The majority of mental health professionals go into the field to change the world for the better. They seek to help their clients, not to destroy their sense of self. A good, trauma-informed counselor can make a profound difference in an abuse survivor’s life and can help immensely with healing.

Yet, like in every industry, even the healing field is not immune to having narcissistic professionals. In fact, since this field is filled with vulnerable people reaching out for aid, it makes sense that predators would lurk there too, looking for vulnerable individuals to prey on. Toxic therapists like these can further retraumatize victims of abuse and trauma.

As Professor Glenys Parry, thechief investigator of the Adverse Effects of Psychological Therapies study, notes, Most people are helped by therapy, but anything that has real effectiveness, that has the transformative power to change your life, has also got the ability to make things worse if it is misapplied or it’s the wrong treatment or it’s not done correctly.”

Those who are narcissistic go into this profession for disturbingly different reasons: they are looking for sources of narcissistic supply (sources of attention, power, entertainment, and ego-stroking praise). Narcissistic therapists are the ultimate covert wolves in sheep’s clothing, donning a false mask of sincerity and altruism all while enjoying the control and power they have over their clients. Unlike ethical therapists, they abuse their authority to gaslight, invalidate, and terrorize those who are already wounded.

Ill-informed Therapist or Narcissistic Therapist?

As an author who has corresponded with thousands of abuse survivors, I’ve written before about invalidating therapists and how they differ from trauma-informed therapists who understand the dynamics of covert abuse. However, narcissistic therapists take toxicity and invalidation to a whole new level. Unlike ill-informed therapists who inadvertently invalidate their clients due to a lack of knowledge, narcissistic therapistsintentionally and maliciously invalidate you to gaslight you further. Why? Because they have an agenda of dismissing, minimizing, and enabling abusive behavior for nefarious reasons which have more to do with supporting their own character disorder.

Therapists who may not be knowledgable about covert abuse can still have empathy for others and have the capacity to learn and evolve; narcissistic therapists, however, mirror the same form of manipulation tactics as the survivor’s original abuser. They possess the same kind of callous lack of remorse and excessive sense of entitlement as narcissistic individuals in relationships exhibit. What’s more, they possess the power and authority to target at-risk and especially vulnerable populations with their mind games.

I’ve heard more than a few horror stories from survivors of toxic therapists who not only invalidate them, but actually participate in abusive behavior. I’ve also heard from survivors who have dated and have had intimate ties with therapists who were covert abusers behind closed doors. As survivor Marnie tells me, “I dated a narcissistic psychotherapist for 14 months. He emotionally abused me and at the end, he beat me up.” Another survivor, Leslie, confirmed, “My ex-husband is a narcissist, therapist, and former pastor.” Survivor Peg says, “Both my ex in-laws were marriage and family therapists – and total narcissists.” These are chilling reminders that credentials and even a seemingly stellar public reputation cannot make up for an appalling lack of character.

Some narcissistic therapists go as far as to continue their horrific deeds in the therapy space with already traumatized clients. It is very important that when you seek a counselor, you find someone who is compatible with you and your needs. This means finding a therapist who is trauma-informed, validating, ethical, empathic,knowledgeable about emotional abuse, and someone who has integrity. Knowing the red flags of a narcissistic therapist can save you energy, time, and money from investing in another potential predator.

Here are five signs you may be dealing with a narcissistic therapist:

Perhaps the most telling sign you might be dealing with a therapist on the narcissistic spectrum is their continual violation of boundaries. For example, I’ve heard from more than a few survivors of malignant narcissists regarding couples therapists who violated boundaries by engaging in sexual affairs with the narcissistic partner in question.

As a therapist, there are certain boundaries one should not cross with clients. Clients have a right to humane care and treatment. They also have a right to their privacy, to confidentiality, to autonomy, their emotions, to participate actively in their own treatment, and the ability to get a second opinion. When a therapist violates and oversteps boundaries, becoming enmeshed with their client’s lives to further control or micromanage them in unhealthy ways, this is unethical and destructive behavior.According to Dr. Disch, Good, boundaried psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, addiction counseling, bodywork, and medical practice, should always be oriented to your emotional and medical needs and not to the emotional needs of the practitioner.

