviors and attitudes.


The question of whether a narcissist can change is complex and multifaceted. While some may argue that there is no hope for change, evidence suggests that under specific conditions and with professional intervention, some narcissists can undergo a positive transformation. It is crucial to consider the individual’s willingness to change and the potential for external motivation. Ultimately, making informed decisions about bringing an intervention to bear and pursuing change requires careful consideration and a thorough understanding of the complexities involved.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How to Set Healthy Boundaries in a Relationship

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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