Who Needs Boundaries?!


Please allow me to preface this by saying…I am boundary pusher! I don’t know how to not push boundaries. I can contribute ignoring boundaries to things I consider successes in my life. My caregivers and friends can attest to me being a boundary pusher my entire life. My “No” and “Yes” receptors must be confused. Graduate school created a new set of boundaries for me to push. It allowed me to guiltlessly see how far I could push boundaries and be rewarded in the process! I fed my addiction to pushing boundaries. When I push a boundary something possibly happens with my dopamine neurotransmitter. Ok, I may be stretching it some! Until I decided to become a helper and enter various professional and therapeutic relationships. I noticed something different.

True Story! I went to get a much-needed massage and the masseur ask the usual question, “Is there any area you would like me to pay special attention to today?” I looked at him and said, “My whole body hurts!” Why had I allowed myself to get to this point? Ignoring boundaries had gotten the best of me!

Boundaries are important in any relationship. How are your boundaries with your current employer? What are you willing to do or not do for that promotion or new position? When exactly do you draw the line in your relationships? We have the tendency to stretch ourselves very thin, leaving only minimal time and energy for anything or anyone outside of helping people. We know how to help, but we seem to have a hard time being helped. We tend to allow the needs of others detwrmine our choices and decisions. We sometimes allow helping others dictate how and if we care for ourselves. I was recently asked, how do I know when I need a break. I almost immediately responded by saying when my tolerance for people is low or nonexistent. I know it is time for me to take some time to myself, for myself, and for the sake of people who interact with me during this time. I can become unpleasant and extremely short with people. This is not the person that I want to be and I don’t like me when I am in this state. I felt I was doing great by being able to identify these things about myself. So I was then ask, the simplest, yet, puzzling question, why do I allow myself to be in this state if I know I don’t like it. Why not do something or take a break beforehand. I looked at MY therapist as if she was a genius and thought to myself, I’ve got to do better!! I can no longer push the same boundaries that I am accustomed to pushing. It interferes with who I am as a clinician and a person. It interferes with my relationships, and my purpose, and I can’t have that! I can no longer operate in the same manner. Things have to be different. I’m playing with a new set of boundaries. Not only does my life and health depend on the boundaries that I establish, but so does the care of others. I have to establish boundaries in areas of my life to create balance, and become more aware of when enough is enough before it’s too much. Note to self: Replenish yourself daily. How can we pour into people when we are empty?

To the helpers and caregivers who have a sense of healthy boundaries and are able to operate within your boundaries more often than not. You’re AWESOME and don’t let anyone tell you anything different!


The Relationship isn’t About You!

First, let me acknowledge that anyone who is a part of the helping field in any capacity are unique and awesome people! I may be a little biased. We devote ourselves to helping others and give tirelessly, while having to be reminded to take care of ourselves. It isn’t an easy thing to do or easy to understand by people who have chosen different paths in life.

Relationships are an important part of life. Today’s society appears to display increasingly individualistic characteristics, and the importance of connection to others doesn’t appear to be high on the priority list of an increasing number of people. We are a dynamic species that is forever evolving and we learn to grow from each other. We all have different expertise in many different things, and when we acknowledge the greatness in each other we are a force in which to be reckoned.

As a clinician, I place a large amount of trust in the therapeutic relationship that any client and I create. I believe it to be an important tool that drives a person to meet their therapeutic goals. Relationships are selfless and require a form of reciprocity. In a relationship you can’t be rigid, you have to be flexible, and you have to trust the person in which you’re in a relationship. One must be able to communicate in a way that the person you are in a relationship with can understand. You have to be able to speak THEIR language in order to get YOUR needs met. In a therapeutic relationship, your client’s need is your need! When interacting with others on behalf of a client, you have to learn to maintain and rekindle relationships with other professionals for the benefit of your client. We are a wealth of knowledge and resources to each other. In some instances we are having a difficult time putting our constant need to be heard or be right, and the clients are missing out. When a clinician is able to be open to another perspective of a client’s health through an interaction with another helper to become a part of a team for that moment, the client wins! When we are unable to do this, we along with our clients are missing out on the vast knowledge of the individuals that devote themselves to helping people. Not only does that client suffer, but future client that you serve are not privy to that information through you. This speaks to the medical professional, psychiatrist, social worker, counselor and psychologist. We all have multiple things to offer if we could just, “Get over ourselves.” Everyone is right in the scenario, but everyone can’t be right 100%. Clients rarely have 100% medical, psychiatric, or any other need. This is suggesting that people are one-dimensional and can only have one need at a time. People are multifaceted, we have several needs at one time. In some cases the client may have a 50% medical 15% psychiatrist and 15% social work and 20% counseling need. If everyone is trying to be 100% of the solution the client tends to get too much of something and not enough of the others, and as a result one or some needs may go unmet. Clients have the tendency to become overwhelmed with everyone’s 100% and can walk away with nothing or being half served.

