By | January 15, 2009 277 Comments

Evaluating An Unknown Provider’s Expertise in Sociopathy

I write this column (using “he” throughout, for simplicity purposes) to suggest some useful ideas for vetting a prospective provider who does not come recommended through a reliable source (or through Donna Anderson’s growing new LoveFraud referral base).

How can you begin to assess a relatively unknown provider for his competence to address your experiences with a suspected sociopath specifically, exploiter in general, or otherwise personality-disturbed individual?

Let me start by suggesting that a provider who claims to be educated about sociopathy really isn’t if he lacks an equally fluent understanding of narcissistic and borderline personality disorder.

The reason I say this is that, under certain circumstances, all three disorders can look very much alike; but more importantly, if you are involved with someone who has any one of these disorders, you are at heightened risk of being personally violated and abused.

So, while they are distinct from each other (although common elements of narcissism and sociopathy remain intriguing), I’m suggesting that all three disorders greatly increase the probable, if not certain, occurrence of interpersonal violation.

In the course of this discussion, I’m going to assume that you may be involved with someone (or have been involved with someone) whom you suspect (or know) to be, for instance, sociopathic and/or abusive? Otherwise you wouldn’t be seeking assurances that a particular provider has knowledge and/or expertise of the disorder(s) in question.

I also make the assumption that LoveFraud members or visitors wanting to find a knowledgeable resource on sociopathy (who do not find assistance through Donna’s new referral resource) come with a nice advantage—by virtue of their involvement with LoveFraud, they are already extra knowledgeable on the subject. This equips them to be astute evaluators of a prospective resource.

So let’s get down to business.

You will need, no surprise, to ask questions; questions that can gauge the provider’s competency to appreciate the gravity of a situation in which a sociopathic (or some other exploitative dynamic) is, or has been, present.

And you will want good, expressive answers to your questions, not dismissive ones.

The first, vital task is to assess the provider’s receptivity to your interest in his clinical experience. This point needs emphasis: You are entitled to evaluate the provider’s clinical experience and expertise as it pertains to your circumstances.

I stress: You are completely, utterly entitled to assess the provider’s professional experience, skills, and interest on matters relevant to your personal circumstances and self-interest.

Remember, this is not about protecting the provider; it’s about protecting yourself.

As such, this speaks to a bigger issue: You are setting yourself up if you do not protect yourself, and so you protect yourself by owning your right to a completely respectful, receptive invitation to evaluate the provider’s scope of interest and competence with a given client population, or in a particular clinical area. Anything less than a genuine, undefensive invitation from the provider to proceed with your questions should immediately disqualify him from consideration.

So for instance, you might begin with something like, “You know, it’s very important to me, given my circumstances, to be working with someone I can feel confident has a really good knowledge of _________. Would you mind if I asked you several questions along those lines, for my own personal comfort?” (There are many ways to break the ice, this is just one example.)

Remember: A provider who fails, at this point, to invite you to proceed, undefensively, has disqualified himself. Thus, if he responds impatiently, arrogantly, angrily, curtly, condescendingly, as if offended or put-off, or in any other way inadequately, he is wrong for you. You must move on, because you deserve better.

Assuming you’ve gotten the proper encouragement to proceed, I offer below a list of questions (hardly comprehensive) which, depending on your circumstances, can elicit meaningful information. The idea (quite obviously) isn’t to ask all of these questions, but to pursue several that are most applicable to your situation.

This list is by no means complete; rather, it’s at best a starting point, if only to get your own wheels rolling to come up with even better questions! Note that some of the questions probe for knowledge, others for personal views and biases, and others for experience. The asterisked questions can sometimes elicit responses that will enable you to quickly eliminate potential resources.

· How familiar are you with sociopathy?
· How familiar are you with psychopathy?
· Do you distinguish sociopathy and psychopathy, or are we using these terms to mean the same thing?
· Do you distinguish antisocial personality disorder from sociopathy or psychopathy?
· How many cases have you worked involving sociopathy?
· Can I ask how you came to work with these individuals?
· What is your treatment philosophy regarding sociopathically disturbed individuals?
· I’m curious how you view sociopathy? I know that many people have different ideas about sociopaths. Can you tell me your view of what characterizes the sociopath?
· How do you distinguish, if at all, the sociopath from the narcissistic personality?
· What’s been your experience working with borderline personality disturbance?
· In your experience, what are similarities and differences between borderline, narcissistic and sociopathically disordered individuals?
· How much experience have you had working with abusive individuals?
· Can you tell me a little about the history of your interest, and experience working, with abusive personalities?
· *How effective and appropriate, in your experience, are anger management referrals for abusive personalities?
· How much interest, and experience, have you had working with victims of abuse?
· What is your view of what constitutes abuse in a relationship?
· What are your goals in working with someone who is in, or has been damaged by, an abusive relationship?
· *Are there circumstances where someone might be driven, legitimately, to abuse someone else?
· Do you mind if I ask you whose work or writings on abusive relationships and abusive personalities has most influenced your views?
· Do you mind if I ask you whose work on the subject of psychopathy (or sociopathy) has most influenced your ideas?
· *Are you familiar with Robert Hare’s work?
· *Have you successfully treated sociopaths?
· My partner, if you meet him, will tell you that I’m a sociopath”¦how will you know which of us, if either, is the sociopath?
· Are you familiar with any psychological instruments that assess for psychopathy, and if so, do you use them?
· *Under what conditions, if any, would you be hesitant to do couples therapy?
· What goals do you have, generally, when working with a borderline personality?
· What goals do you have, generally, when working with a narcissistic personality?
· What is your understanding of the central feature(s) of sociopathy?
· What is your understanding of the central feature(s) of the narcissist?
· Would you be willing to read something I’d give you if I felt it could help you understand the precidament/situation/personality I’m dealing with?
· When you believe you are dealing clinically with a sociopathic individual, what is your clinical goal?

The answers to your questions

As I’ve strongly suggested, the provider’s responses, first of all, should convey interest in, and respect for, your questions. Your first assessment, then, is less of the provider’s expertise and knowledge, than his or her attitude to your questions.

As a matter of fact, a primary purpose of your questions is to assess the attitude of the provider. In other words, if the provider isn’t temperamentally suited to appreciate the complexity of your concerns, he or she can have all the knowledge in the world and be pretty much worthless.

You’ll want honest answers. Genuine answers. Not pretenses to expertise where there isn’t any. You’ll want a provider who is willing to say, “That’s an interesting question. I might even need to think about that a bit more.”

I offer randomly some rough examples (from countless possibilities) of what might be deemed encouraging responses to some of these questions:

“To be honest, no”¦I haven’t worked with what I’d call a high volume of ________; but I do feel comfortable with my understanding of this clinical issue, and I’d like to be of help to you.”

“I consider myself to be clinically literate on this subject, but I’m happy to become even more enlightened and would welcome anything you have to share with me to get me up to speed.”

“I wouldn’t say that I have a particular interest working with _______, but I do like working with and helping those who have been victimized by ________(s).”

“I suppose I’d regard ______as a very central feature of _______. Also ______.”

“I don’t really make a distinction between antisocial personality and the sociopath? As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even aware of such a distinction? But I’m curious about that? Am I missing something?”

“I’ve worked a great deal with victims of abuse and enjoy working with this client population.”

“I’m not familiar with that issue, to be honest” (depending on the circumstances, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a disqualification).

“I can’t say that I’ve had great success working with narcissistic personalities”¦but I’ll work with anyone who voluntarily seeks my help genuinely.”

“I’m not sure if I satisfied you with my response?”

These hypothetical replies have in common a thoughtful, humble, curious quality. The confident provider will feel relaxed, undefensive, and unpressured to produce brilliant, comprehensive answers beyond his or her scope of expertise.

At the same time, you are looking for evidence of expertise that will leave you feeling comfortable that this is someone who can effectively, sensitively advocate for your interests.

Some responses, as noted, can quickly reveal a provider’s serious limitations.

For instance, the response to the question, Have you successfully treated any sociopaths?, “Yes”¦I’ve worked with many sociopaths and treated several very successfully,” is a great time-saver. You just say, “Thanks very much, I’ve really appreciated your time,” and then have a good laugh on your way out.

That’s because true sociopathy, as the LoveFraud community well knows, is a refractory
condition, unamenable to meaningful modification.

Regarding the Hare question: in cases where a provider claims to be experienced with the subject of sociopathy, I might find it dubious (although not necessarily instantly disqualifying) that he or she would have no knowledge of Robert Hare, who is such a notable figure in psychopathy research.

