Main Considerations in Boundary Transgression
It is important to consider the context in which you work when thinking about professional boundaries. For example working in an outpatient clinic where you may only see a patient once would be different to working in an area where you see a patient over a long period of time and perhaps years for example, mental health setting, renal dialysis, or community care. The risk of boundary transgressions can increase the longer the relationship between professional and client. The context of working in a rural community where there is a greater opportunity of meeting outwith the professional relationship will be different to working in a metropolitan hospital / school / police station which may decrease the risk of multiple relationships forming.
Consider the context in which you work – identify any specific concerns in terms of increased risk/s of boundary transgressions.
Either end of the boundary framework has to be considered in terms of boundary transgressions. Some examples of over involvement include: developing a friendship with the client or student; calling a client by a nickname or endearment such as love, dear, sweetie; spending your own money on a client or student; sharing social media information; or sharing phone email contact details. The extreme end of over involvement could include: letting the student or client come to live in your home; you going to live with them; borrowing large amounts of money from the person; having a sexual relationship with the person.
What other examples of over involvement can you identify?
Some examples of under involvement include: being disinterested and or detached from the client or student student; ignoring the requests of a student or client because you are not interested in what they have to say; making derogatory remarks about the person to a colleague; not making adequate notes of interventions with the client or student (can’t be bothered); and rolling eyes, sighing, or shrugging shoulders to impart a message of disinterest. The extreme end of under involvement includes abandonment, neglect, sexual abuse, physical, psychological or emotional abuse, and slanderous commentary.
What other examples of under involvement can you identify?
Consider the safe zone to be like the green light on traffic lights. As long as you are adhering to your professional codes (or ethics/standards) and organisational requirements – such as the Code of Conduct, policy procedure and guidelines, job description – and you act from an objective thoughtful and considered place, then it is safe to go (what you say and what you do). However if what you say or do is in conflict to your Code of Ethics, what is expected from you in professional role, then you may be at increased risk of stepping out of the Zone of Helpfulness.
Consider your Professional Code of Ethics and the Code of Conduct in your organisation. Do they complement and support one another or are they in conflict? If what you are being asked to do professionally is in conflict with what you are asked to do as an employee, the risk of boundary transgressions can increase due to “role conflict.” (See link in Unit 4 for article by Jason Gillard – Difference between Code of Ethics and Conduct)
This will be discussed in further detail in the section on Categories of Concern. It is important to note – that the clearer you are in terms of what therapeutic relationship means for the work you do with clients and the context in which you work – the easier if will be for you to maintain boundaries.
It is important to maintain clarity in the professional relationship that you have with a student / client. Check in with them at different stages by asking “what is your understanding of what I have said / what i have done”. Statements from the client or student such as: “you are a good friend”, “You are just like my father”, “You are just like my daughter” should be red flags to you that the other person has a different perspective of the relationship than you have. Clarify with them what they mean and reestablish a clear boundary about your professional role with them. Also use the red flag as an opportunity to consider “did I do something or say something that may have given the wrong idea” – if in doubt get back into the Zone of Helpfulness quickly.
What are other examples of red flags? What would you do to get back into the zone of helpfulness?
Document the encounter, talk to a colleague and or supervisor, identify if there are any transference issues and thus perhaps individual counseling/professional supervision is warranted, perhaps the relationship has become too close – thus strategies such as reducing contact time, having a colleague take over some or all of the work with the other person may be the safest strategy.
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