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Sometimes, these therapies are divided to expressive versus supportive, but I regard this division as misleading.
Expressive means uncovering (making conscious) patient's conflicts and studying his or her defences and resistances. The analyst interprets conflict in view of new knowledge gained and guides therapy towards a resolution of conflict. The conflict, in other words, is "interpreted away" through insight and change in patient motivated by his/her insights.
The supportive therapies seek to strengthen Ego. Their premise is that a strong Ego can cope better (and later on, alone) with external (situational) or internal (instinctual, related to drives) pressures. Supportive therapies seek to increase patient's ability to REPRESS conflicts (rather than bring them to surface of consciousness).
When patient's painful conflicts are suppressed, attendant dysphorias and symptoms vanish or are ameliorated. This is somewhat reminiscent of behaviourism (the main aim is to change behaviour and to relieve symptoms). It usually makes no use of insight or interpretation (though there are exceptions).
Narcissists are notoriously unsuitable for collaborative efforts of any kind, let alone group therapy. They immediately size up others as potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply – or as potential competitors. They idealise first (suppliers) and devalue latter (competitors). This, obviously, is not very conducive to group therapy.
Moreover, dynamic of group is bound to reflect interactions of its members. Narcissists are individualists. They regard coalitions with disdain and contempt. The need to resort to team work, to adhere to group rules, to succumb to a moderator, and to honour and respect other members as equals is perceived by them to be humiliating and degrading (a contemptible weakness). Thus, a group containing one or more narcissists is likely to fluctuate between short-term, very small size, coalitions (based on "superiority" and contempt) and narcissistic outbreaks (acting outs) of rage and coercion.
Can Narcissism be Cured?
Adult narcissists can rarely be "cured", though some scholars think otherwise. Still, earlier therapeutic intervention, better prognosis. A correct diagnosis and a proper mix of treatment modalities in early adolescence guarantees success without relapse in anywhere between one third and one half cases. Additionally, ageing moderates or even vanquishes some antisocial behaviours.
In their seminal tome, "Personality Disorders in Modern Life" (New York, John Wiley & Sons, 2000), Theodore Millon and Roger Davis write (p. 308):
"Most narcissists strongly resist psychotherapy. For those who choose to remain in therapy, there are several pitfalls that are difficult to avoid ... Interpretation and even general assessment are often difficult to accomplish..."
The third edition of "Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry" (Oxford, Oxford University Press, reprinted 2000), cautions (p. 128):
"... (P)eople cannot change their natures, but can only change their situations. There has been some progress in finding ways of effecting small changes in disorders of personality, but management still consists largely of helping person to find a way of life that conflicts less with his character ... Whatever treatment is used, aims should be modest and considerable time should be allowed to achieve them."
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com