Narcissism and the social work response

Isobel Bailey, Heather Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper reflects on and discusses the relationship between social work knowledge and practice in the context of work with narcissistically-oriented clients. Two subtypes of narcissism postulated in the literature are discussed in relation to the pattern of narcissistic internal claims about self and associated relational expectations. Key messages for social workers are that greater knowledge of the dynamics of narcissism may lead to: accepting and adapting practice based on the idea that narcissistic dynamics have a certain intentionality; applying empowerment models more carefully with this group; better understanding of how to effectively engage clients without reinforcing strong narcissistic tendencies or 'results'; and protection of social workers' wellbeing by being able to identify and understand how narcissistic dynamics impact in practice situations. Social workers are urged to critically reflect on and to develop deeper, social work-specific, understandings of personality psychology in the interests of greater practice effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-592
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Social Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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