Narcissists are attracted to a number of careers and professions, and sadly, in a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse, narcopaths in psychology and the “caring professions” are just such examples.
Specific roles – that includes therapists, counsellors, psychologists, child protections services etc – provide narcissists with a dream jobs and a steady source of narcissistic supply. So whilst the prevalent rates of some sort of Cluster B personality disorder run at least 10% of the general population, expect this to be higher amongst these sorts of professions.
Unlike many jobs where the pool of co-workers and colleagues are relatively static, and non-client facing so with little opportunity to meet new people, psychologists and therapists etc are often presented with a steady stream of new clients. From these, if only one in ten are suitable target material, the narc still has frequent opportunity to meet and recruit new victims.
Invariably the reason that clients seek out therapy, or when doctors/courts refer clients, is that those clients are in a position of crisis. Their relationships are falling apart, they have tried every other way to resolve their problems, they are desperate and have few others options to turn to. Not only are they in a vulnerable place, the nature of the work requires them to open up accordingly. Narcissistic counsellors love other people’s tales of woe – it provides some light relief to their own miserable self-image – and it feeds their sadistic need for drama.
Lack of Oversight
Therapists, counsellors, psychologists and the like often work in private practice. Child protection services often work at a distance from bosses and regulatory oversight. So long as practitioners are reasonably careful, it is possible for them to get away with all kinds of misconduct. Even if reported, the balance of guilt often falls down to he said / she said – it’s your word against theirs, and whilst you’re already in tatters with enough battles on your plate, it is all too easy for them to so badly denigrate you that their professional body is likely to rule in their favour. Furthermore, and as I discuss below, very often their boss or professional board is made up of people who are more likely again to be narcissists – and are thus much less likely to either incorporate mechanisms to identify and weed out narcissists from the profession, or hold to account those who breech codes of ethics.
Those in the psychology-related professions are at the forefront of developing and dissemination leading edge knowledge and understanding of NPD. As such, they are able to avail themselves of – and influence – the latest critical thinking about pathological narcissism. Furthermore, these are the ones who understand the psychobabble of NPD – best equipped to spot people who might be catching on to them, onto whom they can turn the tables and wrap them up in persuasive argument to defeat and diffuse any such suspicion.
Hiding in Plain Sight
One of the motives for a narcopath to choose a certain career is the concealment that it gives them – a respectable job title, a uniform or profession to hide behind, and a degree of respectability. In choosing one of these professions, they maximise their chances of staying ahead of the game – essentially the wolf in sheep’s clothing who is wearing the very latest fashions. Where a narcissist must hide their real or authentic selves behind the masks of decency and success, having a profession along these lines is a pretty damn good disguise.
How to Spot them?
When choosing any kind of support for your healing journey, it is vital that you trust your gut instinct and there is a good fit between you. Don’t be taken in by the initial charm, claims of proficiency and the academic qualifications – to this day, the best guide that I have ever come across has no official qualifications at all (years of abuse at the hands of her father and then subsequent partners, together with empathy and ability to make sense of the madness, gave her all the expertise required).