msp blog

Trainer Christiane Sanderson : Narcissistic Injuries, Neglect & Relational Trauma

Category | information-exchange

Stars Dorset
Helen Stevens

As therapists, we have all come across clients who show characteristic narcissistic traits – a grandiose sense of self-importance, arrogance, compulsive narcissistic displays and a sense of entitlement and yet, in some instances they may exhibit an extremely famished sense of self and almost boundless hunger for mirroring that can only be assuaged or soothed through the attention and validation from others. Thanks to the contributions of Heinz Kohut, there is greater understanding that such manifestations are representative of narcissistic injuries – the development of narcissistic traits that co-existed with impaired attachment in childhood, leading to deficits in the structure of the self.

Narcissistic injuries are primarily attributable to unmet mirroring needs in childhood and lack of empathic attunement, or due to severe traumatisation, abuse or neglect. Such injuries can also occur as a result of relational trauma in which a child is excessively idealised and not seen or accepted for who they are; but seen as an extension of the primary caregiver. It is imperative for therapists to fully comprehend the underlying dynamics of narcissistic injuries, so they can effectively interpret the apparently contradictory behaviours of such clients. We need a better understanding of the linkages between relational trauma, unmet mirroring needs and expressed narcissistic traits – so we can remain empathic when working with narcissism and provide a non-shaming therapeutic space.

This practical, online webinar which will be useful for psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists across modalities, specifically discusses the following:

  • Can relational trauma induce narcissism? What are the underlying dynamics that we need to comprehend?
  • How can we conceptualise narcissism on a spectrum, ranging from domineering and extroverted to introverted and neurotic?
  • The linkages between narcissism and narcissistic injuries to early childhood trauma, neglect and relational trauma (as explained through Kohut’s Self Psychology)
  • The key distinctions between healthy narcissism and dysfunctional narcissism – including the traits we need to be able to identify
  • The role of shame and dissociation in the development of narcissism and the implications this has for the therapeutic relationship

The Day

The online training is taking place on Friday 8th April 2022 from 9.30am – 4.00pm via zoom. The cost is £65 per person, concessions available for group bookings of 5 or more people. Please email training@starsdorset.org for details.



Christiane Sanderson is a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton. . With over 30  years’ experience working with survivors of  childhood  sexual abuse interpersonal trauma and domestic abuse. She has run consultancy and training for parents, teachers, social workers, nurses, therapists, counsellors, solicitors, the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Committee, the Methodist Church, the Metropolitan Police Service, the NSPCC and the Refugee Council and in prisons.  She is the author of  Counselling Skills for Working with Shame, Counselling Skills for Working with Trauma:  Healing from Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse,   Introduction of Counselling Survivors of Interpersonal Trauma,  Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse,  Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse 3rdEdition,  The Seduction of Children: Empowering Parents and Teachers to Protect Children from Child Sexual Abuse all published by  Jessica Kingsley Publishers and   The Warrior Within: A One in Four Handbook to Aid Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence,   The Spirit Within: A One in Four Handbook to Aid Recovery from Religious Sexual Abuse Across All Faiths, Responding to Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: A   pocket guide for professionals, partners, families and friends and   Numbing the Pain: A pocket guide for professionals supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse and addiction all published by One in Four

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