Similarly, the response to the question, Under what conditions would you be hesitant to do couples therapy?, “Umm”¦.I can’t really think of any?,” would suggest a potentially serious defect in the provider’s clinical knowledge and/or judgement. That’s because couples therapy is ill-advised under several circumstances, among them when serious abuse is occuring in a relationship, or when one or both partners is sociopathically oriented. (And naturally, non-genuine motivation to work on the relationship would be another contraindication.)

Further, a provider who suggests that, yes, a referral for anger management is probably the best intervention you can offer an abusive personality betrays a likely ignorance of the dynamics of the abuser, who has much more than merely an anger problem.

And it’s self-evident that a provider who can find a basis to justify abuse under any circumstance is probably confusing abuse with, perhaps, self-defense—a failure of understanding that ought to send you running for the hills.

Bear in mind there is no one right way to answer many of these questions; in many cases, there are multiple good (and good-enough) answers which also allow for differences in clinical approaches and orientations.

I offer below additional examples (also random, hypothetical) of the kinds of responses that might reflect a reassuring level of clinical expertise:

“What do I see as the central feature of sociopathy? I see the sociopath as someone who is extremely, chronically manipulative and deceptive. Someone who lacks empathy in a very gross way for the victims of his or her exploitation.”

“I see what you mean”¦.you can have a borderline personality disorder doing something, say, really vengeful that might look very sociopathic, but the motive for the aggression would be different. The borderline personality might be motivated by rage, panic, or desperation over, say, abandonment issues, whereas the sociopath? He or she may be movitated by”¦the impulse?”¦pure greed”¦or even the fun of it?”

“If I have good reason to believe I’m dealing with a sociopath, my main goal becomes evaluating his or her risk to others”¦depending, of course, on the circumstances of the referral and case.”

“If I’m working with someone with borderline personality, I’m looking to help that individual, among other things, learn how to better regulate his or her emotions, which may be very dysregulated and for that reason a source of much distress.”

“If I’m working with a narcissistic personality disorder, I’m looking, over time, to help that individual, if possible, examine his demands and expectations of others—his inflated sense of entitlement—more thoughtfully; and also examine the ways that he routinely handles, or mishandles, his disappointment in others.”

“When I’m working with abusive individuals my goal is to confront their excuses and rationalizations for their violating behaviors.”

“When I’m working with victims of abuse I may have several goals, including safety concerns; also exploring how the client finds herself in an abusive relationship, and the factors that make it difficult for her (or him) to leave that relationship.”

“How will I know which of you is the sociopath? I think in any clinical situation, you rely on a number of factors in formulating possible diagnoses, including your instincts, your experience of the individuals, the client’s history (as furnished by the client and others), other relevant, available, supporting documentation; and any adjunctive testing and evaluations that can narrow down, if necessary, a suspected diagnosis more accurately? And so there’s no guarantee that I’ll get it right, but I’m pretty confident of my chances.”

In sum, you’ll want assurances that the provider, at a minimum, can recognize the central aspects of sociopathy (or the disorder in question); he or she should appreciate the futility of pursuing treatment with the sociopath, especially in a private practice setting; but most importantly, the provider should be able to convey a good clinical grasp of, and history of work with, abusive personalities and their victims.

You will know, intuitively, whether the provider’s responses indicate an adequate level of thoughtfulness and knowledge.

And remember, your initial assessment doesn’t end when you choose to begin a working relationship with a particular provider, anymore than you cease evaluating the individual with whom you enter a personal relationship. Your evaluation should be ongoing, and your continued investment in the relationship, whether with a professional resource, or intimate partner, should be based on a continuing evaluation of him or her as worthy of your time and trust.

You can say at any point along the way, This person is not right for me. Just because I sized this person/provider up initially (with necessarily incomplete information) as worth my initial investment, doesn’t mean I can’t modify my assessment of him or her at any time, thanks to my making good use of additional, more complete information!

I hope this offers some guidance for conceptualizing an approach to the evaluation of a relatively unknown prospective provider. I am glad to continue this discussion based on feedback.

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)

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Healing Heart

Hello Steve – These are helpful questions. And I think it is incredibly tough to find a therapist who understands the psychological devastation of being in a romantic relationship with a sociopath. I work in a city with the top mental health clinicians, institutions, and universities, in the world. I have had the benefit of working with “the best and the brightest,” or at the very least, those with ivy league pedigrees and well recognized names.

And though many of these doctors or social workers are familiar with trauma, and even recognized as experts in the area of trauma, a lot of them do not “get it” where recovery from a relationship with a sociopath is concerned. I know this through my experience with them as a fellow clinician, professor, and researcher, and also as a client.

Dr. Leedom and Sandra Brown’s book is excellent. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who passes through the site. I think is is required reading – this book is extremely helpful.

I’ve been educating my therapist about sociopaths and relationships with sociopath’s since my own recovery. She’s an extremely bright, well-read, empathic, and accomplished woman. But she didn’t “get it.” Now she seems to have a much better grasp. To be fair, no small part of this was my presenting a very muddled picture, and am still having new “ah-ha” moments to this day.

I think it might be nearly impossible to find a therapist who truly “gets it.” But finding an open-minded, flexible, empathetic, and willing to question their own belief system, therapist, is the key. My therapist has come around – and will be much better equipped to deal with a victim like me in the future.

I think it would be a real gift to find a therapist who has worked with clients like us. But I think your point about just finding a good one who is kind, empathettic, open-minded and flexible, is an especially good one. Part of our work in the world at this time may be “training” therapists as we go. I wish that were not the case – but it is.

Thank you, Steve. I think this will really help people. No therapist is going to be able to give brilliant answers to the (very good) question you proposed. But if they give thoughtful ones, and don’t seem to cocksure or rigid, I think there will be hope. And you can always “try on” a therapist and then discontinue the relationship if it doesn’t feel right. Better if you get it right the first go-round, but it’s certainly advisable to shop around.


I have a wonderful therapist. Previou to finding him, I was seeing a woman counselor, who I left a fter about 5 visits. I went to her, terribly upset because the XS/P, who decided he was going to the same office, with a different counselor, for one visit…..called me after his session to tell me that he and his counseor there diagnosed me with BPD. He tried to see the same counseorbut I asked her NOT to see him. I felt it was a conflict. I don’t think the practice should have even seen him. (keep in mind I still didn’t know who/what i was dealing with as an S/P) When I looked it up and started reading and reading and learning, I realized what projection was and that NO good counselor would EVER diagnose anyone not in the room or without some kind of evaluation.

So when I told the counseor the story about the accusation, as I sat there crying, she looked at me and said “well a personality disorder is just like a personality quirk and we all have quirks.” I WAS DONE !!! I said good ye and told her I didn’t think she really understood what I was dealing with.

My therapist for over a year now is fantastic !

Healing Heart

And yes! The question you wrote that most caught my eye was “Have you successfully treated any sociopaths?”

Any therapist who answers that affirmatively has no idea what they are talking about! You are meeting with Dr. Quack. RUN out of the office!

And, watch out for therapists who are too quick to label YOU as codependent. Yes, there are weaknesses in us that kept us in these relationships for too long (for more than a moment after we see the mask fall), but I do think, many therapists focus on what’s wrong with the person in the room and underestimate the pathology of the person who is on the outside.

Most relationships are complex, with both parties bringing an array of strengths and weaknesses. Everything is in shades of grade.

The relationship with the sociopath is unique, in that there clearly is a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” Most therapists are trained to believe that this is NEVER the case, and any one presenting such a scenario is personality disordered.

This is not to say that we don’t bring challenges into the relationship – we do. But we do not abuse, and we do not invite, encourage, deserve, the outrageous abuse of the Sociopath.

Healing Heart

Omigod, keeping faith – you just described the exact “bad” scenario I was writing about in terms of a therapist misreading the dynamics and blaming the victim.

Good for you for recognizing that and getting rid of her! You are strong and wise!



She was an assh___. The XS/P went with me to one session and as he was pulling out his wallet to get his insurance card, the x stripper’s picture fell out. NO LIE. So in the waiting room, he starts going through MY purse and MY cell phone telling me to delete all of the number with men’s names associate with them. (It’s my work TREO and I have all kinds of work contacts in there. But of course I was sleeping with them all). We go into her office and apparently the receptionist told her what was going on in the waiting room. All she can say is “this is toxic.” She said it a hundred times.

After he admits to lying to me the day we met, she still has nothing better to say than, “this is toxic.” I saw her alone four more times. Then realized she wasn’t doing anything good for me.

Even that scenario, as I think back, I would never tolerate today. The minute her photo fell out of his wallet, I should have given him the finger, left and never looked back…….