An unethical therapist may cross boundaries by causing their clients to become unhealthily dependent upon them. They might monopolize their client’s sessions by only talking about themselves and sharing inappropriate personal information. They may make a habit of inserting themselves into their client’s personal lives outside of the therapy space. They might gaslight them and emotionally shame them for their perceptions and emotions. They may financially exploit them by overcharging for sessions or charging their insurance in cases where there haven’t been any sessions. Even more horrifically, they may even crossboundaries by sexually abusing their clients.

According to attorney John Winer, partner at Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, who specializes in therapist abuse cases, this breach of boundaries often occurs when one trespasses what is known as “the therapeutic container.” He writes:

The therapeutic container is a term that refers to the way that psychotherapy is supposed to be practiced, that is, except in cases of analysis, the therapist should be sitting a reasonable distance away from the patient; there should be no physical contact other than a handshake or an occasional non-sexual hug; sessions should last for set periods of time and should occur in the office; there should be no intentional contact with the patient outside of the therapy office. This allows therapy to be contained.

A therapist must also maintain his or her boundaries at all times. This means that the therapy must be focused at all times on the patient, the patients problems and not the therapist. The therapist should not reveal any intimate information about himself or herself to the patient, and the therapist should not engage in any type of business, sexual, social or personal relationship with the patient other than psychotherapy. When a therapist fails to act in the above manner, it is a considered a breach of boundaries.”

As one survivor, Becky, shares with me, “I have been unfortunately emotionally and sexually abused by a narcissistic therapist. It completely destroyed my life and I still work extremely hard daily to rebuild my life all over again. It was absolutely devastating to go to someone for help when you are vulnerable, only for them to do you more harm and leave you more traumatized than what you were before seeing them.”

Another survivor, Lois, tells me a harrowing account of how her narcissistic therapist eroded her boundaries and later tried to sabotage her wedding. As you read her story below, pay special attention to the appalling sense of entitlement this therapist exhibits, her need to paint a narrative that she is the sole source of happiness for her client, and her continual disruption of Lois’ special moments with her husband and other family members as she inserts herself into the narrative each and every time. Narcissistic individuals cannot stand when anything or anyone comes between them and their victims. They sabotage your special occasions and make themselves the center of attention by manufacturing chaos and engaging in theatrics. Their need to control, isolate, and demean others is extreme and their ability to persistently trample upon the boundaries of others to meet their own egotistical needs is nothing short of bizarre.

Survivor Story: Lois

“My former therapist, after eight years, started becoming incredibly abusive. She started by taking our relationship to a more personal level.She offered me clothes of hers to borrow for events I said I had coming up.She gave me backhanded compliments when I tried anything on.Things like,I knew that would look great on you.Its too big for me now, since I lost so much weight, but I knew it would be perfect on you. But everything changed once I got engaged.She became controlling and possessive.Id share my wedding planning details with her and I never showed her one thing that she approved of or said anything nice about. She would make comments like:Your dress neckline is way too low.It looks like lingerie.I hope youre not wearing your hair like that.The bow at the base of your neck from the headband needs to be woven into your hair.You need to be wearing pearls.Youre a bride.Dont worry, I have some you can borrow.Theyll be your something borrowed.

She also attended my wedding in November and her atrocious behavior there is what made me know for sure I cannot go back to her ever again. My husband and I did a first look so we saw each other before she even got there and took photos.When she found out he and I had already seen each other, she went crazy.That’s not how it’s done! You ruined it now!” she shouted. This was our wedding and what we wanted. Fast forward to the reception, at a restaurant. Shearrived and gave me a filthy look because she was not seated at my table with my family and my husbands family.

