Exploring sexual histories of our clients, and links to current issues impacting sex and intimacy in their lives, is crucial to a robust clinical conceptualization and treatment formulation. But it can be an uncomfortable endeavor for many therapists. Add to that… the toxic shame, self-righteous entitlement, denial, and arrogance of a narcissistic client (or client’s other) with a hypersexual coping mode, and treatment gets even more difficult and complex.
Treating the narcissistic client involves helping them get their early unmet needs met, including the need for unconditional love and acceptance, empathy, and tolerance for frustration and limits. The therapist is often challenged to clinically confront the client’s bullying, critical, and approval-seeking modes, as well as the annihilating shame that follows a partner’s discovery of their discrete sexual activities. Clients with strong narcissistic personality traits can default into hypersexual, detached stimulating-seeking modes where they become involved in excessive sexual preoccupation: use of pornography, cyber-sexual relationships, prostitutes, affairs, underground sadomasochism clubs, or other types of eroticism. Intimacy suffers and the offended partner becomes burdened by the trauma of betrayal, i.e., living with the perpetrator of their pain. Refurbishing trust is a challenging but achievable goal when the leverage is high enough and when both parties are willing to engage in treatment individually (and conjointly, when appropriate).
Informed by Schema Therapy… with integrated interpersonal, emotion- focused, gestalt, and cognitive-behavioral strategies, along with the power of the therapy relationship, therapists are poised to address the narcissist’s maladaptive coping style by correcting the biased messages imbedded in their early emotional experiences, in order to meet early unmet needs. Treating betrayed clients involves stabilization, validation, and adaptive alternatives to the wearying effects of unyielding anger and/or detachment; empathically evacuating the unremitting “inner critic” that carries messages of self-blame and self-doubt; facilitating support and emotion-focused strategies to help them reclaim their rights for safety and respect, examining prospects for trust, and fortifying a healthy voice in the wake of the traumatic discovery.
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This training will provide participants clinical knowledge and tools to:
a). Conceptualize and state the primary mode responsible for seeking hypersexual stimulation, i.e., understanding motivational drivers behind early unmet needs that become sexualized over time.
b). Identify links associated with grandiose fantasies—nothing is “weird” once we understand the underlying story.
c). Learn, understand, and confront compensatory and detached coping modes responsible for rigid rationalizations and defiant denial of the harmful impact on self and partners.
d). Understand and attend to therapist’s own schemas and mode activation – how to remain a sturdy, curious, and empathically attuned caregiver.
e). Apply effective emotion-focused strategies designed to meet the primary unmet needs related to shame, failure, and unconditional love/acceptance.
f). Understand and address the needs of the betrayed client, identify, and differentiate activated early life themes (schemas) that are triggered in the trauma.
g). Learn to install the use of empathic narratives to gradually desensitize and heal betrayal trauma.
The target audience for this event includes psychologists, social workers, counselors, MFT’s, psychiatrists and other clinical mental health professionals.
Instructional Level: Intermediate
Instructor(s): Wendy Behary, MSW, LCSW
Material Author(s): Wendy Behary, MSW, LCSW
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