I have way more to offer anyone than he was offering or ever could offer to me. It makes me angry but it was a hard lesson to learn.

We have received some referrals for the Lovefraud Professional Resources Guide, and we are in the process of contacting the service providers to invite them to participate.

Still, people all over the U.S., and in other countries, are looking for competent resources. If you know of someone who can help the victims of abusers, please tell us. We’re looking for:
* therapists
* lawyers
* forensic accountants
* child advocates
* private investigators
* expert witnesses
* social service organizations

Your privacy is protected. The only time we use your name is to tell the provider that you recommended him or her. If you are not comfortable with that, just let us know.

I’m always struck by how people who have been exploited by these abusers want to help others who have experienced the same thing. If you’ve found professionals who gave you good advice and were good advocates for you, please click the following link to let us know:

This sheet needs to be laminated! Great resource. I love the question about sucessfully treating a psychopath.

I would only add there is honest disagreement about the “difference” between NPD and psychopathy-some, including me and psychiatrists I have read, believe the diagnosis is nearly identical. Today I will post on my blog a link to an article by a psychiatrist that succinctly notes the “distinction’between the two-NPD and psychopathy- it’s



You go girl. 🙂

Ox Drover

This is a wonderful resource–can’t say how valuable this one would be to someone seeking a counselor. FOR ANY PROBLEM and especially for the aftermath of the P experience.

Elizabeth Conley

Holy Water Salt,

That has got to be the most brilliantly accurate description of the nature of narcissists I’ve every read. No one has ever done it better.





Excellent list of questions and information in this post. Thank you, Steve!

This article would be helpful on the main LoveFraud site.


Steve: Good article, good list, a couple of red flags, though. In a hypothetical question you said, “When I’m working with victims of abuse I may have several goals, including . . . how the client finds herself in an abusive relationship . . . .” This disregards the fact that a “highly socialized” psychopath may have targeted the victim, and the victim did not have any real clues to the truth. Imagine how a therapist would say to a victim of Bernie Madoff, “So, how did you contribute to the relationship that allowed Bernie to fleece you for $100 million?”

One major challenge for recovering victims is getting over the self blame. This particular tack doesn’t help in the process.

The other flag is: “You will know, intuitively, whether the provider’s responses indicate an adequate level of thoughtfulness and knowledge.” No, not if the con artist was pretty good at the lies. They can fool anyone, even highly intuitive animals. It’s because they present the lie so effectively as the truth that we are fooled and blindsided.


Have been reading this blog for months now, as I was the victem of a narcissist. Am very much healed by it (LoveFraud), and think this site has truely been a life-changing experience. I almost feel like I know many of you personally, and owe you all so much.
I am a trained and practicing diagnostician in psychometrics. I have spent years studying psychopathy and its symptoms. I could talk for hours on the differences between Borderlines, Narcissists and Anti-Socials. I thought that this made me “safe” – my special knowledge.
Well, I can tell you than nothing immunised me from the reality of NPD. All the intellectual understanding in the world doesnt help when you are human, and fall ‘in love’. All the ‘clinical expertise’ available doesnt give you the first inking of what it FEELS LIKE to be emotionally raped.
So I have to disagree with Steve completely. All those questions are useless in my experience. The only way your therapist will ever really “get it” is if they themselves have personally been emotionally involved with a personality disorder. No amount of study really prepares you. And working with them doesnt make any difference either. You can treat people with Cancer, and still not really know what it feels like to be terminally ill.


Grant: Yes. Yes. Yes.

When I went to the judge for a restraining order, he asked, “Well, were you raped?” I was speechless. What else was it when the entire 18 months had been a calculated con?

I’m glad you’re here. You have a unique perspective as an intellectually sophisticated professional in the field, who has had the close encounter with the emotional freight train. Thank you for your honesty.

Ox Drover

DEar Grant,

Welcome to the “LF club” but sorry you had to “join”—-I definitely see your point about knowing how a Cancer patient feels, BUT I will say that while you may not know how the FEEL because you haven’t had that experience, you can find out what their NEEDS ARE and you can help them and support them in their healing process (even if that includes dying).

Hospice is one of the greatest, most supportive groups in the world, and they haven’t experienced death personally either, but they definitely understand what the patients are going through in the way of grieving. While I agree it would be NICE if a professional could have been through the experience, I disagree that they hve had to have had cancer in order to be able to support and help the cancer patient.

I disagree that they have had to die to support a dying patient.

ONe of the grief counselors I heard give a 3 day conference on the “presencing” of just being there in an empathetic posture so that the patient can ask for and get what they need from just your very presence.

This is simplistic, but I’m sure you have known people who would come into the home of someone who had died and say to their widow or widower “I know how you feel.” NO YOU DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL. I had that happen to me, and though I have TAUGHT classes in grieving and I knew what their intentions were it PISSED ME OFF IMMEDIATELY.

In an AA meeting one drunk can say to another one “I know how you feel” and they probably DO. People here can tell me they KNOW how I feel when I am down, and I am NOT offended cause I figure they have a pretty darned good idea. Maybe not exactly, but CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK.

If the person who had come to me and said “I know how you feel” after my husband died, I would have been less offended if they had been a widow or widower, but still they didn’t KNOW HOW I FELT because they hadn’t seen their husband suddenly burned to death, or stood there thinking that their son was still in the burning inferno of an airplane. At that moment there was NO ONE IN THE WORLD who knew how I felt unless maybe it was a widow/er from 9/11. Plus, my nerves were SO RAW, I WAS IN SUCH SHOCK I wan’t processing much. Just basic overwhelming denial, shock and pain. NUMB.

Having been on the local volunteer fire department we have pulled horribly burned bodies out of houses, aircraft and cars, and I was empathetic with the person’s loved ones, comforting and supportive, but you are right I did NOT KNOW first hand how they felt. I do know first hand how they felt now. But still, I had enough training and enough knowledge in the workings of the grief process I was able to be supportive of them wihtout having had the experience first hand (at that time.) Now I can be BETTER.

You are right too about our professional knowledge, training, etc. not being a protection from us falling into the WEB of one of them. I can’t count the mental health professionals from MD, PhD and therapists who are on here. It seems I would think that there is a GREATER number of “us” than would be expected in a random selection of victims.

I know with myself, I was ARROGANT and felt safe. I worked with the women and children doing pro bono family clinic medical care. I felt superior to these women who frequently went back to the man who had beaten and beaten them. I WOULD NEVER have let a man punch me around and go back to him. BUT I let my son, I let my mother and others abuse me. Just not my husband. LOL No, I was too arrogant for my own good, and thought I could “fix” others. That’s what they paid me for was “fixing others”—-“physician, heal thy self.” (or in my case Nurse Practitioner, heal thy self)

And of course afterwards I beat myself up unmercifully for “being so stupid, you should have known better” and that has been a hard “row to hoe” in my healing, to forgive myself for “being so stupid.”

Anyway, glad you are here, Grant, and glad that our musings have helped you along the healing road. Keep on posting.

Ox Drover

Steve, I know your response post was directed to GRant, but I would also like to chime in again, I agree with your response completely, except for the last two sentences which I think are a bit extreme. (tongue in cheek?)

REading between the lines, I am suspecting that maybe Grant had an unpleasant and untheraputic experience with a therapist as well. I have also had such experiences in the past.

Actually in the phase of my career when I was treating patients in an ourpatient psych clinic (managing both their medication and doing therapy) I was a GREAT therapist for THEM, but I was a pi$$ poor practitioner of my own advice!

I worked well with them, and they with me and I had some successes with patients that previously had not made any or very little progress in many years of therapy…in fact, I got the patients that everyone there had dealt with unsuccessfully (the joys of being the lastest hired!) and I got some great accolades for my success with these patients (didn’t cure them but at least got them on a good track) got them compliant with their medications etc. Helped families quit enabling them, but didn’t take care of my own problems at ALL.

All I can do now about that time in my life is to shake my head at myself and do better now.


