Talking the talk about walking the wall
In his wonderful poem, Mending Wall (www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173530), the great American poet, Robert Frost, describes the annual walk he takes with his neighbour along their shared boundary. The two men take their walk in order to repair the depredations of hunters, wild animals, and those unseen forces which don’t seem to like walls. Frost’s plain speaking neighbour says “good walls make good neighbours”, and of course he is right.
Interpersonal boundaries provide security and give us a sense of order. In independent practice, we are free to negotiate our own boundaries. We can agree how long sessions last; how much we charge; where sessions take place; if and when to invite clients’ family; even to define for ourselves what CBT is, and how we choose to deliver it. We decide the entry and exit criteria for our clients; and how we present and package our services
Therapeutic boundaries need to be clearly set from the get-go, especially with people with early life experiences of insecure parental attachment. Yet, while boundaries can provide mutual protection, they also separate and divide. The best therapy often takes place in those liminal areas, where boundaries are temporarily breached, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes by happy accident. Good therapeutic outcomes often occur when therapist and client talk explicitly about where the boundaries are, and how they have moved.
“Something there is that doesn’t like walls”.
Sometimes, this negotiation of therapeutic boundaries is the therapy. How lucky are we then, as IP, that we can negotiate boundaries on an individual basis, with each client, without reference to a corporate policy. Whilst some boundaries, such as confidentiality, might be fairly standard, other boundaries, for example where sessions take place, whether we have contact between sessions, or how much personal information we ourselves disclose, might usefully be varied from client to client.
“There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.”
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.”
I think there is much to be gained by exploring how high and how thick we build the walls that separate us, one from the other, not only in therapy, but in our lives in general.
There are a few places remaining on the Negotiating Therapy course on Saturday, Nov 7th in London. The workshop will exploring how we negotiate with clients within the IP context. More details at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/negotiating-therapy-in-independent-practice-tickets-18501333988?aff=es2