Later, a song came on that was the song my husband and I danced to in the kitchen the first time we made dinner together.We didnt have a DJ. The fact that this song came on was totally random.When we heard it, my husband grabbed me and started dancing with me and singing it softly to me, and I was so overwhelmed with love and happiness, I started crying.It was a really tender moment.Then comes my therapist, watching me like a hawk and seeing me crying, pushing in between me and him and grabbing my face.Breathe, breathe, its okay, I am here now.I am here,” she said. I was livid.I just pulled away from her and kept saying I was fine.I didnt want to scream at my own reception and cause a scene. Before the ceremony started, my brother was waiting outside the room for everyone to leave.Our dad died, and he wanted a moment alone with me before the ceremony.He was walking me down the aisle and he wanted to give me something of my dads to carry and just take a minute with his baby sister before she got married.

My therapist went out and told him to go and leave me be and that I needed five minutes to myself. I heard from several people that night that she went around and told them, Look around.See this whole wedding?This is only happening because of me.I am the reason she was able to get even get married.If it werent for me, she wouldnt have any of this. I got married last year.I have not spoken to my former therapist since and I have not been back to see her.And I wont. Idont know if shes in love with me, or considers me her child, but I can tell you 100% certainty that I never in a million years thought shed act that way to me.If I had any clue, I wouldve stopped seeing her professionally long ago and wouldve never invited her to my wedding.”

Just like any narcissist, a narcissistic therapist will lack empathy for your pain. They may, in fact, mock, invalidate, and even delight in your pain depending on where they are on the spectrum. They might provoke your pain by insulting you or treating you with contempt. Empathy is the cornerstone of the therapeutic alliance. You simply cannot provide help to someone when you lack the ability to empathize, nor can you build the solid foundation of trust needed to be fully vulnerable and authentic in the therapy space. When you emotionally invalidate your client’s trauma, force them to prematurely forgive their abusers without processing that trauma, or even attempt to rationalize the abuse they’ve experienced, you’ve done them a great disservice. Trauma survivors benefit greatly from the empathy of an ethical professional; they are re-traumatized when they are met with the callous lack of it from unethical professionals.


“I went to my narcissistic therapist twice and she shamed and yelled at me for crying. She was just like my narcissistic mother. And, I came to her when I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown. My husband called her to tell her that I would not return, and she yelled at him and called him an enabler.” Stephanie

“I had a therapist tell me once that maybe I was ‘reaping what I had sown’ because perhaps I had done this to someone (i.e. emotionally abused them) in a past life. He went on to say that if I could accept the abuse as the lesson I was put on earth to learn, then it would be so liberating for me.”Wendy

“I had a horrid counselor that sided with my oh so perfect perpetrator. When I was in tears about my cat’s unexpected death, she said Geez! Its just a cat, siding and sympathizing with my perpetrator on what a ridiculous person he had to deal with being married to me. I was devastated.”Kymberlie

“I had an emergency counseling session with a lovely lady and she had scheduled a follow-up. When I went back, unbeknownst to me, she had called in sick that day and I was put in a little room with another woman that I didn’t know. She proceeded to ask me all the same questions I had at my initial session which upset me because I had to rehash all of the trauma and I had been happy to talk with the first woman who seemed to be a good fit. I mentioned my discomfort and confusion and she ignored me, continuing to ask the same questions. Finally, after she was done, her assessment of me was, “The symptoms you have are very adolescent like what I usually see in teenagers, so maybe you better address that.”

Needless to say, I was quite let down by the whole experience and didn’t get the proper help for trauma and EMDR therapy for three to four years afterward. I should also mention that the psychiatrist only knew me for 30 minutes and spent no other time diagnosing or getting any more information put me on the equivalent of what I would consider a horse tranquilizer amount of an older type of anti-depressant to the point I couldn’t even stand up without feeling like I was going to pass out. All is well now but I learned to really use some discernment when finding mental health help.”Kate

When someone enables an abuser or justifies their abuse, they should be automatically held as suspect in your eyes. Why? Because abusers tend to support other abusers and paint their victims as the perpetrators.It’s no mystery why a narcissistic therapist would actively participate in the gaslighting of a victim of abuse and even go so far as to support the abuser in their client’s lives. Narcissists see themselves in other narcissists and seek to enable them and their behavior for their own agendas. They may gaslight you further by using their authority to misdiagnose you, gang up on you in couples therapy sessions, or even lie for the narcissistic abuser and corroborate their falsehoods.