Dear Steve
While you may think my views are ‘flawed’ and ”rigid’, all I was really trying to convey to others is that even being trained in the field of psychology, even being skilled in diagnostics, doesnt help you deal with the experience of abuse any better. There have been many posts on here bemoaning the insensitivity of therapists and counsellors. What I wanted to say is that it is not that these people are ignorant, or poorly trained, it is that they, like most normal people, dont really understand how these relationships pan out. Sure, they know that antisocials are “interpersonally exploitative”, but they dont properly consider just how that works in the context of intimacy. They dont really recognise how strengths are used AGAINST you, how love can be FAKED, how your deepest hopes are sought out, hyped up, and then consciously thwarted. They dont get the ins and outs of it all.
What that leads to is ultimately a “time to move on” attitude. And I cant say I blame them. I knew there were disturbed people out there in the world, but being well brought up, I also didnt know. I knew intellectually, but I didnt ‘know’ emotionally. And I think that, fortunately for them, most people dont know, and hopefully never will.
OxDover. Thank you. I work sometimes at a drug rehab clinic, and all the group sessions include a counsellor who is themselves a rehabilitated addict, as well as a psychologist. Because one of the first things an addict will always say to a psychologist is “what do you know” or “you dont know what it is like”. And in most cases they will be right. Doesnt make the psychologist a “bad” therapist.
I suppose that it would be hard to find any therapist who readily admits to having been conned in love. Not the kind of thing anyone, especially a mental health person, readily shouts from the rooftops ! But it is my deep conviction that unless a therapist has been through this personally, they are going to struggle to understand it, no matter how many degrees of years in the field they may have.
Thank for your welcome. It is so nice to actually engage with you all, after months of passive reading.


I want to add my thanks to you for writing that list. It would have been helpful for me to have when I was seeking help during after my relationship.

I particularly liked your questions about their experience in dealing with abusive personalities, and victims of abuse.

Along with everyone else here, I found it incredibly difficult to find resources for healing from this relationship. I wasn’t looking for a therapist because I wanted to manage my own recovery. But even in finding literature — and I was prepared to read professional-level material — I was frustrated.

There seems to be no professional training for this. And no particular school of therapy training that lends itself to this recovery, except possibly PSTD work. Or work on childhood abuse issues. But in both those cases, the causative factor or perpetrator are usually in the past, often far in the past. In most of our cases, they are in the immediate past or not out of the picture at all.

I explored everything I could find that even looked like this, and I found a lot of material that helped me synthesize a personal model for healing. But I am having a hard time believing that, given the likelihood of a significant encounter with a sociopath in anyone’s life, there is not some formal training for emotional recovery in this area.

Do you know of anything?


KH and Grant: I’ve also found that same lack of literature addressing the needs of the victims in the process of healing.

First, it helped me when I had a name for the “freight train” that hit me. That at least let me know that it wasn’t just a “bad relationship, but . . . you know . . . there are two sides to every story.” That at least validated my own horror when I realized that NOTHING I’d taken for truth was even close to the truth.

But after that, I’ve found very little practical help. The self-blame, obsessive replaying and re-examination of events, the profound despair, the hyperactive startle reflex, the inability to concentrate . . . talk therapy just doesn’t address this.

I like the suggestion that the best therapist to help a victim through the process is truly someone who was married or otherwise involved with an S/P. So, are we all going back to school? Those of us who don’t already have our credentials?


I suppose I should say that I am not a therapist, only an assessor. I also was not led here by virtue of my profession, and am not here to give counselling. I am here as a victim, a survivor, and as someone who wants to heal, rather than argue about academic issues.
Rune, its like “but why stay with someone like that?”, or “but you are worth so much better than that”, or “there are lots of others out there”, “some things are just not meant to be”. Ive even found myself on blind dates when going out with concerned friends who bring them along.


When the conman was playing his game, other people who saw our “relationship” said, “I just wish I had that kind of love in my life.” My highly intuitive Australian shepherds were completely fooled until he dropped the mask and revealed himself to the boy dog. (I figured that out later — at the time I only know that I thought my red-tri had developed a neurological disorder, because he began trembling uncontrollably. Much later, after I left, when I was trying to piece together the reality, I found myself trembling in a similar way — profound neurological shock, caused by the deliberate malicious lying behavior of the conman.)

Statements like, “But you can do so much better . . .,” etc., just don’t have anything to do with the reality of the traume.


Someone on here described the relationship as “an anti-relationship”, which I thought was just brilliant. It is everthing a relationship should be, just not.

Ox Drover

Dear GRant,

AFter my son was arrested for murder, I went into a melt down. He was guilty and I figured it at the time though he denied it, but anyway, immediately after his arrest I went into a melt down so profound I probably should have been hospitalized. A friend of mine who was Director of Nurses at a psych hospital was desperate for nurses and we had gone to school together and she started calling e BEGGING me to come there to work. I had been in physical medicine, orthopaedic, spinal cord rehab, head injury rehab but never in psych so wasn’t’ very interested but the prospect of a nice job (can we say money) where I could name and schedule my own hours (doing intake assessments) etc was okay so I took the job.

My job was to interview patients and their families as they were brought in. Primarily teenagers many of whom were Borderline females, male psychopaths, etc. along with some druggie kids who were ALSO personality disordered.

As I was doing these interviews though I knew EXACTLY HOW THESE PARENTS FELT, there was NO WAY I could reveal this to them. The interview was about them and their problems not mine. I was TOTALLY empathetic because I knew my little darling had just blown the brains out of a 17 yr old girl.

After each interview for a while I would go in the bathroom aned cry and cry. PUt my make up back on, mumble something to someone about the ghastly allergies that were making my nose, eyes, etc red and start over again.

Actually it was therapeutic for me because I realized that though my kid had killed someone, he was NOT the worst kid in the world, I interviewed the parents of and the child who was worse. How about a 210 pound 6’3″ 12 year old who had raped several small children had had NO remorse and thought he was big enough to do whatever he wanted to, and guess what, he was! Only physical force would stop this kid, Talk about defiant and COLD. When I started working more hours I made friends with the BIGGEST mental health techs on the units who were so protective of me it was like I had two dobermans, one on each side and the kids soon learned that when I walked on the unit I didn’t take much guff. What was funny was I was scared chitless at first, and everyone complimented me on how I just wasn’t afraid like most nurses new to psych on such a rough and tough unit. I WAS A GOOD ACTRESS, plus I knew that my “body guards” would protect me like momma badgers. But the kids did seem to respond to me and I worked there a year and a half, working “half time” (that is TWELVE HOURS A DAY, 5-7 DAYS A WEEK) but it was God’s way of explaining things to me about my son, I am sorry I flunked that lesson. I got it with someone else’s kids, but not with mine. That year and a half was very therapeutic (but stressful too) and so after that job I went into a calmer (and safer) job for a while then into the rural health clinics out in the boonies practicing family medicine. Which BTW is about 50% psych practice. Then college medicine which is 80% psych medicine, and then back into psych for three years before my husband died. Then I retired.

I’m OCD about any particular thing I am involved with so when I would switch from one speciality to another within nursing or medicine, I would take classes, attend conferences and learn as much about that speciality as I could cram in. My certification is in Family medicine , which means legally I can work in most speciality fields, but as a generalist I tried to bone up on the specialty areas as I moved through them. I also realized that psych practice had helped me in every aspect from orthopaedic to spinal cord rehab, etc. and so each specialty’s knowledge helped me with my general practice. I’m no expert in any one field, but a generalist with interests and enough knowledge to “make me dangerous” in several fields.

I learned about grief and taught classes for non-professionals who were working with patients who were grieving, etc.

Yet, I didn’t apply all this knowledge to myself except in a superficial way. I taught some seminars at the U of Texas at Arlington Nursing classes about how to handle “difficult” families in stress over the injury or illness of their loved one. How to meet their needs for both professionals and non-professional staff. Still, didn’t apply these tried and true methods to my own life. DUH!

As Jesus said “take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the splinter out of your neighbors” or the old adage “them who can DO, and those who can’t TEACH” I really illustrated both of those concepts.

My life hasn’t been all chit, I married a friend and we had twenty great years together. He loved me and I loved him and neither of us were perfect but we loved each other, smoothed the friction with out love for each other and had a wonderful and fun marriage until his death. I think though that “even a blind pig will get an acorn once in a while!” I think my good marriage was more good fortune than functional choosing.

Too soon old and too late smart pretty well sums me up, but also better late than never. Let’s see now, did I leave out any tired “old saying?” Oh, yes, I almost forgot. HAVE A GREAT DAY! LOL


Steve,……. Thank you for all the time and thought you put into your post. It shows you hear us! IMO, what you have offered us is very good and I am printing it for my ever-expanding N/S/P file of great info and fabulous tips!

Generally , I think Steve’s suggestions for evaluating a professional helps level the playing field even though going to a professional is not supposed to be competitive. The pro is supposed to be on our side! These suggestions, however, are empowering and put the professional on the other side of the desk on notice that we know a little something too about what we should be getting for our time and money and we don’t intend to waste it! He is being interviewed for the job!

I think these are great questions that might apply in other situations as well. Becoming familiar with them definitely would put a client in a better position to make an informed decision instead of having a first appt. be like a blind date!

