Working as a behavioral health clinician is rewarding but emotionally exhausting. This can lead to serious burnout, which can harm relationships, physical health, and the future of your career.
Practicing healthy boundaries is important for managing your career responsibilities. Here’s how to recognize and keep healthy boundaries with your behavioral health clients.
What do healthy boundaries look like?
In general, healthy boundaries between a clinician and client means that interactions only occur in the office (or facility), during scheduled times. The clinician is not emotionally involved with the client beyond normal, professional concern.
Perhaps most importantly, clinicians and clients should not have another type of relationship outside of therapeutic sessions (what is known as a “dual relationship”). Your client should not also be your accountant, family member, coworker, and so on.
This may be more challenging in less populated areas, or communities with fewer mental health professionals. You may unintentionally meet a client outside of sessions, such as at the grocery store. In that case, do not initiate a conversation. If you cannot avoid it, keep the interaction brief and professional, and avoid discussing anything that belongs in your scheduled sessions.
What are some examples of boundary violations?
Crossing boundaries can harm the therapeutic relationships, jeopardize your career, and put a client’s wellness at risk. Clinician boundary violations may include:
Interacting with a client on social media
Accepting gifts from a client
Forming a business, social, or sexual relationship with a client
Inappropriate physical touching
Revealing too much about yourself
Excessively long sessions
Lengthy or deliberate interactions with a client outside of therapy sessions
Different organizations, settings, and cultures may have different boundaries. For example, if a client is excessively afraid of flying, their therapist may accompany them on a flight as part of their exposure therapy. Child therapists may hug their clients or visit them in the hospital.
How do you maintain healthy boundaries?
Even if you understand what appropriate or inappropriate boundaries look like, they can be difficult to maintain. Here’s how to help you keep healthy boundaries:
Decide what you will and will not disclose about yourself to a client, and under what circumstances.
Set specific rules with clients and let them know what is and is not appropriate.
Practice speaking up for your boundaries. For example, if you have trouble keeping to your set session time, practice saying, “I’m sorry, but our time is up. We can schedule another session to continue this discussion.”
Get familiar with professional standards for boundaries, including state laws and licensing boards.
Do not give your clients access to your social media profiles. Set your profiles to private or restricted access.
You may struggle with boundaries in other ways, such as taking on too much work. Preserving healthy client boundaries can help you develop good habits in other areas of your life.
Behavioral health clinicians may struggle to prevent burnout while maintaining professional standards. At BestNotes, we believe that the right tools can help you do both.
BestNotes EHR solutions were designed with you in mind, so you can run an efficient practice with better client results, higher revenue, and lower stress. Contact us today to take the next step in making your career even more satisfying!