As one survivor, Robert, eloquently noted, “Many abuse victims will be confronted by therapists who fabricate the idea that their patients must have provoked the abuse and contributed to it somehow, which is frankly the same form of intellectually bankrupt line of reasoning abusers use to sadistically demean their victims. They depict the victim as abuser, diagnose the victim as thedeceiver, then act in kind with suspicion about everything the victim says, believing that all recounting of events must be half-truths. Before you know it, you are yet again a victim – this time to a therapist’s abuse which you never consented to. It is a perverted wielding of their title as doctor. Not all therapists do this, of course, but enough to raise the alarm.”


“I had two narcissistic therapists. They live in the same city and state where I lived with my now ex-fianc abuser. They were aware of his physical abuse, psychological abuse, cheating, neglect of his child, and one of the therapists diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder when I met her once, while I was falling apart due to the miscarriage I had with his child – and he couldnt have cared less. She is a marriage and family therapist, a friend of his and should have her license revoked. The second therapist sent a written letter to the court for our hearing over my requested restraining order, stating that he was safe and responsible, and I was unstable and a liar. I had also only met this therapist twice, and both therapists believed his manipulation and lies. There are so many screwed up people working in psychology. Victim shamers who glorify abusers. Such a shame.” Abbey

“I saw my narcissistic therapist for 2 years. My childrens dad had acourt order at the time. These two narcissists would gang up on me – the therapist believed all my narcissistic ex-partner said to him and in one session, I got up to walk out and the therapist was making a “cuckoo” sign around his head like shes nuts!Meanwhile, I dont use drugs, I am a productive citizen and my kid’s dad joins in on a session to try to get back home after he had a DUI. As soon as the court order was dropped, he stopped therapy sessions. I never went back, I was so hurt and betrayed. I had seen him first for so long and in one month they basically abused me together and laughed at me.” Sharon

“I am a therapist myself, and a few years ago when with my narcissist, he found us a marriage therapist. This guy was a new therapist and totally untrained in spotting narcissistic or emotional abuse. He overidentified with my abuser, joined in on the gaslighting, and made the feeling that I was losing my mind even worse. He suggested EMDR for me rather than identifying the narcissist’s symptoms.

When I pointed out the stonewalling, isolating me from my friends, and lack of empathy, he turned it all around on me. Hed make comments like, Youll understand this better if you ever do work with couples someday, and was constantly dismissing and one-upping my clinical expertise. I had 20+ years of being an LCSW compared to his 3 years. I am convinced that it made my situation much worse and that he at minimum had narcissistic features, if not NPD himself. When I mentor and train therapists now, I make sure they know all about narcissistic abuse because its the most common form of abuse I see, yet our clinical training barely covers it.” Paula

“I had one, yes. She turned on me and wrote a letter for the court for my ex to gain custody. She lied in the letter. Luckily, the court didnt accept it as evidence because she didnt come in person to be cross-examined. She was another flying monkey for my ex.” Giclee

“My narcissistic mother’s therapist wrote me a letter saying I’d regret having gone no contact once she passed away. I reported her to the state licensing board.”Jane

“The therapist on base in the United States Air Force gave me a false diagnosis and praised my narcissist. They screwed up trying to protect their “active duty serviceman.” My terrible position was made worse, by this one officer especially. An officer on call came to help me when I went to the unit control center for extreme anxiety and depression about six years ago. This was all from the narcissistic abuse cycle. I went in for the goal of getting some short-term help because I thought I was driving my husband crazy. The captain came in over an hour after being called to base.

