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Texas LPC Ethics

Section 4
Strategy for Setting Boundaries Effectively with Clients

Question 4 | Test | Table of Contents

Four Basic Premises
What exactly are boundaries? As you know, boundaries set limits between you and your client. Your professional Code of Ethics helps to set these boundaries or limits.

Four Boundary Questions
The following are four values that constitute a basic premise of the therapeutic relationship. Let's look at how even the most basic of concepts present boundary questions. Here is an example of each of the four values:

♦ #1. The worth of the individual. A basic premise right? Think again. Who determines how worthy someone is to retain custody of his or her children? When you write your recommendations to the court, what was the boundary or limit you set in your report regarding the intensity and frequency of abuse for the "rehabilitated" parents seeking to regain custody?

♦ #2. The right of self-determination is also a basic ethical premise that raises boundary issues. Later on this CD we will explore the issue of suicide. However, with a suicidal client you treated, where did you set the boundary between freedom and commitment to an in-patient unit?

♦ #3. A third philosophical basis of the therapeutic relationship is the right to share the benefits of society, but at what point does your client with a substance-related disorder lose his rights to share the benefits of society? Let's explore this one further. Some substance-use treatment professionals have criticized the classification of substance-use disorders by the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, as simplistic and too straightforward.

They have argued that substance use cannot be forced into the two arbitrary categories of abuse or dependence, but rather that substance use represents a continuum that ranges from non-use to dependency. With your last "substance-related disordered client," what criteria did you use to set a boundary in the gray area of the DSM classification system, which many view as inadequate, regarding court orders to a treatment facility and depriving the client of his or her right to benefit from societal freedom?

♦ #4. The mutual rights and responsibility between your client and society is a philosophical basis of the mental health professions. Now, regarding the boundary between rights of your client, versus the rights of society...ask yourself...the last time your client threatened to harm an identifiable other, where and how in your mind did you draw the limit regarding a need to warn or not warn the other party?

The point to be made here is that, even in the most basic of premises regarding our mental health profession you are drawing ethical boundaries.

♦ Four Basic Premises Examples
From the preceding examples, select one which is most meaningful. Here are the four basic premises examples again:
1. Your recommendations to the court for treatment decisions about custody in a child abuse case;
2. Suicide and commitment;
3. Substance abuse; and
4. Duty-to-warn regarding threats to an identifiable other. Ask yourself…how do I set boundaries with this difficult issue?

♦ Strategy for Setting Boundaries Effectively with Clients
It has been my experience that I set boundaries effectively with clients when I feel I am able to gain personal objectivity. How do I gain this objectivity? By increasing my personal awareness regarding my needs, weaknesses, and strengths.

By "awareness" I mean my ability to deal with my personality patterns and client issues, as they may relate to my life experience, which may cloud my ability to relate to the client.

I look at my level of openness. I look at my ability to be aware of values, attitudes, and patterns of behaving in the groups of which I consider to be a part. Lastly, I look at my ability to differ and stand alone when necessary…should I need to act as an advocate for the client. It is one thing to recognize my shortcomings and another to change them.

- Stone, M. (1999). Boundary Violations between Therapist and Patient. Psychiatric Annals, 670(7).

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Drum, K. B., & Littleton, H. L. (2014). Therapeutic boundaries in telepsychology: Unique issues and best practice recommendations. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(5), 309–315.

McCord, C. E., Elliott, T. R., Wendel, M. L., Brossart, D. F., Cano, M. A., Gonzalez, G. E., & Burdine, J. N. (2011). Community capacity and teleconference counseling in rural Texas. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(6), 521–527.

Pinner, D. H., & Kivlighan, D. M. III. (2018). The ethical implications and utility of routine outcome monitoring in determining boundaries of competence in practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 49(4), 247–254.

What are four values that constitute the philosophical bases of the therapeutic relationship that present boundary challenges? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 5
Table of Contents