|Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979CE for Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, & MFT!!
Role of Promises
Read content below or listen to audio.
Left click audio track to Listen; Right click to "Save..." mp3
considering the uses and abuses of therapeutic boundaries, the therapist, as you know, must
guard against implicit promises, which often are not consciously dishonest, but
nevertheless may be unrealistic.
♦ Here are 3 Examples of Implicit Promises:
you ever found yourself making the following implicit promises? By this I mean,
implicitly promising more than can be delivered in the context of the therapy
setting, by indicating, for example, trust me, reveal yourself to me, and all
2. How about this one? Attempting to pretend a false
acceptance of, for example, the client's lifestyle. This may be destructive to
the client's capacity to be honest and to trust in a therapy setting.
3. A third example of promises is found by implying that the relationship
is permanent when in reality the client's therapist may change many times in the
course of a helping endeavor, especially if the client is involved with the courts
and the bureaucratic funding structure.
Let's now shift focus away from boundaries issues and client promises and talk
about setting ethical boundaries regarding confrontation. Confrontation may be
described as laying the cards on the table and looking at them as they are. As
you know, it is not a hostile technique, but a facing of reality. You can confront
your client with the reality of the situation. You may also confront them with
their feelings and behavior patterns that are destructive. The therapeutic tool
of confrontation may also be used to help focus your client's responsibility for
his or her actions, as well as responsibility for his or her successes as well
cases of child abuse... the parents are either unable or unwilling to meet their
children's basic physical and psychological needs. If your assessment suggests
that the parent fails to meet the child's needs and the parent is either not attached
to the child or unhealthily attached to the child, it becomes necessary to set
an ethical boundary regarding confrontational questions about abuse and neglect.
I found it safest to move into this topic by exploring:
-- 1. First, whether the parents
had concerns about their relationship with their child or about their parenting
behavior and skills.
2. Second, I follow this up with questions about whether others,
like teachers or physicians, have ever expressed concerns.
-- 3. Thirdly, I express
my concern about the patterns that have been revealed.
-- 4. Fourth and finally, I then
explain that my concern is great enough to warrant some direct questions about
abuse and neglect.
By following this flow from the general to the specific,
I feel I maintain an ethical boundary between being inappropriately confrontational
and being straightforward. Once this transition to the more specific has
taken place, I go to more direct inquiries about specific incidents in the past
if the information is not available.
♦ Heather's Confrontational Boundary
a sample of how this confrontational boundary works. The parent, Heather, accused
of child abuse, asks, "Are you accusing me of something here?" I state,
"I suppose I have concerns about you leaving Mary home alone at her age.
I believe that you are neglecting her needs for physical safety and supervision.
At 8 years old she isn't really able to handle crises yet. A child her age does
not yet have the ability to think on her feet."
Heather interrupts, "Mary
is mature for an 8 year old." I state, "That just isn't enough to keep
her safe. What do you suppose might have happened if your neighbor hadn't noticed
the stranger in your backyard and hadn't called the police? After all, they did
take him in because he was someone they had been looking for in a criminal case."
Do you see how the flow of the confrontation boundary goes from general to more
- Reamer, F. G. (2001). Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundaries in the Human Services. New York: Columbia University Press.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Conlin, W. E., & Boness, C. L. (2019). Ethical considerations for addressing distorted beliefs in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 56(4), 449–458.
Montes, S. D., & Zweig, D. (2009). Do promises matter? An exploration of the role of promises in psychological contract breach. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(5), 1243–1260.
Sheeran, P., Bosch, J. A., Crombez, G., Hall, P. A., Harris, J. L., Papies, E. K., & Wiers, R. W. (2016). Implicit processes in health psychology: Diversity and promise. Health Psychology, 35(8), 761–766.
What is one method to maintain an ethical boundary between being inappropriately
confrontational and being straight forward? To select and enter your answer go