Boundaries in psychotherapy…
When I’m working with someone I never assume that the way I relate to others, process information, and communicate will be the same for the person on the other side of the room/on my screen.
First and foremost, I’m there to support their mental health and this must be done in a boundaried way for psychotherapy to be reparative and effective. Everyone’s lived experiences and their mental health determine what boundaries are in place for them.
At best, our boundaries are fixed – but flexible if that’s okay with us. At worst they are intruded upon, ignored, and out of reach. Psychotherapy should not replicate the latter.
Where our boundaries are at any point can tell us something important about our safety, needs, and sense of self. Am I connected with any of these things? Can I have these just to myself if I need to? Do others enable me to have my fair share of them?
In psychotherapy, boundaries are partly about proceeding with informed consent. I try to offer this by: letting clients know they can ask me questions, advising we can pause/stop at any point, and asking what someone thinks/feels in response to the work we’re doing.
Part of my job is to pause/stop us myself if it’s clear that any form of distress is arising that tells us what’s happening doesn’t feel okay. This might be going quiet, looking down/away, freezing/shutting down, anxiety, panic, etc.
Together we can practice knowing what your boundaries are, what informs them, what impinges them, and how they can be established more consistently.
One way to do so in psychotherapy is negotiating what feels comfortable and safe as we work together. Are appointments more manageable if we sit further away from each other, you can see the door from your chair, have something you can hold whilst we speak (stim toy, jewellery, cushion), we pause to regulate your embodied responses or emotions?
These can enable safe freedom of movement in your own self, as well as with others, over time with practice.