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  • Writer's pictureAli Howarth

Healthy Boundaries in Therapeutic Practice: Benefits and Strategies


Sitting in healthy boundaries

Counselling and psychology are professions that require us to form close relationships with our clients. And while it is important to form a strong therapeutic alliance in the context of our work, it is equally important for professionals to maintain healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries can help to ensure that the therapeutic relationship remains focused on the client's needs and goals, keeps us aligned with a trauma-informed practice, and can also help to prevent burnout and vicarious trauma in the therapist. In this post, we will explore the benefits of healthy boundaries in therapeutic practice and offer strategies for maintaining them.


Benefits of healthy boundaries in therapeutic practice

  1. Fosters trust: Clear boundaries can support our clients to feel safe and secure in the therapeutic relationship. When clients know what to expect from the experience and can trust that we are consistent and reliable, they are more likely to open up and trust.

  2. Helps prevent burnout: Counsellors and psychologists who do not set healthy boundaries risk becoming emotionally and mentally exhausted, usually as a result of unmindful transference and counter-transference. This can lead to burnout, which can negatively impact the therapist's ability to provide effective therapy. By setting healthy boundaries, we can prioritise self-care, be mindful during our interactions, and reduce the risk of burnout.

  3. Protects the therapeutic alliance: Healthy boundaries can help to ensure that the therapeutic relationship remains focused on the client's needs and goals. When we can maintain a professional distance and avoid becoming overly involved in our clients' lives, we are better able to provide objective guidance and support.

Strategies for maintaining healthy boundaries

  1. Establish clear policies and procedures: Organisations and individual practitioners can establish clear policies and procedures that outline expectations for the therapeutic relationship. This can include guidelines around communication, scheduling, and confidentiality. Having clear policies and guidelines helps manage the expectations of clients and helps therapists with healthy guardrails.

  2. Practice self-care: Therapists can understand that prioritising their own self-care will help them to avoid burnout. Self-care can include engaging in activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction, such as exercise, meditation, journaling, therapy for the therapist, or spending time in nature.

  3. Seek supervision and support: It is so valuable to seek supervision and support from colleagues and mentors. This can provide an opportunity for us to discuss challenging cases and receive feedback on how to maintain healthy boundaries.

  4. Practice mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness will help us to remain present and focused during therapy sessions. This can include taking deep breaths, focusing on the present moment, and avoiding distractions.

Healthy boundaries are essential in therapeutic practice, both for the therapist and the client. By setting clear boundaries, we can foster trust, prevent burnout, and protect the therapeutic alliance that we so painstakingly build. To maintain healthy boundaries, we can work to establish clear policies and procedures, prioritise self-care, seek supervision and support, and practice mindfulness. By following these strategies, we can provide effective therapy while also taking care of our own well-being.





References:

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. (2020). Boundaries: Information for Clients. https://www.bacp.co.uk/media/8273/bacp-boundaries-client-information-sheet-april-2020.pdf

Seltzer, L. F. (2021). The Psychology of Boundaries in Therapy. Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/boundaries-psychology-therapy/

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