By Teri Watkin, Aug 25 2016 12:23PM
You often hear therapists talking about boundaries – so what are therapeutic boundaries and why are they so important?
Boundaries are anything that is part of what creates the ‘therapeutic space’ and will include…
Confidentiality – when we share our problems with a friend we have no guarantee that what we have discussed will not be gossiped about with others. Therapists are bound by confidentiality which means that we commit not to discuss what is shared with us.
Why is this important? It’s not hard to see why confidentiality is important – who wants to have their problems aired with other people? Confidentiality provides the sense of safety that is needed before it is possible to share deep issues.
Supervision – The one person that therapists will talk to about what is happening with their clients is their supervisor. This is also a relationship that is bound by confidentiality.
Why is this important? We can’t function properly as therapists without regular supervision. It provides the space that we need in order to consider what is happening with our clients and as such it enables us to feel safe which in turn will enable us to help our clients to feel safe too.
The room itself – is it private and quiet? Is it warm and comfortable? Are you able to use the same room each week?
Why is this important? It’s hard to feel safe enough to talk about things that might be upsetting if the room isn’t comfortable, private and quiet. Being in the same room each time you meet gives a sense of stability.
The time – Therapists try to keep to the same time and day each week.
Why is this important? Keeping to the same time gives a sense of security that the therapist has a space for you in her/his week and this in turn enables you to believe that there is a space for you in the therapists mind – they are able to think about the issues that you bring and give you the emotional space that you need.
Starting and finishing on time – Therapists try, within reason, to start and finish the session on time.
Why is this important? When we start on time we are respecting that this is the time that we have set aside for you in our week. Finishing on time gives you the confidence that you will not be ‘trapped’ into staying for longer. You are able to pace how you use the session with the confidence. Often clients will drop a ‘bombshell’ at the last minute knowing that it is now out in the open but will not be talked about until they are ready to bring the subject up again.
Payment – this is an odd one because you can of course get therapy on the NHS without paying – and that’s great but not always available.
Why is this important? Paying for therapy yourself means that you are in control and are able to decide for yourself whether or not you are in need of therapy and, within the constraints of your budget, you are able to continue for as long as you feel you need. You are not a passive recipient of ‘charity’ but are giving something back to the therapist which means that you are being given the dignity of taking responsibility for your own life.
So…to sum up…
Therapeutic boundaries are there to help you to feel safe, confident and secure during what can be an unsettling process; to show respect for you and to give you a sense of dignity in the midst of what may be a challenging and difficult time.