Now for the not so nice part…..I would never go to a therapist again! I don’t even like the word. I found it a complete waste of time and money and I have to wonder if they are the appropriate people to be helping recovering victims of S types or of anything for that matter.

Someday, I might make a list of the utterly stupid incompetent things I have heard therapists say. I have stumbled through my journey on my own finding that the best sources of help and guidance did not come from professionals. I pieced together what works for me and I am still anxious to learn more. I don’t think the healing and learning ever really stops. Human nature will never stop supplying us with opportunities to apply what we know.

So, I can see what Grant is saying and I have to agree with the basic idea he is expressing. Life experience plays a big part in developing an in depth understanding. Life experience can add a dimension to understanding that simply studying textbooks cannot provide. It might be similar to watching storm damage on television as opposed to actually walking into your home and wading through the muck after it has been sitting in 10 ft. of water for three weeks. Actually living through the day to day reality of an experience gives someone an entirely different perspective. Often, after a medical doctor is a patient in the hospital for the first time, he changes his approach to things.

I have several long-time personal friends who are therapists. We are the same age. Two have PH.Ds! I have learned the hard way NEVER to discuss my problems with either of them! They go into analyst mode and start spitting out text book pages like an inkjet gone wild! It’s crazymaking and of little practical value! They give great Christmas parties though and there is something nice about old friends who know you well even if they have Ph.Ds in psychology!



I’m a criminal defense attorney. I KNOW that cons, ex-cons, cons-to-be all lie. I KNOW many are sociopaths.

And then I fell in love with an ex-con who was a sociopath and my life was turned upside down, inside out, and I was cannibalized in every sense of the word.

I agree with you — unless somebody has personally experienced a sociopath, they don’t have a clue. My shrink teaches a class at one of the medical schools on personality disorders. He THINKS he gets it.

But he doesn’t. Intellectual smarts are no substitue for street smarts or the school of hard knocks. Me? I’ve got a Ph.D in sociopathy courtesy of S.

My therapist helped me tremendously when I was coming to terms with being gay. Why? Because he was gay. And straight therapists just couldn’t comprehend the issues I was grappling with. But, while he helped me through that, I am finding myself growing more and more frustrated with every passing therapy session because he just doesn’t get it.

Ox Drover

Dear Eye,

Having been on BOTH SIDES OF THE CLIP BOARD as both a therapist and a patient, I can tell you either side is a challenge. As a patient, KNOWING ALL THESE THINGS and NOT being able to DO them, or having the insight I needed to see myself truly (not in the distorted mirror we all like to look in that makes us look “thin” and “Noble” LOL

Many folks on here have expressed that their FRIENDS could all see what a jerk the P was, but they couldn’t see it for themselves. I think many times ALMOST ANYONE can look in and see the dysfunction as long as they are not in denial like we were.

Love Fraud is good therapy, but I profited a great deal by the professional therapy I had, and the mixture of the two I think was perfect FOR ME!


Hello Grant, Eye, Oxy, Matt: I suggest we consider that we were each involved with different types of S/Ps. Like the blind men and the elephant, we each know something, and we know it very well. But the therapist may have a postcard from Thailand with a picture of an elephant on it. So which of us knows better?

The people around me thought I had “the perfect relationship” — Mr. Solicitous. “Dear” this, “dear” that, just the picture of what you would hope for. In public, in private, charming, adventurous, “intelligent” (at least he put up a good front), well-spoken. It’s just that none of it was real.

Much earlier in my life I married someone I now also recognize as an S/P. Pathological liar, manipulator, and first pointed a gun at my head when we’d been married a month. I was 18 at the time.

So I guess I’m a “blind (wo)man” who has at least touched the side wall and the tree-trunk leg of the elephant. The therapist I found admitted she knew nothing of psychopathy, but she was kind and she was free because she was interning. Let’s just say she’d never heard of “elephants” or “Thailand” until I began talking with her.

Ox Drover

Dear Rune,’
Your analogy of the bliind men and the elephant is a GREAT ONE!!! And it is right on.

As for your therapist not even knowing there were elephants in Thailand, well if you educated her, then you have helped countless others in her practice for the rest of her life, and who knows, maybe her. So it is an “ill wind that blows no one good”—boy, I am coming up with the old “trueisms” today.

At least early on in the CRAZY stage of the end of the relationship I think therpay just “in general” about abuse (and most therapists are familiar with that, and the triangle etc.) is a benefit to us (victims) and I can tell you for sure the medication was a life saver for me! I’m still on a low dose and don’t plan to quit any time soon.

ONe of the worst problems we (providers) had with patients was getting them to take their medication. Believe me, I am a MOTIVATED patient.

Or I should say my doctor “motivat-izes” me—got to put this in. My son C said that he got a memo at his last place of employment with that “WORD” in it. I laughed til I choked and almost passed out. So I hope I am MOTIVAT-IZING you guys to stay on your medication if you are taking it. LOL ROTFLMAO

I can tell you though that the LF forums have been extremely helpful to me,, and I wonder how many people like Grant are out there that lurk and never post that get so much good.

The articles and blogs here are like “bread cast upon the waters” (hey, there;s another one!!! I’m no a roll!!) you never know where they will end up or what good they may do.

Well, got things to do so see you guys later. Love and hugs Oxy


Dear Grant, I am actually working as an oncologist and I may make some comments.
I see my work with my patients as being their companion on THEIR PATH OF LIFE in a difficult passage of this path, like a path finder. I have been chosen by them to be their guide, THEY HAVE TO WALK THEMSELVES. I am skilled in assessing their needs and skills (will they be fit to do a certain path or do we have to choose another one, or do we just relieve the symptoms and leave the cancer alone without specific treatment?), but I am well aware that it is ultimately THEIR resposibility and THE PATIENTS CHOOSES HIS/HER WAY, it is not MINE, although I make suggestions about why some procedure would be my preferred way. It is like in the mountains where you hire a guide for a difficult traverse, and then perhaps you won’t need him for the rest of your journey.

That concept takes off lots of burden from me as a therapist, because I don’t have to buckle up the patient and carry him all the way by resuming all responsibility. And of course I can’t walk in HIS shoes as I have to maintain a certain distance having him on my rope, enough close to feel him and being able to hold him when he is falling, but not too far away to “getting lost” and not too close for not falling down with him.

I am not a mountain goat and afraid of height, but this metaphor helped me explain to me and my patients the concept that they are on THEIR WAY and not on MINE. I can NOT HELP THEM, I can assist them helping themselves.

I also got once a lump in my breast when I was doing my thesis on breast cancer, and it was horrible. I was in shock for some days and saw me dead immediately. Fortunately it turned out to be benign. I appreciated a quick procedure and now I am very speedy with my patients.

My sister got diagnosed with cancer two years ago, whole different story, and it was just most awful beyond words and you are right it is COMPLETELY different being on the other side of the desk. It was a living nightmare, although it also went VERY quickly, 1 week between diagnosis and operation! I had my vacation (by mere chance) and could spend all the time with my sister and accompany her through all the initial procedures. She did a fabulous job, working 100% all the way as single mom of a 3 year old and lawyer (including court appearances straight after radiotherapy) going through all this.
After that I had difficulties finding empathy for patients who were complaining about minor problems, and I sometimes got quite impatient.

Oh it is not good to be TOO CLOSE!! I also know two nurse-practicioners in Oncology and a lab-technician who got breast cancer who had a very difficult time to come back to work because THEY KNEW HOW IT FELT LIKE.

I think it is a unique and precious gift having first hand experience, but after that you have to step back and see the bigger picture and one has to try very hard not to mix one’s own experience with the experience of the other. I can’t walk in someone’s shoes, they are always uncomfortable. You just can think of what has helped in the situation and ask the other one what he thinks about it.

For me in my own “Cancer experience” it was “Speed is essential to minimize the time of uncertainty”, but besides that I could only stand by my sister and let it go, then I could mark presence so everybody knew IT IS MY SISTER AND YOU BETTER TREAT HER WELL and pray that the histology might be favorable. In hindsight it is pretty little things.

With therapeuts who got conned by P/N/S it is the same as with cancer I think: You have to step back and see the bigger picture, and not mix you with thy next.

For me it was my sister who made me look up “Psychopath” when I broke up with my “friend”. That was the one and only first step. Finding a word for the unspeakable horror. So I found you all. Without that I would have been in the Fog for much longer, and without the “P/N/S”-word I think no therapeut would have been of use, because I was so obsessed with what MY faults were and was focusing on my fixing and not what is wrong with HIM. The mere KNOWING and looking it up was tremendously therapeutic for me, better than anyhing else.

