A Survivors Guide To Boundaries In Therapy.

Most clients entering therapy for the first have very little idea of the concept of boundaries within therapy. They might guess that if a therapist started shouting at them for no reason at all - that would be wrong, but it just as likely that they might think it was part of the therapy! First of all it's important to understand the seven basic tools that therapists use. 1. Unconditional Positive Regard.

2. Challenging.

3. Trust

4. Self Disclosure

5. Silence

6. Time

7. Confidentiality

Boundaries are made up of these seven concepts. And it's within these seven concepts that things can go seriously wrong. If you were talking to a friend about something, and you were talking nonsense how long would it take for them to tell you this five minutes, ten minutes? Well in therapy with Unconditional Positive Regard it could mean never! The more likely scenario would be that the therapist would get bored and offer you a referral to someone else

What they are supposed to do is carefully balance unconditional positive regard with challenging. More often than not this will upset the client. And often leaves the client thinking that the therapist is inconsistent or even abusive - which is not good. So they go about their task in a more abusive way - which does not seem abusive until its too late. Essentially they build a client up over a long time period encouraging the client to trust them (using unconditional positive regard) and then knock them down (challenging).

One tactic in building a client up - is to self disclose - and here they run into there own boundaries. Too much self disclosure - and the client can end up thinking that the therapist cares about them, too little and the client begins to wonder why the therapist made a comment about this point and not another point. The result - Confusion. Leaving a client in a confused state is also not a good idea.

Another favourite technique employed by some therapists is silence. In effect they are encouraging you to talk to yourself! Which is interesting - when you consider most people would think anyone talking to themselves would be losing there sanity. But this is therapy and nearly anything goes.

One idea that appeals to nearly all therapists is time. One hour or 50 minutes is considered to be a session. And here is the biggest problem of all the therapeutic concepts. A one-hour session once a week tends to concentrate a lot of problems into a short time period. It is not natural for people to store problems in this way. You don't have to make an appointment or wait a week to speak to a friend - and you are dealing with reality - something which therapy is far removed from.

Time is also used to abuse. An abusive therapist will often suggest more therapy at the start of the abuse - to gain total control over the client, And less time/therapy towards the end in an attempt to try to get too away with the abuse.

Confidentiality is another favourite boundary concept. It should mean that anything you tell your therapist is secret. Yet it can lead to blackmail. In a totally unregulated situation, which we have in the UK - trying to prove a breach of confidentiality would be almost impossible. And even if you did prove it there is nothing to stop a therapist from doing it again to someone else.

Finally we come to Transference and Counter-Transference - It's not on the list of tools for the simple reason that its abuse given another name. If your therapist starts babbling on about transference or counter transference you are in trouble. It's usually the result of Unconditional Positive Regard, (aka lovebombing a mind control technique much loved by cults) or too much Self-Disclosure. Or a nasty mix of both.

PS. Not all therapy is bad. There are a lot of therapists out there who are doing a good job and treat there Clients with respect. The problem is finding them!