Setting clear boundaries

10:18:00 Karen Li 0 Comments

As a clinician in training, we are often warned to set clear boundaries. We are supposed to be someone without an identity. We are not meant to allow our prejudices, experiences and beliefs influence our clients. And so I have been struggling. A big part of who I am is a Christian. When people ask me whether I am a christian in therapy, my response is supposed to be ... asking them why they want to know. That is a comforting experience for me, since I want to shout out, YES YES YES, I am a follower of Christ.

Similarly, I have a standard disclosure I use with friends and family. "I am not your therapist, and this isn't a therapy session". Still, I find that it's easy to fall into the trap of counselling others. One of my brothers in Christ, who is also a good friend challenged me. Isn't counselling others a natural part of being a Christian, or a human? Does my profession really expect that I never form bonds with anyone, never offer a keen ear? Does my profession really expect me to carry both identities separately, the KIKO that is a therapist/ academic Monday- Friday 9-5 then the KIKO that is the Christian, friend and partner after hours? Is it possible to wear both hats at the same time.

So lately, I have been struggling with these ethical issues more and more. I find that when I am talking to friends I may start to use my clinical tools. But are these clinical tools part of the way I talk or is it more than that? Am I breaching codes of conduct by using empathy? Surely, my profession allows me to use empathy beyond the clinical walls. And HOW do I safeguard myself and my profession. The guidelines suggest that we set some boundaries. But even the great wall of China has holes!

So a case study. Person X has come to me and has told me that they are having relationship problems. They stress communication issues between them and their potential partner has being a problem. So, as a friend, what would you say/do? As a Christian sister in Christ, what do you say/do? And as a clinician, what do you say/do? How conflicting! Especially since I know both parties. I can see where ethical guidelines are important in this sense and why we can't treat friends like clients. I know both parties, I can't give an objective view. My clinical judgement is impaired. I cannot give good advice. But can I still act as a friend/sister in Christ in this situation?

So what advice do I give Christians who are seeking to know God's will about their romantic relationships?

As a friend
- I would just listen and try to understand the situation
- I would ask what kind of support I can give that person at that point in time, quite often just just want to be heard.

As a sister in Christ
- PRAY, if we get closer to God we can understand his will more
- Read the bible.
- Talk to other Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are more spiritually mature to get their guidance.
- Do to others as you would have them do to you- Guiding principle.
- Love the other as a Sibling in Christ until clear guidance can be found. 
- Let a yes be a yes and a no be a no. Be clear. Be honest. 
- Do not use an excuse of not wanting to hurt another person and drag out "ai mei" relationships because these can potentially hurt the other person more. 
As a therapist
- I would get them to consult their own therapist haha.
- As a therapist, I would facilitate their problem solving process
- Train them in communication patterns and guide them in the "dance"
- Role play potential interactions and give the client feedback.

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