Narcissistic Psychotherapists-Identify Them and Keep Your Distance by Linda Martinez-Lewi

Wow…so true!

Narcissistic Psychotherapists-Identify Them and Keep Your Distance

There are many excellent psychotherapists who help individuals, couples and families to identify, work through and resolve psychological and emotional issues in an ethical and competent manner.

In this post I am speaking about narcissistic psychotherapists—including psychiatrists, psychologists and various counselors who have narcissistic personalities and can cause psychological and emotional harm to their clients. This is particularly the case if the client is in a chronic state of crisis, emotionally dependent, lives in continual fear of abandonment and has severe symptoms of clinical depression and/or anxiety. Some clients live in a state of mental confusion and are delusional in their thinking. These people are particularly vulnerable in the outside world. There are narcissistic therapists whose major goal is to create and expand their business empire. For them only the bottom line that matters—how many patients will pay them at the highest fees possible for their services. Some therapists keep clients for monetary gain over periods of years rather than referring them to a professional or group that can be helpful. .

To protect yourself from narcissistic psychotherapist, watch for these character traits and behaviors in your psychotherapist:

Poor eye contact. The therapist is distracted and restless.

Taking telephone calls or initiating them during a session.

Constant self reference–therapist talks about himself and his family rather than focusing on his patients

Pattern of changing appointment times

Therapist displays behaviors of grandiosity and extreme self entitlement

Therapist does not listen and is not attuned to the client’s feelings, thoughts, fantasies, fears, worries.

Therapist does not make himself/herself available during times of crisis

Argumentativeness and defensiveness–The therapist is always right; the patient is always wrong.

Therapist’s lack of empathy.

It doesn’t matter how many degrees, clinical internships, books authored or prestigious universities a psychotherapist has attended. With all of the perfect credentials a psychotherapist can still be a narcissist especially if this is a smooth well rehearsed convincing role.

To protect yourself from narcissistic psychotherapists, do your homework. Referrals from professional people whom you trust is important. This does not guarantee that this is the right therapist for you. Pay very close attention to your intuition. If you are getting the impression that this therapist has narcissistic issues, regardless of his/her educational and clinical experience, listen carefully to this message. Don’t respond to any pressure a psychotherapist places on you to enter treatment. Interview several therapists. You are hiring someone to work with and help you. You are in charge of this decision. There are many excellent psychotherapists who are highly competent, knowledgeable, clinically and personally fit and highly empathic. Visit my website:

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

Telephone Consultation: United States and International

Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life

Buy the book:amazon and amazon kindle edition




9 Responses

  1. My husband and I went for marriage counselling a few years ago and unfortunately encountered one of these therapists. It was almost 10 years ago and he was charging $250 per hour. This was a highly emotional time and I was definitely in crisis. We had very intense sessions that left me feeling kind of invaded and strange. Couldn’t put my finger on it. He also had no clocks in his office and when you are in a bad emotional state you are not always aware of the time. I would book and hour session with him but sometimes I would be there 2 or 3 hours and instead of gently saying time was up – he billed for it.

    As for my husband and I – well….he played one off the other. He would tell us not to discuss issues with each other. (We went to another therapist a few years later and asked if we were aloud to discuss these things with each other. She was shocked and said, “of course.”)! He also called me beautiful several times. He would stare and me and just say, “wow you’re gorgeous.” Bleh. On his website he even makes quotes……but he quotes himself!! He loved to write poetry and would share his prose with us…..endlessly. He would also hint at famous clients he had worked with. He did a lot of damage. 1 month and roughly 3K later we figured out he wasn’t the all knowing God he portrayed himself as. I

  2. Thank you for your article and helpful suggestions for identifying Narcissistic psychotherapists. I am hoping you won’t mind me adding something to your list of red flags. After having experienced the worst emotional abuse I have ever experienced at the hands of a psychologist I had taken my two young children to for counseling, I have found that the red flags are sometimes very hard to see. In my situation, the abusive therapist was not overtly abusive at first. In fact, he spent quite a long time earning my trust so that when the red flags started to pop up, I quieted them because I thought I knew and could trust the therapist. By the time I refused to see this therapist anymore, I was so confused about what actually happened and believed that I was somehow to blame for the abuse. It wasn’t until I learned what Narcissistic Abuse was that I could stop reliving the trauma looking for something I might have missed to make all of what happened make sense. These types of therapists are good at hiding who they are and even better and making the client feel responsible for the destructive relationship. It did not help that so little is widely known about this type of abuse. The therapist I began to see after the abusive one was supportive, but she didn’t identify the abuse as Narcissistic Abuse at first. It wasn’t until I found TELL ( and found other victims who did know what this type of abuse was that I began to understand what really happened.The book “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity” was one of the most important keys to me no longer reliving what happened searching for something I had missed that could have prevented the deterioration of the relationship. For me, the abuse itself was horrendous. However, the nearly year long search after it ended trying to understand what happened was even worse. I truly wish more people were talking about this type of abuse. The lack of awareness makes it so much more destructive for victims. Thank you for helping to increase the awareness about this type of abuse.

