How to Maintain Healthy Boundaries with Clients

Understanding boundaries is an important step to achieving physical and emotional health. They can empower you, protect your self-esteem, and lead to healthy relationships in your personal and professional life.

Boundaries are limits or rules that help us understand what is safe and permissible, when dealing with other people’s behavior. Personal boundaries help us understand how much physical and emotional space is needed and what kinds of communication and behaviors are acceptable.

Our team at Warriors Heart understands how important it is to have defined boundaries with our clients. Our relationships are built on a foundation of trust and safety.

We understand that each client is unique and has different needs and boundaries. Boundary crossings are not uncommon and though some are harmful, we strive to make every event into a learning experience. We tailor our treatment plans to meet each client’s needs, whether it’s spending extra time with certain clients, allowing extra phone time or extending curfews.

Most boundary violations happen when someone tries to control the behavior or values of another. These violations can be harmful to the client, family, or the treatment industry. Another common boundary violation is a dual relationship. This is when a non-professional, personal relationship causes a conflict of interest between staff and a client. Even something as seemingly benign as being friends on social media can be unethical in our industry.

It’s important to remember that many of our clients lack a sense of personal boundaries. They may not realize they are crossing boundaries like touching, hugging or asking for alone time. It’s up to the employee to maintain those boundaries.

Here are some of the warning signs you can watch for:

  • Thinking you are very special to the client, you enjoy spending time with the client
  • Increased socializing during and after your work hours
  • Making exceptions for one client over another
  • Granting favors outside of treatment (purchasing tobacco products for a client)
  • Wishing you could rescue the client
  • Enjoying being needed by them

You should also be mindful of personal boundary violations like the following:

  • Name calling
  • Yelling at you
  • Treats you inferior
  • Excessive teasing
  • Demanding
  • Threatening with ultimatums
  • Sexually assaultive
  • Physically assaultive
  • Mocking or ridicule

It is crucial to protect yourself from becoming a victim or perpetrator of boundary violations. Be mindful of the rules and ask yourself if you are being ethical. Check with coworkers or a supervisor before agreeing to any favors. Practice self-care and seek assistance if you feel a boundary has been crossed. Set your boundaries and remain consistent; be firm with clients.

Remember, we are here to help our clients and to above all, do no harm.

Vonnie Nealon LCDC

Clinical Director