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Boundaries are the marking of a territory or a line where one space ends and another one begins. They are like posts or markers that enable each person to recognise what should or should not happen in the therapy room. Without boundaries, therapy sessions could be led by presumption and manipulation. Without boundaries, no one can really understand someone else’s purpose or intention. There is nothing to hold therapy sessions together because nothing has been agreed beforehand. I believe having clear boundaries in place from the outset shows a good level of respect for self and others during a time when the client is at their most vulnerable. A safe and ethical environment can help develop a nurturing therapeutic relationship.A further mark of respect is the contract. Usually the first session is a good opportunity for the counsellor or therapist to go through a list of what is involved. The written contract sets out clear boundaries so that each person knows what to expect and what not to expect from the therapeutic arrangement. The contract should have the counsellor’s or therapist’s name, a contact phone number, and what to do if either party cannot make an appointment. It will often include the pre-agreed number of sessions, their duration, the fee and how it should be paid. The contract should also explain that confidentiality may be broken, but only if the client is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. In any event it should be discussed by both parties wherever possible before it goes outside the therapy room. Even then it should take a structured approach that involves the client every step of the way to ensure they are safe and get the appropriate help they need. The counsellor or therapist should explain this and it should be summarised in the therapy contract. The contract should also give the name of the counsellor’s or therapist’s professional organisation and the code of ethics they uphold. Both the client and the therapist/counsellor should sign the contract and each have a copy. The client should always feel able to revisit any of the details in the contract if there is something they are not quite sure about. The client always has the right to check the therapist’s or counsellor’s qualifications or behaviour, by contacting their professional organisation.In therapy, a counsellor’s or therapist’s role is to counsel, and to use therapy skills to facilitate and to give the client space and time to talk and explore their feelings. A client’s role is to bring their problems to the therapy session and hopefully feel comfortable enough to talk in a safe and ethical environment. Clear boundaries are put in place throughout to protect both parties. Roles are important. A counsellor is not a client’s friend. A therapist is not a client’s friend. A counsellor or therapist should provide the right conditions to help the client feel safe enough to grow independently. If a counsellor or therapist allows their role to change, this can interfere with and confuse the client’s healing process; it can promote reliance and dependency upon the relationship for both parties. It is considered absolutely unethical, limiting, unprofessional and very wrong for a counsellor or therapist to become a friend. This is not a healthy way to work. It selfishly fulfils the therapist’s or counsellor’s own urge to make people better outside the therapy room. The client’s sensitive and vulnerable state should not be manipulated to fulfil the therapist’s or counsellor’s own needs. This is what lonely therapists do: they do not know how to maintain a relationship outside their therapy settings, so they hold onto their clients. This is unprofessional; those therapists or counsellors need help and should be having personal therapy themselves! These dual roles are unethical, limiting, unprofessional and very wrong.In a professional setting, a counsellor or therapist should usually have peer supervision to ensure they are working professionally and ethically, and to the best of their potential. Supervision is to help the counsellor or therapist work within their role and maintain a good standard of practice. A therapist or counsellor will talk about their practice with their supervisor whilst keeping similar clear and confidential boundaries as in the therapy room.
‘‘I am not going to give you what Delbert Wallis gave to you. I aim to help you discover how to help yourself feel loved, by starting to accept who you are and by learning to love yourself, without being dependent upon anyone. Do you understand?’ Quote taken from chapter, Proper Therapy,Jaynie by Jayne Verity.