The entire time she sat there, she made the conversation about her, her rank, her education, her having to make a trip to base for me. I checked out of the conversation. She took notice and went on to punish me by taking out an abuse case against me, which stated I was abusing my narcissist. I had gone in for help and it was all used against me because this lady did not want to do her job. This case risked my job, my home, and my life. I was already extremely depressed and to go in and have everything thrown back in my face was excruciating. I did get off the hook, but my narcissist had to help by writing a statement to clear me. And we all know he did it to appear as the white horse.”Kate

“My narcissistic foster mom is a hypnotherapist. I became part of her family when I was 5. She counsels people in her bed and breakfast style home. She has tried to treat me with hypnotherapy before but I cannot relax around that woman, nor is it ethical to treat your own child. She talked to my therapists growing up and had me falsely diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and claimed I had multiple personalities so I wouldn’t trust myself growing up. Now I am 34 and learning about myself all over again after I went no contact at age 32. I’ve healed and grown a lot but still a long way to go. I have a lovely therapist now who only talks to me.” Molly

“When I went into the foster care system at the age of 17,I was assigned a counselor. My mother was also assigned a counselor. My stepfather, an abuser, was on his way out of the picture and certainly would not have gone to counseling.I was very well trained to be polite and agreeable in those days. And, in spite of my life experience, I desperately needed to believe that other people were not evil, malicious or even just manipulative. So I had some rose-colored glasses that I put on once in a while when I didn’t want to look too closely at a potentially bad situation. Looking back, I think I was just fascinating to those two counselors. They pulled out all the stops – the Keirsey sorter, hypnosis, etc. They began asking me more pointed questions about my mother and our relationship. Her relationship with her dad (my grandad who is a saint).

I finally started opening up, giving details, talking about my mom (warts and all). Then I get to my next visit with my mom and she is furious. When we got in the car she cut loose and said, “Your grandad is the best man on this planet! Why would you tell anyone that he abused me? He has never abused anyone! You are a liar. I think you made up the story about your dad (stepdad) and on and on.” I eventually asked her to take me back to the foster home.As it turns out – her counselor was my counselor’s husband! I never said my grandad was abusive – they did. He IS a great man.

In one fell swoop, my unethical counselors derailed my court case against my abusive stepfather – he only got 6 months in jail. And that was only because he was stupid enough to get caught stalking me. My relationship with my mom deteriorated even further, leading her to sabotage me in court. And then, because the impropriety became a known thing, the state decided to release me from counseling. I needed that. I just needed it from an ethical counselor. This was all over twenty years ago.So yes, I survived. I even learned how to thrive. But those two counselors have left me very skeptical of the mental health profession.”Lacyanne

Narcissistic therapists are very much like cult leaders. Healthy therapists encourage you to consult other perspectives and to cultivate a support system outside of the therapy space. Unhealthy ones want to create a one-man cult. They do not want you to have access to outside support or to those who may challenge their authority and guru-like status. That is why they make sure to isolate you from your loved ones and anyone who threatens their control over you and your psyche. A toxic therapist is one who will discourage you from consulting other perspectives, getting a second opinion, or getting support from anyone else but him or her. This enables the narcissistic therapist to wield complete and utter power over every facet of your life as you become increasingly dependent on them. You develop a sense of learned helplessness as there is no one else there to validate or support you on your journey or to guide you to resist the therapist’s gaslighting attempts.

As Dr. Neuharth points out, a narcissist is very much like a cult leader in how he or she ensures their victim is in an intellectual bubble of sorts, filtering out any information that threatens to overtake, undermine or compete with the narcissistic guru’s views. He writes, “Outsiders {in a cult} are viewed as dangerous or enemies. This turns the member’s focus outward, reducing the chances they will spot problems within the cult. In addition, viewing others as enemies is used to justify extreme actions because of thedangers outsiders pose…shame, guilt, coercion, and appeals to fear keep members in line. Members are led to discount their instincts and intuition and told to seek answers from the leader or cults teachings. Overtime, members can lose touch with their previous habits and values.”


“One of my brothers was married to a narcissistic therapist. He and I were very close and then she sent me a nasty letter full of projections. She had come to me with problems they were having, then went to him and lied, saying that I was bad-mouthing him. Ultimately she was threatened by how close we were. She alienated him from anyone who made her feel threatened. She lied and twisted things, playing the victim, making everyone responsible for keeping her happy. Shes very beautiful and charming but devoid of empathy and extremely underhanded and manipulative. I hear they are divorced now and he refers to her as vindictive. I hear she has a blog about therapy the right way,” which is typical. She only knows one way to be and to do and it is always the right way. The rest of us mere mortals cant seem to get it right without following her lead.”

