Keysigns of unhealthy boundaries
Ifa patient came to see me complaining of fatigue and anger, I wouldexplain to the client that those are some of the signs of unhealthyboundaries. I will help the patient understand that he or she doesnot instinctively draw the lines of emotional responsibility betweenhis or her needs and those of others. In most cases, harmful limitswill mean that the client is always doing what other people wantthus, he or she is left with little time to take care of personalneeds and desires (Corey, 2016). Consequently, the patient lacks theopportunity to identify his or her dreams in life, which will cause asense of fatigue and anger. I would also explain to the client thatthe lack of boundaries means that most of the time he or she iscarrying emotional burdens for which he or she is not responsible(Levitt & Moorhead, 2013). For example, the patient may encountercircumstances that make him or her feel guilty for another person’sproblem even when the situation is clearly not his or her fault.
Additionally,I will help the client understand that learning to differentiate whento take emotional responsibility and when that accountability ends iscrucial to help him or her manage personal feelings without gettingoverwhelmed or angry (Levitt & Moorhead, 2013). For example, thepatient has to learn how to differentiate clearly those conditionsthat can cause emotional problems and this can only be achievedthrough boundaries. Therefore, having healthy restrictions iscritical because it will enable the client to make decisions thatalign with his or her objectives or desires (Corey, 2016).
Signsof a counselor having poor boundaries
Accordingto McCarthy & Archer, a therapeutic process can only besuccessful if the counselor and patient maintain a professionalinteraction governed by precise rules (2013). These limits set astructure for the relationship by providing a consistent andpredictable frame for the counseling sessions (McCarthy & Archer,2013). Even so, a counselor can show signs of poor boundaries by theway he or she relates to the clients. Emotional exhaustion signifiesunhealthy limits because it indicates that the therapist has allowedpatients to transfer their feelings or desires onto him or her(Levitt & Moorhead, 2013). Therefore, when a therapist does notprevent transference, he or she may feel emotionally drained andoverwhelmed since it becomes almost impossible to meet the demands ofthe client. For example, if the patient blames the therapist forsomething that happened in his or her past, the therapist is unableto help that client get over the emotional problems.
A therapist is supposed to help vulnerable individuals deal withstressful situations, but he or she should put up the necessaryrestrictions to show the client that their relationship is strictlyprofessional (McCarthy & Archer, 2013). In a therapeutic process,the counselor has to keep healthy boundaries to prevent patients fromgetting in the way of his or her work since it can make the processineffective. Besides, emotional exhaustion shows that the counseloris unable to handle the client’s issues. Instead, he or she letsthose feelings become a burden. As McCarthy & Archer explain,fatigue may result in providing substandard services to the patients(2013)
Onthe other hand, when the counselor starts having a perception ofbeing unequally or unjustly treated, it shows that he or she hasunhealthy boundaries with the client. The attitude results incountertransference because the therapist projects his or herfeelings onto the patient. In a psychotherapy relationship, thecounselor should share their experiences or opinions only if it ismeant to help the client (McCarthy & Archer, 2013). Then again,therapists are trained on how to work within the patient’sworldview and determine how those ideas influence the client’sgrowth and development. A counseling setting with weak restrictionsallows the patient’s views to affect the therapeutic relationshiphence, it hinders possible interventions that will help the patientgain more insight to promote personal growth (Levitt & Moorhead,2013). Therapists have an ethical responsibility to respects theclient’s worldview by keeping an accepting and non-judgmentalattitude. Nonetheless, when the counselor projects his or herpersonal opinions, it will most likely burden the patient. Besides,it can cause the client to lose faith in the therapist’s ability tohelp thus, the process will not be successful in achieving thedesired goals (McCarthy & Archer, 2013).
Cynicismtowards the patients is another sign of unhealthy limits because itprevents the counselor from effectively undertaking his or herresponsibilities. A therapist is supposed to pay attention to theclient’s issues and devise the best strategy to deal with thoseproblems. Moreover, the counselor has a professional responsibilityto keep the patient’s well-being as the primary focus of therelationship (McCarthy & Archer, 2013). However, a cynicaltherapist will find it hard to trust or believe the client. Skepticalemotions arise when a person is feeling vulnerable hence, thetherapist is more likely to become defensive. Subsequently, it isdifficult to help the patient because the therapist projects his orher personal feelings onto the patient (McCarthy & Archer, 2013).Furthermore, the counselor introduces a relationship without trust,which makes it hard to develop something that is constructive for theclient. Therefore, cynicism is a sign of countertransference becauseit often surfaces when an individual directs negative emotions orideas onto other people.
