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How Couples Counseling can Help a Narcissist

Dr. David B Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center shares how individual counseling with NPD is rarely effective. Rather, a combination of individual and couples counseling is the best way to work with these individuals with character issues.

How Couples Counseling can Help a Narcissist

Dealing with narcissists and individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be challenging for those involved in relationships with them. While some may have severe symptoms of NPD, others fall on the spectrum with milder or moderate traits. If you find yourself caring about and choosing to remain in a relationship with someone exhibiting NPD traits, couples counseling can be a valuable resource. This article explores how a combination of individual and couples counseling can assist in addressing the challenges posed by a narcissistic partner.

Understanding the Spectrum

Before delving into the benefits of couples counseling, it’s crucial to acknowledge the range of narcissistic behaviors exhibited by your partner. While extreme cases of NPD may require separation for personal well-being, mild to moderate symptoms offer an opportunity for growth and change within the relationship.

The Alternative Approach

Contrary to the advice you may receive from other therapists, this article suggests an alternative approach to dealing with a partner with NPD traits. Rather than encouraging separation, it advocates for a combination of individual and couples counseling as an effective strategy for fostering personal and relational growth.

The Limitations of Individual Counseling

Sending a partner with NPD traits to individual counseling alone may not yield the desired results. These individuals often lack self-awareness and fail to recognize their character flaws. Consequently, they may project blame onto their partners during individual therapy sessions. Without the context provided by couples counseling, therapists may be unable to fully comprehend the dynamics at play.

The Power of Couples Counseling

Combining individual and couples counseling provides a comprehensive approach to address the complexities of a relationship with a narcissistic partner. Couples counseling offers an environment where the true character defects of the narcissist become evident. It is within this setting that therapists observe manipulative behaviors, victim-playing, blame-shifting, and other issues.

Revealing the Character Defects

Unlike individual therapy, couples counseling allows therapists to witness firsthand how the narcissistic partner interacts with their significant other. It becomes apparent how the narcissist struggles with empathy, engages in blame-shifting, plays the victim, and finds it challenging to manage emotions. Couples counseling becomes the arena where the “junk” surfaces, providing an opportunity for exploration and resolution.

The Importance of Individual Counseling

While couples counseling highlights the character defects and challenges, individual therapy remains an essential component of the healing process. Even if the narcissistic partner is initially resistant, their participation in individual counseling is vital to sustaining the relationship. It is within these individual sessions that therapists can work intensively on the character issues, fostering personal growth and change.

The Power Dynamics at Play

When confronted with the possibility of losing the relationship, narcissistic partners often become motivated to engage in therapy. They realize that the stakes are high and that they stand to lose their desired lifestyle, family, and stability. Recognizing this leverage, partners can assertively insist on couples counseling as a non-negotiable requirement for staying in the relationship.

Achieving Character Growth

Through a combination of individual and couples counseling, the narcissistic partner can embark on a journey of self-improvement. The therapy process allows for the exploration of cognitive distortions and thinking errors that disrupt relationships. With the guidance of an experienced therapist, there is potential for increased empathy, validation, active listening, and emotional regulation within the narcissistic partner.


Navigating a relationship with a narcissistic partner is undoubtedly challenging. However, by choosing a combination of individual and couples counseling, you can address the character flaws and cognitive distortions prevalent in narcissistic individuals. Seek out therapists who possess a deep understanding of narcissism and are committed to providing intensive and effective interventions. With the dedication of both partners and the guidance of skilled professionals, it is possible to foster personal growth and create healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

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: Why are Narcissists so Weak in Character?

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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