I have read previously about “psychopaths and manipulators” and I was very well aware when others got manipulated (I even joked about it with one of my colleagues who did a great job at this and I always called him “Rat”, and he liked it!). But I was never ever aware of ALL THE N/S/P who manipulated ME during all my life in my life and roam also in my pedigree.
Then time is essential, I could not speed it up, and I think no therapeut could. It was like mind archeology; I am now at my pedigree, long past my x-P, long past my early infancy, long past my dysfunctional parents.
I think also my processing of emotions is kind of random, and at first it got triggered at the oddest moments, and I needed all “Therapists” on my way they were just happening to be around when I broke out in tears at the strangest moments(secretaries, even my boss who turned later also to be a bully and narcissistic). I possibly would not have been able to have so many appointments with the therapeut

I can see now many difficult relationships in my patients and sometimes I give them a hint for “looking up the word”. That is all I can do.

My main therapeuts were you all the LF-bunch. Reading from other people was very helpful. I could come here any time and as long as I wanted, and it was and is very comforting knowing you all being here in the cyberspace, like a dense web I can come and let me fall in and feel comfi, being understood, can pamper myself (including some selfpityplayparty from time to time), relax, laugh and learn and possibly be of some use for other people. Thank you all, and have a wonderful stressfree weekend!


Steve: If you are in a plane crash, or devastated by Hurricane Katrina, no one asks you how you contributed to this happening in your life. You don’t face a society that disbelieves even that you were traumatized.

To be deliberately selected and traumatized by a fellow human being, over a period of time, while that person pretended to be your most loving, trustworthy advocate . . . that is a different type of trauma. Even rape and war are more understandable.

Yes, I examine myself to see how I might have set myself up. I don’t excuse my “participation.” But I was NOT looking for a relationship, and very reluctantly was persuaded that this guy was sincere. And in my healing, if anything, my tendency toward self-examination and self-blame has kept me dropping back into despair.

This is a different type of trauma. I believe Grant has an excellent point. And, not all S/Ps are the same — there are gradations, and different presentations. The one I was involved with was never violent, did not raise his voice, . . . but I know of three instances when, in retrospect, I know he was considering engineering my death. All the while putting on the act for me and others. I feel like I detected Scott Peterson in this relationship BEFORE my demise.

That’s not the sort of trauma a normal trauma counselor can understand.


Even rape and war are more understandable.

I am going to comment here and this will probably upset some folks but this is something I feel I have to speak to.

This kind of talk smacks of “my trauma/experience is worse than yours” or “my trauma/experience is special compared to others”.

It is simply doo doo and frankly I find it rather insulting.

No one can truly understand what I went through because they were not me and did not go through it. And them going through something similar MAY help them to understand my situation better or it MAY make them even worse because they then see their own situation in everyone else’s situation and treat everyone based on that.

Pain, suffering, hurt, and trauma are things that are subjective to each person. I and my twin might be involved in something very hurtful yet respond to, even view and experience it, in very different ways. I might experience horrific amounts of distress while my twin may have little to no issues from the same event. And to then have someone come along and try to say that one type of pain is worse or more special than another does not help things at all.

I have worked with/helped numerous people who have experienced trauma for many different reasons, many of which I have not experienced yet I was still able to help them and when I could not or they were beyond my scope I referred them to someone who could. Again no one can understand what another person has been though fully. One of the first mistakes I ever made when I was just starting out was to say “I understand what you are going through” to someone. That person quickly and rightfully corrected me that I did not and could not since I did not go through it and was not them (and I was able to help that person).

I find I agree with much of what Steve has said. However there are a few things that pop to mind. One problem is that the quality of “therapists” vary widely depending on where you are at which is why selecting one and knowing how to evaluate your therapy is so important.

And yes there are bad therapists out there but I also find that sometimes a person wants to fixate on the person who hurt them and talk about them to almost the exclusion of wanting to help themselves. They become the survivor of an psychopath and their life starts to revolve around that and becomes that and then you get to see this “us” and “them”.

I am reminded of the saying I posted before and how this seems to apply here -> “We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.”


I’m not talking about whose pain is worse. I’m referring to the deniability of the trauma: that those who don’t get it, who don’t understand that trauma actually happened, can and often do state that nothing happened. It’s like a closed head injury: you can’t see blood, so nothing happened, right? Actually, very wrong, as new research is showing.

Ox Drover

I find I must agree too with Blogger T on this.

Dr. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” which was written from the point of view of the inmates emotional states in the Nazi prison camps, he found that

(paraphrase) Pain acts like a gas, it expands to fill the entire container it is put in. A little gas expands to fill it ENTIRELY and a LOT of gas fills it entirely as well.

So one person’s paper cut may be a catstrophe and another man’s broken leg may be “nothing.” PERCEPTION OF Pain, both physical and emotional is dependent upon SEVERAL THINGS, one is genetics. They have found a “stoic” gene and a “weenie” gene and we get one fro each of our parents. If you get too “weenie” genes you respond differently than if you get two “stoic” genes, if you have one of each you are “average” Then there is the social training we get in how we are to respond to the “sick role” and how we are to act in pain (both eotional and physical). I was raised to CLOSELY HIDE ALL EMOTIONAL PAIN. Pain of any kind was to be endured without complaint. I got so tired of hearing how my mother went through the entire labor with me without waking up the girl in the bed next to her. Hell, I screamed and when I ran out of curse words I started making them up before my first son was born!

I learned at a very early age to HIDE my emotions, especially emotional distress…”you keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about!”

Showing my emotional pain is difficult for me except in an environment I consider very safe. To talk about emotional pain or confusion outside of my closest circle of trust was darn near impossible. Even then I kept the majority of it inside. “What would the neighbors think if you told them XY or Z?” KEEP THE FAMILY SECRETS.

Our pain genetics, our social training about appropriate ways and times to show it (or to keep it secret or trivalize it) forms the web of how we feel and display our pain (emotional or physical.) I don’t think my difficulty in sharing my pain with others is a “rare” thing either. I think many people have this same difficulty. I have always been more able to empathize and support you with YOUR pain than to share my pain with you. If that makes any sense.

But whatever our pain is (paper cut or broken leg to use physical examples) it FILLS EACH OF US ENTIRELY.

So, your pain is =to my pain, your trauma and my trauma are ENTIRELY filling our souls and minds. I definitely agree with Dr Frankl on that one. I keep thinking that his pain experience had to be “worse” than mine, because it was a horrific experience, but when you are stripped down to “nothing” as he was, and as we have been, pain-pain=pain. It HURTS!

I do agree with Rune though that the BETRAYAL makes the trauma worse than an “act of God” or a plane crash or being struck by lightening that leaves you injured, but it isn’t directed at YOU personally, you are just a prey animal to them.


Oxy & T: In principle, I agree with each of you. But, to use the concussion analogy, the coach used to say, “Aw, he just got his bell rung. He’s tough. He’ll walk it off.” Now we know that a concussion may not even show in the person’s behavior, but it can lead to permanent cognitive damage if not properly treated, and even death.

To give credit to the brave and traumatized soldiers, we used to say (as a society), “Oh, he’s just a coward.” It was even a step forward when “shell shock” was acknowledged to exist. Post-Vietnam, we finally granted that soldiers were suffering from PTSD from their war experiences.

I maintain that the trauma from certain types of interaction and betrayal is not well understood, and not even acknowledged by many people.

As an example, on today’s rotating AOL articles, one item noted “10 financial mistakes to avoid,” (or words to that effect). The first item was “Falling victim to a scam,” and Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick were the illustrating photo. As if they were poster children for “stupid.” I doubt anyone would point at a war vet and say that he/she should have known better. In that sense, the trauma the S/P victim feels is less well understood, and often not even acknowledged.

I know Steve’s taken some shots on this topic, but perhaps the larger lesson here is that therapists in general might benefit from greater education, and we each have experiences that could help them understand our issues better.


Rune I think if you were to talk to very many folks who have experienced different types of trauma in their lives you will find that some will tell you that they experience folks either denying their trauma or thinking they should be over it all ready or something similar. Heck look at the whole issue of grief and loss and this jumps out as well.

I have seen some of the most awful betrayal and denial in some of the clergy sexual abuse cases I have been involved in and studied.

Yes Ox I agree that betrayal along with many other things can make it worse. But again it depends on the individual.

Ox Drover

Alittle phrase that sums it up is

“The same sun that hardens the clay, melts the wax”

So the SAME exact experinece shared by two people will have a different effect on each of them depending on the “qualities of the substance” of each of them.

The three men who shared the plane crash with my husband (in which my husband died) all shared the same experience, all were severely burned and reacted totally differently to the experience afterwards as well as during the crash.

