Floyd Godfrey, PhD


A Guide to Detecting Narcissism in a Therapist

By Floyd Godfrey, PhD

Seeking therapy is a brave step towards self-improvement and healing. However, the therapeutic journey can be significantly hindered if the therapist, who is supposed to be a guide and supporter, exhibits narcissistic traits. Narcissism in therapists can create a toxic environment, making it difficult for clients to progress. It's essential to recognize the signs early on to ensure that your therapy sessions are beneficial and supportive. Here’s how you can detect if your new therapist might be a narcissist.

Common Indicators of Narcissism

Narcissism involves self-centeredness to an extreme degree, with a grandiose view of one's talents and a craving for admiration, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Here are some common indicators:

  1. Lack of Empathy: Narcissists struggle to recognize or empathize with others' feelings. In therapy, this might manifest as a therapist who seems more interested in talking about themselves or dismisses your feelings.
  2. Grandiosity: A narcissistic therapist might constantly talk about their own achievements, skills, and successes, often exaggerating their importance or contribution to the field.
  3. Need for Admiration: They may seek excessive admiration and validation from their clients, subtly or overtly steering conversations to elicit compliments or affirmations of their expertise.
  4. Sense of Entitlement: This can show up as expecting special treatment, bending or breaking rules (such as confidentiality or professional boundaries), or believing they are above the usual ethical standards.
  5. Interpersonally Exploitative: They might take advantage of the therapeutic relationship to meet their own needs, such as seeking admiration or validation, rather than focusing on the client's growth and healing.
  6. Lack of Acknowledgment of the Client’s Growth: Narcissists struggle to celebrate others' successes. If your therapist rarely acknowledges your progress or diminishes your achievements, it could be a red flag.
  7. Never Finished: Does it feel like the therapist keeps you longer than they should? Sometimes a narcissistic therapist will continue to find “problems”, so you continue to seek their feedback and guidance. This becomes “supply” for the narcissist. Similarly, do they inadvertently create conflict in your life, so you continue seeking them out?
  8. Bullish Behavior: This is when your therapist becomes pushy emotionally. Perhaps they cause you to feel “bullied” or pushed around. Manipulation is very common for a narcissist. Similarly, they may turn conversations around or blame you.

Ways to Detect Narcissism in a Therapist

Detecting narcissism in a therapist requires careful observation and sometimes, trust in your own feelings about the therapeutic relationship. Here are some strategies:

  • Reflect on How You Feel After Sessions: Do you often feel unheard, invalidated, or worse than when you came in? A therapist should provide a space where you feel supported and understood, not overshadowed or belittled.
  • Notice the Focus of Sessions: A therapy session should primarily be about you and your experiences. If your therapist consistently redirects the conversation to themselves or their achievements, it might be cause for concern.
  • Assess the Therapist’s Response to Feedback: Try expressing your needs or concerns about the therapy process. A narcissistic therapist might dismiss your feedback, react defensively, or belittle your feelings.
  • Observe Their Interaction Style: Does your therapist respect boundaries? Do they seem genuinely interested in understanding you, or do they impose their own views and solutions without much consideration of your perspective?
  • Consult with Trusted Individuals: Sometimes, it’s beneficial to get a second opinion. Discussing your experiences with trusted friends, family, or even a consultation with another professional can provide clarity.


Recognizing narcissism in a therapist is crucial for protecting your mental health and ensuring that your therapy journey is productive and healing. Trust your instincts—if something feels off, it might be worth considering a change. Therapy is a collaborative process, and you deserve a therapist who respects, understands, and genuinely supports you. Remember, it’s okay to seek a therapist who better meets your needs. Your mental health journey is yours, and having the right support makes all the difference.

Floyd Godfrey, PhD is a Certified Mental Health Coach and has been guiding clients since 2000. Previously, he worked for 23 years as a licensed professional counselor training young therapists and supervising them toward independent licensure. He currently speaks and provides consulting and mental health coaching across the globe. To learn more about his services please visit his website: www.FloydGodfrey.com

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