When you're going through narcissistic abuse recovery, you might want to find a good therapist. If so, you're obviously going to want one who is familiar with the topic of narcissistic abuse and also has a good understanding of narcissistic personality disorder and the extreme effects being involved with this sort of person can have on your entire life.
Research proves that the most effective therapy happens when the relationship between the client and the therapist is comfortable and where the client feels understood.
This is especially important for narcissistic abuse survivors, because so often, we are starved of any personal validation. We need to know that they "feel" us - feel me?
Ideally, schedule an in-person or telephone interview in advance - or schedule a single session to evaluate the therapist and whether he or she will be a good fit for you.
If you can only ask one question or you prefer to avoid the more direct approach, here's a quick way to find out if your therapist is familiar with narcissistic abuse recovery and narcissistic personality disorder.
Ask the therapist "What is your take on gaslighting? And how would you explain gaslighting to someone who hadn't heard of it before?"
I've had a lot of clients tell me that their therapists aren't familiar with that term, and if they're not, it's a really great sign that they don't know about it. I also suggest, if possible, that you find someone who has at least a bit of personal experience with emotional abuse - and if they have, they'll generally admit that to you.
How to Interview Your Therapist: 10 Questions to Help Determine if They Can Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
If you've got time for a full-on interview, here are some questions to consider.
2. Regarding your therapy style, do you lean more toward cognitive behavior therapy or digging into the deep psychodynamic root of the problem? If you want to start feeling better by treating symptoms and learning coping techniques, you want a therapist who is more CBT-based, but if you want to reach the root of the problem, you will want to dig into it with a psychodynamic-based therapy style. Ideally, you might want both - so a program that starts by treating the immediate pain and that leads to digging into the root causes as you go. A combined approach would probably be best for you as a narcissistic abuse survivor. It's good to understand how you got there so you won't be there again.
- Coach tip: If it fits in your budget, get a narcissistic abuse recovery coach along with your therapist. This way, you can focus on learning coping techniques and getting validation from a coach who understands where you are, as well as traditional therapy.
3. Are you more directive or more of a consultant? (Some therapists use really harsh "in your face" kinds of therapy and this is usually not good for survivors). You want to know if they're going to lead the sessions with a tight, planned structure or if they'll let you lead with whatever you're dealing with. I like the idea of a flexible session - so if you want to talk about a specific thing, it's okay to put your planned goals for the scheduled session on hold. (This is how I roll in coaching).
4. Have you ever helped someone like me before? Are you familiar with domestic violence and/or emotional abuse in relationships and what is your best piece of advice for recovering from this kind of trauma?
5. Do you offer phone check-ins or text support between sessions?
6. Will you give me advice if I ask for it specifically?
7. Will you give me assignments and/or coping techniques I can use between sessions for healing and managing during recovery?
8. Who is your ideal client?
9. Is our session completely confidential, or will you disclose details to my insurance company (or employer)?
10. Do you think you can help me?
The Most Important Part: Does it FEEL right?
During the interview, take notes on:
- How quickly you were able to feel comfortable with the therapist.
- Whether you felt rushed or if you were allowed to go at a comfortable pace.
- Whether the therapist seemed to "get" you from the start, or it took several attempts to help them see your point of view or perspective, or to understand what you were trying to explain.
- Whether you understood the responses clearly and comfortably.
- Whether you think you'd feel comfortable sharing your deepest secrets with this person.
My best tip? Go with your gut! Use your intuition! Since you might be an empath, pay attention to how the therapist makes you FEEL. You should feel comfortable and not feel the need to hide who you are in any way from this person. You should not feel "judged," just safe.