The “substance” within us that makes us unique individuals means that we respond in a unique way to whatever happens to us. There may be some similarities that the “human animal” goes through (like the “grief process”) but none are absolutely exactly alike. There are fairly predictable patterns at times though, and always some exceptions to the “rules.”

I do agree with Rune though that the therapists as a profession need to be better educated to what a psychopath is and their potential for damage, and the shape the victims are usually in.

I too have been told to “get over it, get on with life” concerning my husband’s death and all the other stress I endured during the last few years. I don’t think these people are so uncaring as uninformed. They truly don’t understand so I try not to be angry with them for their ignorance. Most of the time I don’t even try so much to educate them about it, because I’ve found they are not receptive to being educated about this. Their mind is made up, don’t confuse them with facts. LOL


The training though leads back to selection. If I have cancer I go to a cancer specialist rather than just a family doctor. If I have suffered abuse I want to go to someone who specializes in that. So i am not sure I agree that all therapists be educated on psychopaths.

Quite a few therapists have no interest in working with these type of indviduals and for valid reasons. I am not critical of my doctor because he does not specialize in urology or because he does not “get it” as much as a cancer specialist would.

Again therapists qualities vary greatly depending on where you live. My state has a state rep who is considering legislation so that all licensed therapists would have a drop box next to their names and specialities listed to help clients find specialists. Right now they are out there but it is almost impossible to find them.

I think that state rep is on the right track for helping folks find the specialists they are looking for. They are out there we just need better ways to find them.


I don’t even need a therapist who understands psychopaths. I feel I could benefit from a therapist who understood the damage a psychopath does to the victim. I’ve now taken in from a small percentage of the whole who understand psychopathy into a nonexistent percentage that “get” what happens to victims, particularly those who have been “groomed” and then devastated.

I doubt that specialty — victims of psychopaths — would rate a box next to a name. If so, I’d beg the money to be able to move.

Enough about sounding dramatic here. I think we’re exploring the facets of an unacknowledged issue.

Thank you, Donna, for trying to get a list together. This is why we — even when we cannot eloquently articulate our needs — are looking forward to having access to people who might already be closer to what we need.

Steve errs in thinking that we can be calm and rational and analytical in the aftermath of our trauma. Many of us don’t even have a name for what hit us — so how can we carefully pre-qualify the therapist?

Chicken or egg? What if I don’t even know I’m hungry? Let alone capable of analyzing “chicken or egg.” How can I pre-qualify a therapist’s credentials when I do not know what shape-shifted my reality? And I’m reeling!

Who was the former billionaire in Europe who walked in front of a train only several weeks ago? Or the French investor who celebrated Christmas Eve by slitting his wrists because he had lost $1 Billion to a man he trusted. And I have no notion that Bernie Madoff was also his lover. What trauma if someone takes your heart, your livelihood, your self respect, your credibility, and your sanity. And any resource that might otherwise have come from friends and family.

This is not about who has the greater pain. Oxy has a powerful voice because of her experience and her choice to survive even that, and the successions of traumas — some more visible than others. I deeply respect her open communication with us, her sharing of her triumphs and grief.

Great. What if I have cancer? If I do, I have an idea where to start looking for help. I can look it up on a chart; people will understand.

People don’t understand if I say that I realized I was living with someone who had chosen to destroy my work and all my resources, and that at the last, when I looked into his eyes, I thought I saw Ted Bundy.

What if I don’t have a name for it? The therapist is supposed to figure these things out, right? But as I understand, the training is that they deal with “the person in the room,” and they don’t try to diagnose the other people in that person’s life.

With victims of those who are psychopathic/sociopathic, the issue is radically different. The disordered person is NOT in the room. If the therapist cannot even begin to understand that the real disorder might be the “elephant in the corner,” then the therapist will never get to a place to facilitate healing. It will all be about teaching the victim to repress and, “get over it.”

In this discussion, I feel I’m pointing at the emperor who is walking around naked, and everyone is commenting on how nice he looks with his clipboard and lab coat. I do believe that “talk therapy” can be very useful. I also believe that we at Lovefraud are dealing with a spectrum of special cases that are not yet well understood by even very competent therapists who do very well dealing with other issues. And beyond that, and even more to the point, they don’t understand that their usual tools may be inappropriate for these victims.


In pharmaceuticals, there is what is known as a “paradoxical reaction.” My grandmother responded to morphine by becoming energized and feeling pain more acutely. The more pain and anxiety she felt, the more morphine the doctor administered.

The more I say, “I didn’t ask for it! I didn’t see it coming!” the more I hear, “What is your role in creating this?” And that goes back to the self-blame for what I did NOT ever envision or have an inkling of understanding. That sort of therapy is like upping the morphine dosage when my grandmother hadn’t slept in several days.


Rune I would like to comment on a few things you said:

People don’t understand if I say that I realized I was living with someone who had chosen to destroy my work and all my resources, and that at the last, when I looked into his eyes, I thought I saw Ted Bundy.

“People” don’t understand. This statement is said by people who have gone through all sorts of different experiences. It does not just apply to people who have been victims of psychopaths. I had a person recently make that same statement to me except she was talking about how people do not understand clergy sexual abuse and what she went through. No one understands it in the way you do because only you have gone through it.

What if I don’t have a name for it? The therapist is supposed to figure these things out, right? But as I understand, the training is that they deal with “the person in the room,” and they don’t try to diagnose the other people in that person’s life.

Abuse, pain, suffering, hurt, and trauma. These are all names that often fit. And Rune you can not diagnose someone you have not met and evaluated and that is a good thing because those psychopaths that do end up in the office would have therapists believing all sorts of things about other people.

With victims of those who are psychopathic/sociopathic, the issue is radically different. The disordered person is NOT in the room. If the therapist cannot even begin to understand that the real disorder might be the “elephant in the corner,” then the therapist will never get to a place to facilitate healing. It will all be about teaching the victim to repress and, “get over it.”

I disagree. It is not radically different and this is the “special” thing I was talking about. All abuse is a special case. The abuser may not be in the room but that is true of other abuse issues as well. Everything from domestic violence to child abuse to rape and more. I do not know of any licensed counselors that teach people to repress and “get over it”. And while the “disordered” person may not be in the room the hurt person is.

I guess we disagree because I do not believe that we are dealing with a spectrum of special cases other than the fact that all cases of abuse are special and unique unto themselves. A non-psychopath can deliberately select and traumatize a fellow human being, over a period of time, while pretending to be their most loving, trustworthy advocate and then smash it all apart just as easily as a psychopath can.

Pain, trauma, and the experience is unique to every person who went through it. There is no one size fits all training that can cover that.

The self-blame, obsessive replaying and re-examination of events, the profound despair, the hyperactive startle reflex, the inability to concentrate . . . talk therapy just doesn’t address this.

I have to wonder what kind of therapy/therapist you found because the counselors I know that work with abuse issues all deal with those issues you listed. In fact that list sounds like it could belong to numerous people (ranging from domestic violence to sexual assault to abuse/neglect to assault to accidents) I have seen over the years, some victims of psychopaths and some not.


Hi All
Thanks for the comments
I have found, in telling my friends, most of whom are therapists, that they empathize, but tended to feel that it was just a relationship that didnt work out, and that I was being stubborn in not being able to just suck it up and move on. I think that what makes this so different from a plane crash is that normal break-ups occur, and normal relationships end, and that is the template that people work from. They dont realise, therapists included, that this was in no way normal.
I think all of us also fail here. We ask ourselves “whats wrong with me”. Why is this so hard, why cant I move on. And our therapists ask the exact same questions !

I see lots of psychopaths at work. Peadophiles mostly. Yes, I can assess them. No, I cant understand why they find kids attractive. And, truth be told, I dont really want to.
This does not make me a poor assessor, however. It may make me a poor therapist if I chose to work with them in therapy. So I dont.
If you asked all the therapists where I work “Can you treat a Borderline?”, they would say Yes. Could they really? I have my doubts. Sure, they have the theory, they have experience, but I can bet you none have ever been intimate with one.
I dont think you need to have been a victim of a Sociopath to be a therapist to one – I want to make that clear. I do think, though, that as a victem, you would make a much, much, much better therapist ! And if I could choose, I,d choose the victem therapist over the non-victem any day of the week. No contest.


I also tend to find that I am often, after 10 years work, still confronted with new, unusual genetic syndromes, most of which I have never heard of before. I still assess them, however, and learn from each one. There will always be a first time, that is how we learn. Im certainly not saying I need to have the syndrome myself in order to treat it. That would be plainly ridiculous. But I will also never have first hand knowledge of what it is really like either.
So I think it may be too harsh to expect a therapist to have inside out knowledge of the pathology at hand, and it often falls to the patient to educate the doctor ! Even this, however, will have its limits.
If you can sucessfully describe to your therapist what exactly has happened to you, how it happened, and how it felt, your battle is really already more than half won.

