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"Mode Work: Schema Therapy for Narcissism"

by Wendy Behary & Carlos Rojas

Level: Beginner – Advanced Schema Therapist

Meets Requirements for the Individual Certification Module on Narcissism of the Schema Therapy Institute New Jersey

Helpful Reading:

  • Young, Klosko, and Weishaar, Schema Therapy, A Practitioner’s Guide. 2006, Guilford
  • Behary, Disarming the Narcissist. 2013, New Harbinger Publications


Peeking into the complexities of the narcissist can arouse our curiosity. Treating them can arouse our sense of inadequacy. Narcissists can be among the most difficult patients in our treatment rooms—often intelligent, charming, and self-confident—they also tend to be arrogant, condescending, controlling, highly detached, incapable of empathy, and possessed with a strong sense of entitlement.  While interesting and challenging, they can also trigger our schemas/modes and make us feel distressed and overwhelmed...

Having a firm grasp on our schemas and modes—along with an ability to understand the narcissist’s makeup—helps us overcome obstacles in treating them, and allows us a sturdier foothold for (empathically) holding the narcissist accountable. In so doing, we maintain the necessary leverage needed for healing. How can we engage them in therapy, when they're more likely to criticize us rather than cooperate with us? 

This workshop will include:

  • The use of empathic confrontation to gain and maintain leverage in therapy, set limits, address detachment, and avoid power struggles
  • Maintaining "realness", healthy adult sturdiness, and curiosity, to help the narcissist understand maladaptive modes and their impact on others.  
  • Sensitivity to cultural issues (differentiating pathology from the “machismo” in Latin cultures) and specific modifications necessary for effectively meeting needs               


The seminar will include lecture, video presentation, role-plays, clinical group exercises, and customized "scripts" for handling particularly challenging moments in therapy.


Participants will: 

  • Acquire a working understanding of schema theory and schema mode work for conceptualizing the narcissistic patient in schema terms
  • Learn to apply specific clinical strategies with narcissistic clients
  • Integrate concepts from interpersonal neurobiology will also be demonstrated as powerful tools for accelerating treatment effectiveness. 
  • Identify therapist schemas and modes – a major obstacle to treatment
  • Use of self-work: to bypass intense personal triggers, activated by the narcissist
  • Create and adapt custom-fitting scripts to fortify leverage, to utilize “empathic confrontation”, to set limits, and to meet early unmet needs…with a variety of conditions relevant to narcissism 

    Why Schema Therapy?

    Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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