Narcissistic therapists believe they have the final say on everything and possess a false, inflated sense of superiority over others. They misuse their authority and power by haughtily criticizing others and looking down at others with contempt. They believe they are all-knowing and are unable to consider other points of view. They focus extensively on your perceived flaws and shortcomings – not to help you improve or to gently see a different perspective, but to subtly shame you, bully, and manipulate you for having feelings and thoughts of your own. This causes you to become dependent on them for approval and validation, instilling in you a persistent sense of self-doubt and uncertainty about what you are experiencing and who you truly are. Destructive criticism like this only delays the healing process, causing retraumatization, deteriorating mental health, and a low sense of self-worth.


“I worked with a therapist for 12 months who displayed all the hallmarks of a narcissistic personality. She had a grandiose sense of self (in her capacity as a therapist) and was haughty and defensive when she perceived her grandiose self-image was challenged. I discharged her services due to her lack of working knowledge, experience in, and embodied understanding of complex trauma. In our final session, I brought two letters, one informing her I was terminating therapy, respectfully explaining the reasons for my decision. Upon reading the letter, she became emotionally dysregulated and proceeded to pathologize me, telling me all that was wrong with me, and blaming me for the therapy failing.

Her dysregulation culminated in her swearing at me when I asked her about her qualifications. Her response to me was, “Now youre just being a b*tch.” Soon after, she ordered me to leave halfway through a 50-minute session. In the following days, she did not bother to follow up to see how I was or to offer any restorative action. Being deeply disturbed by her actions, and particularly for her lack of follow up, I submitted a complaint with an organization that supports survivors of childhood trauma, as she is on their referral list of recommended therapists.

In her response to my complaint, my therapist denied her actions and claimed I had been abusive to her. In the notes about the complaint process I later accessed, she said the letters Id given her were abusive, which they werent. She also lied about me through omission as well as explicitly. Her clinical notes were extremely pathologizing, making me out to be highly dysfunctional as she implied I was personality disordered. I have worked with five therapists, and none of their clinical notes agree with her assessment of me.”

Denial, hypercriticism and gaslighting like this are all common tactics used by narcissistic abusers, and narcissistic therapists are no exception. As former division president of the American Counseling Association and counselor Kimberly Key writes, ”A good therapist or counselor helps you find your strengths. They feed your resilience and they focus on your core strengths which will help you overcome difficulties. If a therapist or counselor is constantly picking at your wounds and leading you down a rabbit hole of eternal analysis to the point where you feel like you can’t function in life because you need an analytical fix, there is danger…the bottom line is to pay attention to your intuition. If something feels awry with your therapist or counselor, leave. Don’t let them bully or manipulate you. Therapists and counselors are human beings. Just like every profession, there are good ones, mediocre ones and horrible ones. Stay away from the horrible ones.”

The Big Picture

Having a validating, empathic professional on your healing journey can be life-saving and essential. It is important, however, to conduct thorough interviews in your search for a trauma-informed therapist and to trust your instincts. Look out for red flag behaviors and any violations of boundaries. The right therapist can make a positive difference; the wrong therapist can, at best invalidate and retraumatize you, and at worst, become another one of your abusers.


Boseley, S. (2014, May 26). Misjudged counseling and therapy can be harmful, study reveals. Retrieved March 04, 2019, from

Disch, E. (2015, January 01). Treatment Abuse Checklist. Retrieved March 04, 2019, from

Key, K. (2011, April 11). Is Your Therapist Re-Traumatizing You? Retrieved March 04, 2019, from

Neuharth, D. (2017, April 13). 14 ways narcissists can be like cult leaders. Retrieved March 04, 2019, from

Winer, J. D. (2018, July 17). Therapist Abuse And Malpractice FAQ. Retrieved March 04, 2019, from

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