Healing Heart

I agree with BloggerT in that there are many good therapists experienced with working with women (or men) who were in abusive relationships or victims of trauma. I know many of them. I know therapists who specialize in trauma who are gifted at helping people recover from such.

I think the problem is not specifically the therapist’s ability to work with traumatized patients, but rather the therapist’s ability to recognize that a relationship with a sociopath is just that – a relationship with a sociopath. And that it was traumatic. I think unless you walk into a therapist’s office and say “I was in an abusive relationship and I may have PTSD and I would like your help recovering from that” a therapist experienced with trauma would be helpful.

However, the sense I get is that when most individuals like us seek out therapy – we are in a stage where we are very confused about what happened, still in a fog, still don’t remember a lot of the stuff we have repressed, and go to a therapist’s office to help things get sorted out. We suspect we are crazy, we all suspect that something was wrong with him (or her).

The problem here is that most therapist’s do not assume that the person is someone who is the victim of a sociopath. Why would they? Odds are against it. The therapist then does, explore with the whether or not she is, in fact, “crazy.” And this can be further traumatizing to the patient.

In short – I think if you walked into a trauma specialists office, or any one, really who is a good therapist, and said that you were a victim or a relationship with a sociopath, you’d get good care.

But I bet the vast majority of us do not recognize that when we are seeking help. We are not nearly that far along in the journey. We are confused, in a fog, questioning ourselves….and bring that muddled picture into a therapist’s office. And the therapist, unless they can recognize that you are a victim of a sociopath relationship, will take a while to get there with you. And in the process we feel like someone else is joining us in looking at us as the crazy person (possibly). And that is not what they need.

The story with my therapist was different. I had been seeing her for a number of years. She watched me go into the relationship, go through it, come out. I showed her some of his emails. She said to me at more than one point “He is okay. This is a guy who is okay.” She now believes, fully, he is a sociopath. But I had to convince her. And it really wasn’t until he was stalking me that she started to believe. And this woman knows me as honest. In fact, she had complimented me in the past on how honest I was, how willing I was to look critically at myself. She had said “you are much more intererested in the truth than looking good.”

I think the problem is not that therapists can’t work with victims of abusive relationships, but that they don’t recognize these women (and men) as victims of abusive relationships. Unless the patient clearly states such – and usually, when they seek out treatment, they are too confused and distressed to know enough to do so.

Healing Heart

I just read all the blogs….and many people, in addition to BloggerT state that there are many therapists experienced in dealing with trauma who would be helpful.

This is all true. However, I think that going through our experience is a unique kind of trauma – as going through vietnam is different than being raped. I have worked with both populations. Both had PTSD – but there experience was very different. It wasn’t until I worked with vets for a while, that I became very good with them and understood (as much as someone who isn’t a vet could) about their trauma and was really qualified to help. Same thing with rape victims. You can have book smarts, and even training (ivy league or State U – it doesn’t matterr), but its not until you’ve been in a room, and heard the stories that you get it. And I think almost all specialists in trauma would agree with this. Certainly the psychologists and psychiatrists I worked with. It would be arrogant to think otherwise.

I go back to my main point in my last post. The problem is not finding a therapist who can treat trauma – most of them can. And there are thousands, tens of thousands, who specialize in treating trauma and victims of abusive relationships. I agree with Steve, BloggerT, and every one else who pointed that out. You are right.

However, when most of us seek out treatment we can not state our trauma. We cannot say “I’m a rape victim” “I’m a survivor of desert storm” or “I’m a survivor of hurricane katrina.” We walk into a therapist’s office confused, crazy, questioning ourselves, and not knowing what the hell it is we have been through. And the problem is that most therapists won’t look at one of us and think “Ah, this looks like someone who has been a victim of a relationship with a sociopath.” Unless we can state that clearly, and unless we have bruises and restraining orders to show, a therapist won’t know it. Most won’t assume it – and are not sensitive in dealing with us – and may even make us feel worse in the process.


Dear Grant. I just wanted to point out that having first hand experience does not make one being a better therapist. At the moment, psychopaths and sociopaths seem to be “a la mode” with the press because of the financial crisis. (I think i is just a bit late…)

“If you can sucessfully describe to your therapist what exactly has happened to you, how it happened, and how it felt, your battle is really already more than half won.”

I am with HH: we are not so able to describe, at least I do not think I was able; it was my sister who actually SAW the P and me often together and HEARD what he told me and her and she was in close encounter, but she told me only after I have dumped him after 7 moths of “being together” to look up “Psychopath”. And she has been in two relationships with P’s!
I am sure in therapy I would have bragged about MY faults and my shortcommings as I always seek mistakes first in myself. I am not sure whether the therapist would have gotten through all this to conclude “”x-“partner=”Psychopath”.

You can only recognize what you already know. Therefore I personally find the questions very good as we can’t tell from the outside what expertise a shrink or psychologist has.

Being HERE on this very website is already a BIG step forward in the healing. We have found the solution to our problem and now we are dealing with it. As soon as WE get to the answer (WHAT the NAME of the train was that hit us), no matter who told us, we are at once expert in this particular field as we have already made a big step in healing and getting out of the fog.

NOT KNOWING is the hardest part. How to get to know the truth? Know the P/N/S-word and CONNECT it with OUR horrible experience? Maybe it would be helpful if we could state how we learned that we were victims of a P/S/N? How we got to know about this site?


Healing Heart: What’s wrong with therapists having a check list available for all patients to complete as they arrive in the outer office. Other physicians have a check list for their new patients to fill out, why not therapist.

Doesn’t take an Einstein to figure simple procedures out.

As soon as I found out what my EX was about, I immediately made an appointment with my OBGYN. As soon as I arrived in to his office, he wasn’t available to see me but another physician was scheduled for my appointment. She made me fill out a brand new check off list … and many of the questions on the chart was about a “partner’s” abuse. So naturally, still in shock, I checked off the boxes that applied to me. After my exam … this physician sent me for every STD test imaginable.



libelle: I don’t know where anyone else lives in this country… but the state I live in is very well versed in what anti-social personalities are all about. The first psychiatrist I went to (to get my bosses and my Senator off my back …because I refused to see the Employee’s Assistance Program therapists) was more than knowledgeable about any type of anti-social personality. The 2nd therapist I went to (at my sister’s request after I found out the truth about my EX (actually her insistence because she had several free sessions owed her through her job) knew about anti-social personalities and admitted to me, she read articles, saw movies/shows pertaining to my situation but she personally never met anyone who actually went through what I endured. Never the less, she was compassionate and competent… and now (due to me) is more than well initiated into dealing with PTSD due to anti-social personalities involvement with their patients.

I really should write the woman and tell her that I’m OK … a little up date and refer this site to her … if she doesn’t know about it already.


Healing Heart

Wini – What would the checklist say? I think the point is that when most of us walk into a therapist’s office we don’t know what is wrong. We are terribly confused. A checklist wouldn’t be that useful and would feel pretty insensitive and cold (in fact, I know this to be the case)

There is nothing inherently “wrong” with therapists. Many are excellent, most are good – and most (though certainly not all) who go into field are caring souls. There isn’t enough education about survivors of relationships with sociopaths. And the survivors, like us, are just beginning to connect.

If it wasn’t for the internet, I bet most of us would be very isolated with our problem and still not understand what the hell had happened. Most of us were ultimately educated and connected through the internet. And even with the internet, still 95% stay isolated. Think about it – if 4% of the population are sociopaths…and they tend to have 4-5 lovers a year (probably an underestimate), there should be millions and millions of victims. But what are there – one hundred people on this site? A few thousand on the S and N survivor sites altogether? Most of us suffer silently.

It’s much easier for physicians to have a “checklist” of physical problems. And even with that – their hit rate is pretty mediocre. Most people I know don’t sing praises to the medical care they’ve received. My gyn. was also excellent, like yours. But it was a clear issue. I walked in and said “my partner had unprotected sex with multiple people.” So I got tested for everything. Simple. She didn’t have to sort through anything, figure out anything. She was excellent because I could tell her precisely what happened. And I asked to be tested for everything. There was no challenging or confusing picture to sort through.

My therapist, on the other hand, got a very confused and often changing account of what was happening in my life.

There are millions of emotional problems that people can have. A checklist isn’t possible. And even with a checklist that said “Are you in an abusive relationship” most people wouldn’t know how to answer that properly at the time they are seeking treatment.

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