When working in the human service profession you must understand the importance of setting boundaries. One of the most important aspects a counselor should instill into their work ethics is to build a strong, health line of communication and trust between themselves and their clients. This line of trust can determine whether there will be a therapeutic session and if it will end in success, or detriment. Professionals must understand that mixing a personal and professional relationship could produce a negative outcome. One of the easiest ways to prevent boundary crossing is to acknowledge, and adhere, to the Code of Ethics which is provided by the organization of employment. A Code of Ethics is a set of principles of conduct within an organization or business that guide decision- making and behavior. The purpose of ethic codes is to provide professionals, clients and other interested persons with guidelines for making ethical choices in conduct of his or her work.
How can a counselor identify certain scenarios to protect themselves and their clients from such damage? As a counselor you should be clear on your limits as a provider. Make sure the client understands that boundaries are set to keep each party involved focused on the work at hand. Identifying poor boundaries: You and your client call each other friends and interact outside of the facility where you work. Valuable gifts are exchanged between you and the client. You reveal personal information that is not relevant to your client case. You find yourself discussing the client and his or her case during social interactions with your friends and family. Knowing the consequences of poor boundaries: Without professional relationship boundaries you may not provide appropriate services to your client. If you are acting as the client’s friend, and not his or her provider, you may not challenge the client to deal with presenting problems.
Failure to set professional boundaries can cause you to burn out from caring for the client beyond what is required of a professional relationship. If you do not maintain a professional relationship you can find yourself acting in an unethical manner. How to prevent poor professional boundaries: Explain your role as provider and the limits of your availability to the client outside of office hours at the beginning of the relationship. Make it clear that the client will only be able to contact you at the facility and that your personal life (outside of the relevant information you volunteer) is not up for discussion. Make sure any personal information you reveal (called self-disclosure) is helpful to the client’s case. For example if the client is a rape victim, it is important to talk about your history of rape (if any) and the resources you used to change your life.
You are making the session about you if you discuss parts of your personal life that are not relevant to the client. When a client crosses the professional boundaries, redirect them by immediately clarifying your role and the limits of your relationships with the client. Discuss boundary issues with your supervisor, colleagues or your own therapist. Be sure to maintain good physical emotional and mental health so you work at your personal best. Review the code of ethics.