The Importance of Boundaries in Therapyby Richard Harvey on 01/15/19
Why are boundaries so important in therapy?
Therapy is a relationship. The meeting points of this relationship are as specific as any other kind of relationship. The wise therapist needs to pay careful, regular attention to these meeting points as a way of maintaining healthy contact with her clients.
Boundaries enable relationship. They are not what relationship is all about, but they offer ways and means. Like internet connections they link you up, rather than proscribe what will be the content of the communication.
In therapy there are physical boundaries and energetic, emotional ones -- the seen and the unseen boundaries.
Money in remuneration for therapy is a seen boundary. You make a charge and the client agrees to pay it. That's an agreement you make and it is a boundary that can be kept or broken.
Time is another seen or physical boundary. You agree to meet your client at a predetermined time and frequency. How exact that time is, how fixed, how you deal with late arrival and the consequences of cancellation or not showing up -- this is the business of negotiating clear time boundaries.
Money and time boundaries are extremely powerful and they can have profound therapeutic results. They reflect our sense of inner worth. Money and time are symbolic of self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, and our overall sense of value. They are undoubtedly important issues for our clients -- but also for ourselves.
Relational boundaries in psychotherapy and counseling vary enormously across different traditions and lineages. Analytical psychotherapists, for example, don't work with the relative or a friend of an existing client. Humanistic psychotherapists by contrast may well have social relationships with their clients. We will surely return to this subject over the levels of the SAT training, since it is so complex and important.
In the meantime, questions such as, Is attending a social situation with a client, outside of the therapeutic setting, breaking a boundary? Is befriending a client breaking a boundary? What should I do if I arrive at a social dinner and one of my clients is present? should be thought about deeply and, for the moment, I suggest that you ask what is right for you in regard to this boundary issue and in regard to individual clients. Where you feel unclear and need to discuss a particular relationship further, I suggest discussing it with your supervisor.
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [email protected]Blog entry #170