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121 | The Body Bears the Burden: The Physical Consequences of Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse in Marriage

Social Work: Current Developments, Trends, and Best Practices, Thursday 9/14 8:45 – 10:00 AM, Workshop Tracks


David Hawkins, M.S.W., M.A., Ph.D.



Approved For CE

Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Pastors, Pastoral Counselors, Lay Counselors, Coaches

Approved For CME/CEU

Medical Doctors, Osteopathic Doctors, Physicians Assistants, Midwives, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners




Our clients’ minds and bodies are connected. Too many mental health clinicians focus on treating the mind, forgetting to ask questions about the body. Thus, they are in danger of enabling a very destructive process instead of participating in powerful interventions. This workshop explores how an unhealthy marriage often leads to an unhealthy body and how the body keeps the score for the health of the marriage. Psychologists, licensed mental health professionals, medical professionals, and ministry leaders will explore how chronic narcissistic and emotional abuse often leads to various psychosomatic illnesses, with the body and physical symptoms reflecting the health of the marriage. This workshop will explore psychosomatic illness and its relationship to PTSD and Complex PTSD, its connection to chronic stress in marriage, and action steps participants should take to help those struggling to cope. The presenters will explore “emotional exhaustion” and the cost to spouses of “over-functioning” and coping, adapting, and accommodating a stressful marriage. Finally, steps will be elucidated for clinicians to assist spouses suffering from psychosomatic illness to take responsibility for their healing, which includes how to assist a spouse in finding appropriate emotional help through therapy and physical support through medical assistance with a physician, as well as creating healthy boundaries that can lead to physical healing.

Learning Objectives

1. Identify traits of narcissistic and emotional abuse as well as typical physiological symptoms associated with this abuse.
2. Outline various psychosomatic illnesses often associated with narcissistic and emotional abuse.
3. Describe the relationship between chronic marital stress and psychosomatic illness.
Summarize best practices for treating those suffering from narcissistic and emotional abuse and assisting them in finding appropriate physical care, setting healthy boundaries, and taking ultimate responsibility for their healing.
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