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How to Help a Narcissist Heal: Is it Possible?

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   December 18 , 2023

If you do a quick Google search of narcissists that have been cured, you will find very little.  As of right now, I am only aware of two reports.  One couple is from Australia, Steve and Kim Cooper, who claim that they have cured Steve’s narcissism.   And the other is Sam Vaknin, an Israeli writer and professor of psychology.  Both of the above cases have actually made a living from their narcissism and how they work through it.

But can narcissism actually be cured?  The prevailing belief is that there is no cure.  But in order to help a narcissist heal, the narcissist must WANT to change.  And even with that change, it is still a major uphill battle.  The one thing that both Sam Vaknin and Steve Cooper acknowledge is that life is still difficult, even with them living in self awareness of their narcissism.

When I was going through counseling, separation, and divorce, I struggled with the possibility of staying married and making it work.  It was a decision I didn’t have to agonize over long, because my narcissist filed for divorce pretty quickly once he realized he wasn’t getting a free pass to come home and keep abusing his family.  I just remember at the time of my ex’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosis (yes, he is one of the few walking around with an actual diagnosis!) praying to God that it would be anything but that.  Everything else had a better chance of healing.

I digress.  Although it didn’t work out for my marriage, there are a few ways, albeit pretty tough, that you and your narcissist can continue to be in relationship, whether it is marriage, family, work, or any relationship that you just can’t simply walk away from.  Let’s take a look at some of the ways to help a narcissist heal and see if they could be a good fit for you.

How to Help a Narcissist Heal

Help a Narcissist Heal With a Commitment to Counseling

While there is no cure for Narcissistic Personality Disorder or narcissistic tendencies, there is a prescribed treatment.  Talk therapy is thought to have the greatest chance of getting through to the narcissist.  But in order to help a narcissist heal through counseling, they must want to change and see what the issues are.  Then they need to be willing to do the hard work of getting through the shame and childhood issues that got them there.

In my case, my narcissist dragged me to counseling, not to make the marriage better, but to make me better.  I was no longer feeding into his need for narcissistic supply (his insatiable need for attention, praise, and approval).  He needed me to “obey” his every whim.  It did not work out that way for him.  I actually learned how to become emotionally healthy.  And he was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  (He agreed to a test because the counselors said they were testing both of us and he was sure they would find all of the problems with me.  He was very angry to say the least when he found out the testing was to confirm suspicions of his narcissism.)

Once he was diagnosed and therapy started in earnest for him, he just kept getting angrier and angrier.  There was no more desire to continue counseling.  He burned through a few more counselors before quitting altogether.  There has never been any move toward healing.  There is now court-ordered counseling, but the counselors are at a dead end because they can’t push into him for fear he will take it out on his son.  And they can’t release him because it will take away any accountability it still allows the court to try to see any kind of relationship form with his son.

It is miserable for everyone involved.  Except the narcissist who thinks he’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

Help a Narcissist Heal With Help From Your Church

If your church has an in-house counselor or a healthy relationship with a local counseling agency, this can be a very good option.  Once again, it is all dependent on whether the narcissist is willing to do the hard work of healing.  You cannot help someone who does not want to be helped.

My church worked side-by-side with the counseling agency we went to for marriage therapy first, then individual counseling as the marriage continued to deteriorate.  They were heavily involved with the diagnoses and continuing treatment.  And that was life-changing for me.  It was also life-changing for my ex, but in all the wrong ways.

One of the strengths of adding the church leadership to your counseling is that he cannot triangulate all the different parties to appease their concerns.  If he lied to the counselor regarding what the church had seen, the church would uncover the lie.  When he lied in church regarding the counseling, the counselors were able to get the church leadership back on the same page.  He could no longer play games with all  of us.  That was instrumental to my healing.  But it ended any willingness he had to “work with us.”  Not that he was ever really working with us.  But it gave us confirmation of how to move forward when we all realized that healing was not an option.

Find Something You Can Do Together That You Mutually Love

To help the narcissist heal, finding something you love to do together in conjunction with extensive counseling can do wonders for showing the narcissist (and the empath) the value of saving the marriage.  If they can take their mind off of the contempt they feel for their partner for just long enough to see the relationship, it could do so much to help.  But as with all the other steps, the narcissist has to be willing to work through it and get to a healthier spot emotionally and relationally.

I think the hope here is that there will be some reminiscense of good times together and why you are partners to begin with.  But where this can backfire is that if the narcissist only chose you for the sake of narcissistic supply, no amount of good time together can change that he does not relate to you in a healthy way.  That was certainly the case with my ex, who repeatedly told me that he could be married to anyone.  He never felt any special affinity for our relationship.  It was just all the things I did for him.