In order to collaborate and help “the whole person”, we, as people in helping roles should learn to recognize what percentage to give in each situation. Endless years of not knowing how to be in relationship with each other is causing the clients to go without. Every piece of an individual makes a whole. One piece, sometimes, can’t function properly is the other part is malfunctioning. We have to attend to a relationship with whomever is providing a service to the client. We do not have to understand each role, but at minimum we should respect each other as the piece to the clients puzzle. If we are on the same page about nothing else, it should be the client. No, you will not like everything about every person you interact with on behalf of a client, but you may love what expertise they can provide to your client. Especially if your client has history with this provider and respects this provider. Honoring the client’s relationships with anyone is helpful in establishing and respecting your own relationship with a client. You may be the best person for the job, but if the client has no relationship with you the likelihood of you being any service to them decreases.

Forming and maintaining relationships increases the quality of care your client receives. To think that a profession whose work is created through establishing relationships, inability to establish effective working relationships with each other is prohibiting helpers from doing what we all set out to do…HELP. Remember, the relationship isn’t about the helper, but the people who are able to be helped through the relationships.

“Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.” – Deepak Chopra

Death and Dying

401202_10150531542092860_18325017_nToday, I learned of the passing of client. This is number four in 2 years, 3 this year! Yes, it’s hard mentally and emotionally. When I entered the field of helping people, that’s all I wanted to do was help. My mind didn’t go past helping people. I don’t know if I didn’t allow mind to process the evolution of a person or I chose not to…the verdict is still out on that one. I forgot to remember that a person will for sure do one thing, and that is die. I am always so caught up in living that I forget the indisputable. When I came to the realization that clients will die. I immediately assumed that I would be a lot further along in my career. I was only a few months out of graduate school when my first client passed away. I was devastated. I didn’t want to work, I sat in the dark for a while wondering…”Is this really for me?” “Can I handle this?” and “Why am I feeling like this?” I had to remember this is someone I met with several times a week and had become accustomed to seeing, and now I would no longer see them. This person wasn’t family, but it hurt! See, this person didn’t have family so at some point did our relationship change? When this person went into the hospital I did a community visit, as they had requested, not knowing it would be my last. Personally, I wanted to stay and be by this individual’s side, but the clinician had to leave. This moment gave a different meaning to “holding hope.” What I didn’t know is that holding hope can feel like a punch in the gut. That’s the part that I wasn’t taught and don’t feel like I could have been taught. I had to experience another dynamic of holding hope; one without a happy ending. It’s hard not to become “numb” in this profession. That would be an easy way to survive, but in this field, one can’t simply survive you must thrive. Once you stop feeling can you still be compassionate? Can you still HELP? Not even the best school can prepare you for the loss of a client. At the end of the day you’re left with a “different kind of grief”. One that has the ability to be debilitating and gives you the strength to continue to help people. At the point you realize how much this person has contributed to your growth as a clinician and as a person. You then understand that they have contributed to you being able to help someone else. Learn what you endure, in this profession you must have emotional boundaries. What can you mentally and emotionally tolerate without becoming numb to the needs of others? Know your boundaries and respect them. At the end of the day, loss is loss. It may hurt differently with every encounter, but it still hurts.

I’m Not Ready!

I consider myself to be young in the field, the people I help “needs” don’t treat me as if I’m young. Let me explain…A client doesn’t know or sometimes even care what experience a therapist has for their particular issue. They just know that they can no longer hold their issue and they need someone else to help!! I haven’t had the experience of a client saying, “Oh no, I have “real” issues and you need a certain number of years to handle this information!” I wish my very first FEW client would have told me that, because I remembering walking away feeling and probably looking like, “What just happened, I wasn’t expecting this…this is day ONE!”  In other professions you get to build up to the more difficult task, but when you work with people in a therapeutic capacity day one could be equivalent to other professions year 12. For example, in working in the business world your supervisor usually doesn’t trust you with a billion dollar account on day one or maybe EVER! When working in community mental health being able to manage a “billion dollar” account on day one is what I feel help you to grow as a professional. Unlike business, you grow and then get the account! In this journey as a clinician I feel that growth is inevitable. Your capacity for others change as well as for yourself. Your level of compassion increases every time “you’re not ready”. I believe experience is our greatest teacher. We all have something to offer; the wounded and the healer alike.