As therapists, we are always aware of the need to keep our clients at arm’s length, in other words, ensuring our professional practice and our status as a therapist is adhered to 100% of the treatment time. On occasion, our guard can slip, after all, we are only human. This becomes the time when we break our boundaries, due to client familiarity. Suddenly, the regular client becomes more of a friend, even though you don’t socialise with them outside your practice, you feel a deeper connection with them, as they regularly visit you for treatment.
After 28 years as a therapist, on occasion through my own practice of reflection, I have caught myself crossing this line, allowing myself to share a minor version of my own personal experiences with the client. This happens because the client has triggered my own memory, which relates to their current experience. By sharing my story as a way of empathising with the client, you would think it would make the client better connected to you. On the contrary, it has the opposite effect. Clients are there for you to listen to them and meet their needs, not to hear your version of an experience which can be off putting. Outside your practice, they probably have no one neutral to talk to hence, they are paying you for your time and services to listen to them. I know you already know this, but now and then, a subtle reminder can be healthy.
My years of experience as a therapist has allowed me to identify early on, when not to intervene, replacing my potential story with a more supporting role towards the client, so as not to rain on their parade. I don’t believe you can be a proactive therapist and not come across, from time to time, the breaking boundaries rule. In fact, therapists who are more intuitively attuned to the client and are empaths, will probably experience this more often than those who are more clinically driven.
Keeping strong boundaries is important, not just for our own protection, but ethical guidelines reinforce the need to be vigilant to safeguard our clients. It is easy to get carried away in the therapy you practice, forgetting all the legal issues that could arise if those boundaries were broken with a vulnerable client. Mental health is now on the increase, latest statistics from the ‘Mental Health Foundation’ show one in four people suffer from some form of mental health condition and stress, anxiety and depression is suffered by one in six people on a weekly basis.
There has never been a greater time to ensure our boundaries are reinforced. I always visualise my boundaries as a big fence. Engaging in regular self-reflection allows me to review my client cases daily and see if there were any weakness in my conversation or consultation. If I spot any potential gaps creeping in my fence, I immediately add extra support to close the gap. This is done by writing in my reflection journal of the experience and then reminder points on the clients notes for me to review before they return. This way I protect not only myself, but I understand how to better meet my client’s needs.
As therapists, we should be in a cycle of learning to increase our knowledge. If you are not continually adding to your cycle of learning, then you are not growing as an individual or therapist. Complementary and alternative medicine is forever changing, we as therapist need to keep up to those changes through CPD and new training courses. ThinkTree hub has wonderful opportunities to allow you to connect with other professionals in your industry and is the first professorial membership body, to invite its members to be interactive with one another as a community globally. There has never been a better time to create greater boundaries then now, both in professional practice and as an individual.
Sophia Kupse for www.thintreehub.com
Course Director, Author & Research Practitioner
Founder of LT Therapy
Senior Associate member of The Royal Society of Medicine
Mobile: 07957 113425