How to Help a Narcissist Heal

Keep Communication Open, Even When it Feels Impossible

Without honest communication, you will not be able to help a narcissist heal.  This is where leaning into counseling and frequent talking is critical.  Learning words that help the narcissist tap into their feelings is also critical.  But it is a very difficult thing to do when just about any emotion stirs up those deep shameful feelings they have harbored since early childhood.  And yet again, I will reiterate that this step cannot happen any more than the other steps unless the narcissist is willing to do the hard work and put himself out there.

If you can get the narcissist to use and begin to feel comfortable with emotional words, then progress can be made to start tapping into the emotions.  And then maybe some empathy can begin.  It is a very long process, and most narcissists won’t even begin.  But if your narcissist is tipping the scales in the right direction, there could be some hope and great results here.

If things do go well, just know that it will likely take a very long time to make progress.  But every day that is even a tiny bit in the right direction is a good day.  And over time the not so good days can become rare.

But also know that to keep yourself healthy, you need to be careful about how open your communication is.  Don’t be totally closed off.  But keep  yourself safe!  Especially in the beginning, keep the majority of your communication in writing, texts, or email.  And any oral communication needs to be in the presence of counselors or church leaders.

 Agree to Boundaries and Then Stick to Them Religiously

Also, while we are talking about your safety, you need to make sure that you set healthy boundaries and keep them.  Setting them will do no good if you do not do the hard work of keeping them strong.  There is one book that is heads above all others in helping you to set healthy boundaries.  It is very appropriately named Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  You absolutely need to add it to your library of healing from narcissism.  There is also a study guide available that I thought was equally amazing and really helped me to implement healthy boundaries in all of my life, not just with my narcissist.

This step is critical, whether you are trying to help your narcissist heal or move forward in your life.  And you will find that once you understand their value and how to implement and keep them, you need them for all of your life!

This book emphasizes the problems that need boundaries, how to implement them, and then how to keep them.  And it speaks to several different kinds of relationships that need it.  Everyone I know that has read this book has talked about how much it helped them, not only in their difficult relationships, but it all of life’s relationships.  If you need to buy any book this year, this is the one!



Be Graceful and not Demanding

If you are fortunate enough to have a narcissist who actually wants to work with you toward healing, don’t ruin it with criticism!  Note:  I am not putting the responsibility for the healing or lack of healing of the narcissism on you.  But I am saying not to curse it before it begins.  We know that narcissists live for praise, approval, and attention.  So if they do something positive while you are working with them to help with healing, use it!  Don’t allow them to manipulate it just to get more accolades.  But if it helps move you in the right direction, then by all means, do it!

And this is where grace comes in.  Give them the grace to have a couple of rough moments if the scale is starting to tip in the right direction.  This is especially true if they acknowledge their need for your grace.  That doesn’t mean unlimited mess-ups with no progress for them.  But it does mean that nobody is perfect and if they are struggling to move forward with you, it is okay on occasion.  The key here is noticing if the progress is still happening.  Keep healthy boundaries, but let them know you aren’t looking for perfection, just sincerity.  You will know in time if you have what you need.

Keep Yourself Emotionally Healthy

And this is the perfect last thought for you.  You have to be in counseling throughout this process of helping a narcissist to heal!  You cannot do it on your own.  And you will need to be constantly working on keeping your head where it needs to be.

It sounds daunting at first, but when you see yourself handling the process of healing yourself as well as helping your narcissist, you will be amazed at the strength you didn’t know you had!

On the flip side of this, if healing isn’t working with the narcissist, then do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy, even if it means walking away from the relationship.  Know that the vast majority of narcissists choose not to heal.  So do not blame yourself if it does not work out in the end.  But rest in the fact that you did what you could and gained your emotional health in the end!

I would love to know where you are in your journey and how you are doing.  Please feel free to comment below or share with me privately here.

Hugs, love, and support to you!

If you liked this article, I think you will also love the following articles:

Why Narcissists Love Going to Church

Does a Narcissist Know They are a Narcissist?

How Religious Narcissists Think?

Can a Narcissist be a Good Person?

Narcissistic Behavior:  What to Look Out For

Praying for Your Narcissistic Husband

Are Spiritual Narcissists Overt or Covert?

How to Navigate Religious Narcissistic Parents

What Happens to the Soul of a Narcissist?

How to Heal From a Spiritual Narcissist

Can You Maintain a Relationship With a Spiritual Narcissist?

Can Narcissists Have a Spiritual Awakening?

How Will God Judge a Narcissist?

When the Church Says to Move Back in With Your Narcissist

What Can We Say to a Friend Who’s Divorcing

23 Reasons Why Narcissists are Drawn to the Church

When the Church Doesn’t Recognize Narcissistic Abuse

Will the Church Support Divorcing a Narcissist?

What Does the Bible Say About Narcissism?

Can a Spiritual Narcissist Heal?

Can a Narcissist Be a Christian?

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

What Does the Spiritual Narcissist Do When You Try to Leave? 

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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