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How to Determine if your Narcissist can Change

Dr. David B. Hawkins, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Marriage Recovery Center, talks about how to determine if your Narcissist can change. He talks about the importance of defining the problem, determining the appropriate intervention, designing the intervention and diligently administering accountability.

How to Determine if your Narcissist can Change

Dealing with a narcissist can be a challenging and complex situation. The question of whether a narcissist can change is one that many individuals find themselves grappling with. While opinions on this matter vary, it’s important to approach the issue with clarity and careful consideration. In this article, we will explore four essential steps to help you determine if your narcissist can change.

Define the Problem

The first step in evaluating the potential for change in a narcissist is to define the problem clearly. Take the time to identify and list the specific behaviors that the individual exhibits, which bother you or cause distress. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the problem, you can better assess its severity and potential for improvement.

Consider whether the person displays narcissistic traits or shows signs of other personality disorders such as sociopathy or borderline traits. Understanding the nature of their behavior will provide valuable insight into the challenges you may encounter in asking whether a narcissist can change.

Determine the Appropriate Intervention

Once you have defined the problem, the next step is to determine the appropriate intervention. It’s crucial to recognize that change cannot occur without intervention. You need to take ownership of the issue and actively seek ways to address it. The level of intervention required will vary based on the severity of the narcissistic behavior and the individual’s willingness to change.

Interventions can range from weekly counseling sessions to more intensive approaches like personal therapy or participation in support groups such as Codependents Anonymous. Assess the situation carefully and consult with professionals if needed to determine the most suitable intervention for your circumstances.

Design the Intervention

After identifying the appropriate intervention, it’s essential to design a clear plan of action. Communicate your expectations to him and outline the specific steps he needs to take so your narcissist can change. Make it evident that your continued involvement in the relationship hinges on their participation in the intervention process.

For instance, you may require the individual to engage in intensive therapy or enroll in programs that address issues like substance abuse or codependency. The goal is to establish firm boundaries and ensure that enabling dysfunctional behavior is no longer an option. Keep in mind that the motivation for change often needs to come from external sources, as most narcissists are unlikely to recognize the need for change on their own.

Decision of Accountability

The final step in determining if a narcissist can change is holding them accountable for their actions. Establish clear guidelines and expectations for their behavior and monitor their progress closely. If the narcissist can change, he must understand that there will be consequences for failing to meet these expectations.

Develop a system that allows for rigorous accountability, including regular check-ins, goal-setting, and discussions about their progress. By maintaining accountability, you can evaluate their commitment to change and assess whether they are genuinely making an effort.


Navigating a relationship with a narcissist requires careful consideration and a realistic approach. While your narcissist can change, it may be challenging for those on the extreme end of the narcissistic spectrum, it is possible for those on the milder side. By following the four steps outlined in this article – defining the problem, determining the appropriate intervention, designing the intervention, and enforcing accountability – you can gain valuable insights into whether your narcissist is capable of change.

Ultimately, the decision to continue or end a relationship with a narcissist rests with you. By taking these steps, you will have a clearer understanding of whether the individual can genuinely transform their behavior. Remember, seeking guidance from professionals in the field can provide additional support and insights tailored to your specific circumstances.

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 Victims of Emotional Abuse Feel Anger?

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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