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More about boundaries

By Teri Watkin, Aug 25 2016 12:23PM

Many years ago I started seeing a counsellor – I didn’t stay for long because I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t know anything about therapeutic boundaries at the time but my instinct told me that something wasn’t right. I later saw a therapist who kept secure but not rigid boundaries and there I was able to feel safe enough to engage with the issues that I needed to deal with. These two experiences taught me a lot and I came to believe that a counsellor who doesn’t keep careful boundaries is being abusive to the client.


When I worked in the NHS it was easy to provide secure boundaries as the setting of the GP surgery was well boundaried in itself. In private practice there are no inbuilt boundaries and I found myself becoming aware of how much closer I had to attend to them. When you invite someone into your home you act in a certain way which isn’t appropriate when meeting a client and I had to think carefully about the difference and how I needed to welcome them in a different way.


The feeling that the room provides has always been very important to me. I want it to be both calm (to give a sense of stepping out of normal life and into a special space) and interesting (so that it isn’t too intimidating). For me, calm is provided by a peaceful colour scheme, comfortable chairs with colourful cushions and warmth. Interest can be a bit difficult as it could easily detract from the calm but as an art therapist this is a bit easier as there are lots of art materials around which provide the interest. A good view out of the window is also an asset, but not so easily changed as the inside of a room.


Up until now I have had to adapt a space in my home but since moving to Norfolk I have been fortunate enough to be able to design a specific therapy space. I have a brick build Victorian wash house (it used to be part of the Rectory at a time when Rectors were rich enough to have servants) in the garden which was in dire need of repair. I felt that it would be a great shame to let it fall down and thought it would make a lovely therapy space. It has now been re-roofed and insulated, has new doors and windows and underfloor heating and is now almost finished.


I’ve painted the walls in a soft white and the window boards and skirting boards are about to receive a coat of paint in a muted blue colour. There are beams in the roof space and a low mezzanine area under the eaves which will make useful storage. I’m just waiting for the plumber to come and install the loo and some shelves to be put up and I’ll be ready to move in. Even though it isn’t quite finished yet I am excited that it’s going to be a really lovely space in which to work.

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