  3. Why aren’t licensing boards doing more to prevent therapists like this from practicing? If it isn’t a secret that there are therapists like this out there and it is well documented that they can cause significant harm to clients, why aren’t licensing boards doing more to stop them? When I filed a complaint against my abusive therapist to the state licensing board (it was a 15 point ethical complaint jointly filed by my current therapist and me), I had hundreds of email messages I gave the board. I had so much documentation showing what had happened. However, I was basically told that because nothing “physical” took place, it would be too hard to prove. I didn’t even have a therapist prior to the abusive one! The board didn’t look into that part at all. I really struggled with basically being told that as long as he didn’t touch me, everything else he did could somehow be rationalized and explained away as psychotherapy! I know psychology isn’t that much of an inexact science. I mean, are we saying that the only way a surgeon can be held accountable for screwing up is if he does something harmful to the patient that is not related to surgery (for example, the surgeon could only be sanctioned if he accidentally ran me over with his car in the parking lot of the hospital)? You seem to understand that that this type of abuse is happening and that it is seriously harming clients. Why isn’t this being addressed by the licensing boards?

    • It seems that Licensing has little to do with protecting the public, it’s all about the money. States collect licensing fees and the therapist pays income tax. It’s truly scary the way the boards view these scenarios! Within their own professional groups they are completely supported by their “peers”. I did find that the ABECSW took my case seriously and dropped the therapist from their membership when he had “falsified” some paperwork he had submitted to them.
      Dealing with a screwed up therapist might just have you seeing you’re ok!

      • Thank you WisdomOverTime. I should add that I didn’t stop trying to protect others from this monster after the board dismissed the case. I contacted the APA, my state legislators, my Governor, the Ohio Attorney General and the Ohio Inspector General. With the exception of the Ohio Inspector General, the response was basically that nothing could be done, the board operates with no oversight. The Ohio Inspector General is investigating, but I don’t know that they can really do anything. I also contacted the professional groups with which the abusive therapist has memberships to let them know that a complaint was filed, but that it was completely dismissed. I asked if they wanted to review it themselves. One group pretty much ignored me and the other at least took a small piece of the complaint to their own ethics committee before deciding they could do nothing more. The state licensing board completely set the tone. The part that really got me was the lengths the board of psych went to try protect the abusive therapist. I still to this day have no idea what my diagnosis was, what the treatment plan was for me or what the therapist was yelling, cursing and throwing things about the last time I saw him. The notes my subsequent therapist received lacked a diagnosis, treatment plan and the clinical notes were illegible. The executive director of the board told me I am not allowed to see any of the clinical notes the abusive therapist gave them. And this is very odd since whatever he gave them was enough for them to dismiss the serious complaint my previous therapist and I filed. You would think they would want me to know why he wasn’t really trying to hurt me. The board also failed to notify the Ohio Board of Insurance regarding billing fraud. A victim’s advocacy group told me that I the board of insurance should have been involved, so I contacted them. I also held off seeking legal action for fear that it would hurt the board of pysch’s case against the therapist. At one point I finally just asked the board if it would hurt their case if I at least sought legal counsel and the director got very short with me and said I was making him uncomfortable. I told him that wasn’t my intent, but that I had never needed to seek legal counsel ever in my life and I wasn’t sure if it would hurt what they needed to do. I told him I wasn’t even sure if I had a statute of limitations to be concerned about and he said that I did not. However, the victims advocacy group kept insisting I contact an attorney because that didn’t sound right. By the time I finally did what they suggested (still worried I could somehow harm the boards case) I was told I was less than 2 weeks away from the statute running out. No one would take my case because of it. The whole mess with the board- something that should have helped me bring closure and perhaps even get some understanding of whether the therapist was trying to help me (as he had insisted) or kill me (the way it felt to me)- frankly re traumatized me. For victims of this kind of abuse, being able to hear their abuser lie about what happened is one of the most helpful ways to see through the gaslighting they frequently endure. I was denied this. My journey to healing was unnecessarily agonizing for so many reasons. And yes, I do still lay awake at night thinking about the other innocent people who are at risk because this therapist is free to keep doing this. In fact, I think he may even have the board’s blessing. They seem to do a lot of covering up for him with what happened with me.

      • Feel free to post here!
        Your story sounds much like mine. In a field where therapists can always asign any diagnostic label in a courtroom (having inserted it into their “notes”, …at any time…. which is then taken as “truth” by a jury, it can indeed be a hazardous place for the client! Many therapists, but not all, have very deep problems that they have never dealt with….unfortunately they don’t come with a “warning label”.

      • Don’t forget you can publish anything you want, including the therapists name, without threat of libel or slander providing you can back up your statements with verifible proof.

  4. I am not sure that is accurate. The “threat” of being sued is not always based on what can and can’t be proven. A person can seek legal recourse for a variety of reasons. Defending myself against such action, even if I know I have nothing to hide, is not I want to be forced to do (and at one heck of a price tag). I do appreciate your response to my message. However, I am not quite certain who you are and that makes it difficult for me to trust the accuracy and validity of your statements. I would imagine you can understand my concern.

    • I do understand.Putting the facts out there where others can see they are not alone in their plight with “disturbed therapists” can be therapeutic for you and for others.
      Legally, something is not libel or slander if it can by proven by hard cold facts. Sadly much of what happens behind closed doors with a therapist can not be proven. Even if a therpist touched a client inappropriately and without leaving a trace of evidence….there is no proof. They will deny anything and everything that ever happened. Without proof beyond a reasonable doubt a lawsuit will not be won.
      The only way to avoid these issues is to record the sessions with the therapist…something that most therapists will not allow.
      I can say this…I will never step foot in the office of a therapist again. You do not know what your getting!
      You will recover… and discover the strength you had inside you all along!

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