Boundaries are all about protection of one’s self from other people. Every person that an individual interacts with is viewed either as a benefit or destruction. It is important to note whether these people bring positive things in life or are the source of all troubles. A boundary can therefore be defined as the border between an individual’s self and the people that the individual interacts with.
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In psychotherapy, boundary issues often refer to a psychotherapist’s touch, disclosure of personal information, swap of gifts with client, mode of payment, duration and site of sessions and out of office communication. Therapists go against boundary issues in two ways: boundary crossings and boundary violations.
Boundary crossing refers to any divergence from the conventional analytic and risk management activities. An example is being firm or strict only during working hours.
A boundary violation takes place when the therapist goes beyond integrity to take advantage of the client for personal gain. Most boundary violation acts are not legal and are unethical. The ability to distinguish between destructive boundary violations and necessary boundary crossings is crucial to any therapist.
Boundary issues are difficult for psychotherapists because the boundaries themselves are man-made. This implies that the psychotherapist can decide when and how to overlook them. Since the ethical limit of these boundaries are not well defines by bodies such as APA, psychotherapists have to figure them out on their own. This is often challenging to therapists and it is the basis of psychologists’ decision on whether or not to exploit a client.
Resources must be at bay for professionals should they be in a dilemma concerning boundary issues and dual relationships. Professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and British Psychological Society (BPS) are such resources. In 2002, the APA codes of ethics were revised to cover boundary issues and situations involving dual relationships. Consumer protection agencies are also useful resources for therapists.
Dual relationships refer to circumstances where there is more than one relationship between a therapist and a client. This can be the case if the client is also a friend, a relative, a business colleague, the therapist’s student or employee. In psychotherapy, there are various types of dual relationships. Some of these are professional, sexual, institutional, Social, communal and business dual relationships.
A professional dual relationship is whereby the client and the psychotherapist are in the same learning or training institution. A sexual dual relationship occurs when they are both engaged in a sexual relationship.
Institutional dual relationship is a situation in which both the therapist and the client are both in a military institution, prison or the same police department. Social dual relationships is whereby they are good friends, communal is whereby they both live in the same community and business dual relationship is whereby they are business partners.
Non-sexual dual relationships are common in the field of psychology. These include social, institutional and business dual relationships. There are many cases of situations whereby both the client and the psychologist are friends, are in the same institution or are business partners.
The reason for this is because unlike sexual dual relationships, they are legal. Sexual dual relationships are illegal in almost every part of the world. For that reason they are not prevalent as compared to non-sexual dual relationships. In non-sexual dual relationships, the therapist is the one who defines boundaries.