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explore in more detail your attitudes and culture since they are the cornerstones
of objective decision making and setting ethic boundaries.
♦ 4 Questions for a Self-Awareness Check
a self-awareness check regarding an attitude. Let's take the emotionally-charged
topic of substance abuse.
1. What is your earliest memory of having a negative
reaction to seeing someone drunk?
2. Was it in your childhood?
3. Was it a relative,
family friend, or neighbor?
4. Secondly, what was your response to this situation?
I recall I was about 8, and my aunt had had too much to drink. She was
very sick the next morning. I observed everyone being very supportive the next
morning, and she seemed almost to have "hero" status with my mother,
father, her husband, and other family members who provided her with various home-remedy
learned response and what felt right then was, "we care for those who have
consumed too much alcohol." This felt like the "right" response.
This "right" response was reinforced by significant others and the media,
as alcohol consumption was an accepted sophisticated activity. The American way
of the 50's and early 60's movies was that dad and mom would have an after-dinner
resulting "boundaries therapy challenge" is that whenever a client mentions
drinking, then internally for me, a red light goes off. I need to do a perspective
check and remind myself that not everyone who drinks is a problem drinker.
Do You Learn to Know Yourself?
do you learn to know yourself and to use yourself to effectively set ethical boundaries
with your clients? Let's look at how your attitudes and behaviors are learned.
As you know, attitudes and behaviors are learned in response to a need to
react to particular circumstances, as in the case of my aunt and the hangover.
Attitudes tend to become internalized and invested with an emotional component
that may have little relationship to their true significance. In my preceding
example about my aunt who drank too much, the progression of how my attitudes
and behaviors were linked and learned moved through the following six stages:
6 Stages in Progression of Attitudes & Behaviors
1. A situation that demands a reaction from me, i.e. my aunt's hangover;
2. Response on a trial-and-error basis or on the basis of perception,
of showing sympathy and not scorn or reproach;
3. Learning that a
particular response is effective...at the time, selection of another response,
besides those mirrored by adults in my life, was not even considered;
4. Development of feeling that this is the "right" response because it
worked in that situation;
5. Reinforcement of this "right"
response by support of significant others; and
6. Development of feeling
that people who respond differently are "wrong."
How do these
six stages apply to setting ethical boundaries with your clients?
increase your self-awareness of how your attitudes are linked to your past behaviors
and your current setting of client boundaries, I would like for you to pause a minute and think back to an emotionally-charged situation from
your childhood. Secondly, what was the response of others and what was your resulting
learned-response as being the "right" reaction? Thirdly, think where
you are regarding this response at present. Recall the most recent time that this
issue came up in a session with a client. What was your response? What was the
client's attitude towards the issue?
- Schoener, GR. (1997). Boundaries in Group Therapy: Ethical and Practice Issues. In Women and Group Psychotherapy. New York: Builford Press.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Contrastano, C. M. (2020). Trainee’s perspective of reciprocal vulnerability and boundaries in supervision. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 30(1), 44–51.
Pinner, D. H., & Kivlighan, D. M. III. (2018). The ethical implications and utility of routine outcome monitoring in determining boundaries of competence in practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 49(4), 247–254.
Van Kleef, G. A., van den Berg, H., & Heerdink, M. W. (2015). The persuasive power of emotions: Effects of emotional expressions on attitude formation and change. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 1124–1142.
What are six stages in attitude formation from past experiences? To
select and enter your answer go to .