• Who are we protecting? Exploring counsellors' understanding and experience of boundaries

      Blundell, Peter; Oakley, Lisa; Kinmond, Kathryn; Liverpool John Moores University; University of Chester; Staffordshire University (European Journal of Qualitative Research in Psychotherapy, 2022-04-07)
      The concept of boundary is a term often used within counselling and psychotherapy literature. However, there is a paucity of research exploring how useful and meaningful boundaries are for therapy practice. This study explored how counsellors understand and experience boundaries within their counselling practice. Seven participants, who were all qualified and practising counsellors, were interviewed about their understanding and experience of boundaries. These interviews were transcribed and then analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Analysis identified one significant overarching theme entitled “Protection and Safety” which distinguished between the protection of self and other. This paper focuses solely on the Protection of Self theme because of the theme’s rich and vivid data and the theme’s overarching dominance across the accounts. Two subthemes were identified: Establishing the Self and Defending the Self. Findings indicate that there was a lack of awareness around boundaries, with some participants describing defensive responses to some boundary issues. However, participants also described using boundaries to restrict, limit and defend themselves when working with clients, and they identified this as necessary for their own safety and security. This study recommends that therapists should engage reflexively with boundaries, towards developing a more relational and/or client-focused approach.