Narcissistic Abuse Sufferers Need Very Specialized Counseling
Written by Randi G. Fine, Author of Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery
As a professional counselor specializing in narcissistic abuse I have heard the same frustration expressed over and over by my clients. Nearly everyone who comes to me has first seen a psychologist, in some cases for several years. Many preface the comment by telling me that the therapist was very good, but go on to say that the root cause of their suffering was never addressed. Many are angry about the treatment they received.
Though I work with clients both nationally and internationally, they all seem to have the same complaints.
- They were encouraged to work things out with their abuser
- The true problem was glossed over
- They were encouraged to take responsibility for things they had no responsibility for
- They were shamed and blamed for not seeing their part in problems they did not cause
- When they didn’t make progress in the time the therapist thought they should they were told it was time to let go of the past and move on
- They felt as if their therapist thought they were imagining or exaggerating their experiences
- The therapist focused on finding and practicing strategies to decrease the patient’s symptoms without addressing the problem that caused them. Unable to accomplish the goal, the patient felt worse about themselves, not better.
- Their suffering never stopped, and in many cases was intensified
- They had no effective way to deal with their abuser
While the symptoms of narcissistic abuse are recognizable to clinically trained mental health professionals, the comprehensive syndrome caused by it, is often not.
All of the following can be symptoms of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome:
- Low self-esteem
- Avoidance behaviors
- Weight or eating issues
- Signs of physical abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, hyper-arousal, irritability, flashbacks, poor concentration, insomnia, nightmares, emotional numbing, memory loss, and heightened startle responses may also be experienced. C-PTSD (Complex PTSD), not yet recognized in the DSM-V and therefore clinically undiagnosable by licensed mental health professionals, often develops from prolonged exposure to trauma.
Narcissistic abuse sufferers often describe themselves as:
- Unable to cope
- Guilt ridden
- Unmotivated or uninterested
Involuntary coping mechanisms that contribute to narcissistic victim syndrome are:
- Infantile regression
- Stockholm syndrome, also known as trauma bonding
- Cognitive dissonance
- Magical thinking
Narcissistic abuse victims cannot be released from the frustrating emotional cycle they are trapped in without first receiving validation that what they experienced truly happened. First time clients always ask me if what they are saying makes sense. Due to the brainwashing and extreme tactics of psychological warfare used against them, they do not know if what they experienced was real or imagined. Narcissists train their victims to distrust their own perception.
As a survivor myself, one who has experienced the same chaos and confusion as those I counsel, I completely understand what they are saying. It makes perfect sense to me. No one can truly understand what it feels like to be victimized this way unless they have experienced it for themselves. This is not something that can be learned in school.
Equally important to their healing is the confirmation that the abuse had nothing to do with them. Narcissistic abuse victims are riddled with guilt. After being conditioned to shoulder the blame for everything they are their own worst enemies.
Narcissistic abuse is no less a victimization situation than any other crime. They were targeted. They didn’t cause it, they couldn’t see what was happening to them, they have no responsibility for it, and they could not have possibly known how to stop it.
Once they receive validation that they are not the crazy ones and understand that they bear no responsibility for what happened to them, they immediately experience a sudden relief. Repressed memories start bubbling up to the surface. Clarity gets restored. Within the next few days the grieving process kicks into gear.
I always prepare my clients for what they will experience in the week between their first session and their second so that when the grieving process begins they will recognize it as such.
In less than a year, often after only six months, my clients are feeling much better and thriving in their lives.
My book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing is the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. One of my primary goals for writing it is to teach mental health professionals how to recognize and treat this syndrome so they can help the hundreds of thousands of people currently suffering from it.
If you are a mental health professional you owe it to your patients to gain this crucial knowledge.