Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

Counseling change a Narcissist

Can Couples and Individual Counseling change a Narcissist?

Dr. David Hawkins, Director of The Marriage Recovery Center, shows that with intervention narcissists can change. It is only when we enable narcissistic behavior that it continues. So can couples and individual counseling change a narcissist? When decisive, definitive action is taken, which includes both couples and individual counseling, narcissists can learn to cultivate empathy, the ability to validate another’s point of view, and attend to their mate. Change IS possible with the right intervention!

Can Couples and Individual Counseling Change a Narcissist?

The topic of narcissism is a subject that has captured the curiosity and concern of many. The prevailing notion is that individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are untreatable, and the common advice is to run from such relationships to avoid emotional harm. However, it’s essential to recognize that narcissism exists on a spectrum, and not every individual with narcissistic traits or tendencies should be written off as irredeemable. In this article, we will explore the possibility of change for individuals with narcissistic traits through individual and couples counseling, challenging the conventional wisdom that advises immediate separation.

Understanding the Narcissism Spectrum:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder isn’t a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. It’s crucial to acknowledge the presence of narcissistic traits and tendencies in individuals. These traits can include entitlement, a lack of empathy, grandiosity, and thin-skinned emotional reactions. Understanding the spectrum of narcissism allows us to differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe cases. We are primarily focusing on those who have narcissistic tendencies or traits, rather than those with severe NPD.

Intervention: The Key to Change:

The fundamental premise of this discussion is that any problem, including emotional issues, persists without intervention. It is unreasonable to expect change without taking action. People can change, and suggesting that they are beyond help isn’t conducive to fostering growth and healing.

The Power of Intervention:

Intervention, in this context, means engaging with the individual who exhibits narcissistic traits with the aim of change. It involves telling them that you care about them, love them, and want to be in a relationship with them. However, this relationship is contingent on their commitment to a journey of change.

Couples Counseling for Narcissists: A Contrarian Perspective:

One of the most controversial ideas discussed in this article is the potential effectiveness of couples counseling for individuals with narcissistic traits. The conventional advice is to run away from such relationships, but there’s another approach.

Individuals with narcissistic traits, when confronted with the prospect of losing someone they care about, may be willing to embark on a journey of change. This journey often involves intensive couples counseling, which provides an opportunity to address the issues at the core of the narcissistic traits. The key to success here is intensive counseling, not just a one-hour session each week, which might lead to frustration and ultimately abandonment of the process.

The Components of Change:

In couples counseling, the focus is on addressing specific aspects of narcissistic behavior:

  1. Empathy Development: Narcissists often struggle with empathizing with their partners. The counseling process can teach and cultivate empathy, enabling them to understand and care about their partner’s thoughts and feelings.
  2. Confronting Grandiosity: Narcissists are often characterized by a sense of grandiosity and an inclination to dominate. In counseling, these tendencies are confronted decisively, encouraging humility and cooperation.
  3. Setting Boundaries: The partners of narcissists must set boundaries. Boundaries are crucial for their emotional well-being and the overall success of the relationship. Boundaries may involve emotional separation for a set period to encourage the narcissistic individual to recognize the need for change.
  4. Validation and Emotional Management: The narcissist learns how to identify, understand, and manage their own emotions while simultaneously acknowledging and validating their partner’s feelings.

The Role of Intensive Couples Counseling:

Intensive couples counseling, which involves longer and more frequent sessions, provides a structured environment for this journey of change. It’s in these extended sessions that real progress can be made. The intensive nature of these sessions allows for deeper exploration of issues and encourages commitment to the process.


The notion that individuals with narcissistic traits cannot change is overly simplistic. Change is possible, but it requires intervention and a commitment to a journey of personal growth. Couples counseling can be a powerful tool in facilitating this transformation, provided it is intense and structured.

It’s essential to remember that not all individuals with narcissistic tendencies are the same. They exist on a spectrum, and their capacity for change may vary. Ultimately, hope exists for those in relationships with narcissistic partners. Instead of running, consider an intervention for change.

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 Create Change in Your Marriage

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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