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have explored your attitudes and how they are linked to learned behaviors and
Now let's increase your self-awareness of the impact of your personal needs in light of defense mechanisms, security versus growth, and middle-class
♦ Defense Mechanisms
defense mechanisms, the nature of life's demands are such that there are times
when it is constructive to make temporary use of defense mechanisms like denial,
projection, regression, fantasy, and so on. As you know, this helps us to guard
against anxiety and pain that would otherwise be overwhelming.
For example, I
treated a client, Jane, who used denial as a reaction to her husband's physical
abuse. Only when it extended to her daughter was Jane able to overcome her fear,
face reality, and make use of help and resources.
you know, you need to be able to recognize the presence of defense mechanisms
both in yourself and in your clients. Ask yourself whether your uses of defenses
are constructive or destructive, whether consciously or unconsciously aware
at the time. As you know, your selection of a particular defense mechanism is
strongly influenced by your background.
For example, do you have a family member
that uses humor to deal with painful feelings? If not, what coping mechanisms
did your family use...denial? projection? regression? Think for a minute
a client uses these mechanisms, do you become uncomfortable because they mirror
your issues? Do you need to more consciously set a boundary between your feelings
about a client's use of a defense mechanism and the ones you employ?
♦ Learning to Use Yourself More Effectively
assist with this process of learning to know and use yourself more effectively
related to your awareness of setting ethical boundaries with your clients, ask
yourself the following questions:
5 Questions to Know Yourself
How do I think and feel about myself? Answer
in one word or a short phrase.
What is my self-image?
Do I feel I am physically or intellectually
handicapped in some area or do I feel I am whole?
Do I see myself as old, middle-aged,
-- 5. Am I fat, thin, or average?
I feel one of the most important factors
in self-awareness, and thus in setting ethical boundaries with clients, is how
you feel about yourself. I know when I feel I like myself, I usually relate
in a more open, receptive manner to my clients. Let's explore this further.
♦ 4 Factors in Rating Your Ability to be Ethically Comfortable with Yourself
to Brems, in "Dealing with Challenges in Psychotherapy and Counseling,"
Your ability to be comfortable with yourself is based on the following four
Factor #1. Awareness of and ability to accept yourself as a fallible
person and therapist with strengths and weaknesses. We have already covered cultural
role expectations placed upon males being the "white knight," so to
speak and having all of the answers, and females to being submissive. How are
you at self-acceptance?
Factor #2. Development of a flexible adaptive
pattern that does not demand perfection of yourself, and hence, does not expect
it of others. We as therapists always strive to accept our lack of perfection,
but where are you right now? Rate yourself, on a scale
from 1 to 10. One is low, being a total lack of acceptance of your imperfection, and 10 is high,
being a total acceptance of your imperfections.
Factor #3. Regarding your
ability to be comfortable with yourself, how would you rate your capacity to recognize
and deal with the impact of negative attitudes? Are you a female who feels discriminated against regarding the last promotion or special privilege handed out to a male
in your agency? Or are you male, who feels he is the victim of reverse-discrimination?
Factor #4. Acceptance of the fact that self-liking is not static or unchanging. Self-acceptance and liking involves a continuous process of awareness, assessment,
point to be made here is, setting ethical boundaries with clients begins with
your comfort level with yourself as a basis for making objective treatment decisions.
- Abramson, M. (1996a). Reflections on knowing oneself ethically: Toward a working framework for social work practice. Families in Society, 77(4), 195-202.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Franeta, D. (2019). Taking ethics seriously: Toward comprehensive education in ethics and human rights for psychologists. European Psychologist, 24(2), 125–135.
Glebova, T., Foster, S. L., Cunningham, P. B., Brennan, P. A., & Whitmore, E. (2012). Examining therapist comfort in delivering family therapy in home and community settings: Development and evaluation of the Therapist Comfort Scale. Psychotherapy, 49(1), 52–61.
Slone, N. C., & Owen, J. (2015). Therapist alliance activity, therapist comfort, and systemic alliance on individual psychotherapy outcome. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 25(4), 275–288.
Your ability to be comfortable with yourself is based on what four factors?
To select and enter your answer go to .