Besides,a counselor with strong negative feelings towards the patient doesnot address his or her issues, which causes a stalemate in counseling(Corey, 2016). In addition, the kind of negativity accompanied bycynicism can be contagious causing an emotional downfall for theclient. Therefore, it will deny the patient the feeling of safety andthe belief that the counselor will act on his or her best interests(Corey, 2016). For this reason, the therapist’s actions will denythe patient the opportunity to develop trust and express their fearsor desires without the concern of negative consequences (Corey,2016). As a result, counselors have to be cautious not to cross theselimits otherwise, their actions may pose a serious risk ofpsychological harm to the clients. Furthermore, the therapists shouldnot ignore the conventions that maintain a necessary professionaldistance with the patients (McCarthy & Archer, 2013).
Assistinga client in establishing healthy boundaries
Settingand sustaining valuable boundaries is a skill that most people do notlearn while others find it challenging. As a counselor, I wouldassist a patient set healthy limits because it would eliminate someof their emotional problems. First, it is imperative for the clientto learn how to make self-care a priority (Jungers & Gregoire,2013). If the patient understands the significance of his or herinterests, the motivation to set and maintain the boundaries becomesstronger. Hence, the client will acknowledge his or her feelingsbecause they serve as vital signs of well-being to determine whatmakes him or her happy. Nevertheless, the patient might view thissuggestion as being self-centered. Therefore, I would assure theclient that putting their interests first will give him or her peaceof mind, energy, and a positive perspective to be more present withother people. Thus, when a person is in a better emotional state, itis easier to improve his or her life and handle various problems muchbetter (Jungers & Gregoire, 2013).
Then,I would explain that having healthy boundaries is only possible ifthe patient knows his or her limits (Levitt & Moorhead, 2013).For example, it is crucial for the client to know where he or shestands by identifying his or her emotional, physical, mental, andspiritual confines. For this reason, the patient should consider whathe or she can tolerate thus, draw the line between the activitiesthat make him or her uncomfortable or stressed (Jungers &Gregoire, 2013). At this point, I would advise the client to givethemselves the permission to develop and maintain the boundaries. Insome cases, an individual may feel guilty or fear of setting limitsdue to perceived negative reactions from other people (Levitt &Moorhead, 2013). As a result, I would help the patient recognize thatthese confines are not just a sign of healthy relationship, but italso gives someone a feeling of self-respect (Jungers & Gregoire,2013).
Additionally,it will be crucial for the client to practice self-awareness. Settinglimits is all about drawing on one’s feelings and honoring thoseopinions (Levitt & Moorhead, 2013). Nonetheless, the client canonly be successful in setting and maintaining boundaries byconsidering his or her past and present. For example, the client willtake into account his or her past and previous decisions and theramifications of various actions to determine his or her confines. Itwill also involve assessing the obstacles the clients has encounteredwhen setting and maintaining the boundaries to determine how he orshe will make better limits in the future (Jungers & Gregoire,2013). For example, I can help the client evaluate how his or herenvironment either at work, school, or home can affect theboundaries.
Iwould also help the patient to be self-confident because he or shehas to follow through and maintain the set restrictions (Levitt &Moorhead, 2013). For example, I would encourage the patient tocommunicate with other people and respectfully inform them when theycross his or her limits. Even so, I would recommend the client tostart with small boundaries that do not require much effort touphold. Subsequently, the patient will place limits on those areas heor she finds overwhelming (Levitt & Moorhead, 2013). Lastly, Iwill advise the client that maintaining proper boundaries willsupport his or her independence, which will make him or heroptimistic about limits. Thus, it will offer the opportunity to askfor what he or she needs or desires without fear of judgment.Consequently, setting clear boundaries is the key to ensuring thatrelationships are mutually supportive, respectful, and caring (Levitt& Moorhead, 2013).
Corey,G. (2016). Theoryand practice of counseling and psychotherapy (10thed.).Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Jungers,C. M., & Gregoire, J. (2013). CounselingEthics: Philosophical and professional foundations.Danvers, MA: Springer Publication Company.
Levitt,D. H. & Moorhead, H. H. (Eds.). (2013). Valuesand ethics in counseling: real life ethical decision making.New York: Routledge.
McCarthy,C. J. & Archer, J., Jr. (2013). Theoriesof counseling and psychotherapy.San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.