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Effectively Setting Boundaries with 'Tempo'
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let's look at your lifestyle. You develop your own style, your own tempo and rhythm,
your own way of thinking, feeling, and behaving, your own sense of personal identity,
your own way of life. Ask yourself, do your clients see you as a college educated,
fast moving, go-getter who values cleanliness; or as an average intelligence,
slow moving person with a free flowing life style...or somewhere in the middle
of these two extremes?
♦ 2 Areas of Incompatability
you react to your client's life style and they react to yours. Incompatibility
can result on two levels:
-- 1. The first level of incompatibility is the difficulty
you have in understanding and accepting people who are different from you.
-- 2. The
second area of incompatibility is the transference of attitudes and feelings from your
previous experiences with persons who have displayed similar personality patterns
to that of your clients.
of a client that has a lifestyle totally different from your work ethic, cleanliness,
pace of life, and so on. Next think about the impact of your life style on that
client, and how it may affect the goals the client wishes to achieve in his or
2 Levels of Tempo
first level of incompatibility, that of tempo, is reflected in your lifestyle
which can affect the boundary you set regarding timing in your therapy sessions.
Timing can be set by your personal tempo by which you live and operate and the
effect that it has on your capacity to relate to the client who has a different
♦ 1. How Rapidly You Speak
Do you feel you move too rapidly or too slowly for a particular
client? How often do you have a complete or partial breakdown in the client's
inability to keep pace with you? If you work with groups, you can observe this
tempo both with individuals and with the group. Thus the first level of tempo
is how rapidly you speak.
♦ 2. Setting Boundaries Regarding Unfolding Information
second level of tempo is setting a boundary regarding the unfolding of information.
How quickly do you present certain information or perspectives to your client?
Let's look at this boundary as it relates to an out-of-control client in a crisis situation. Even the most out-of-control affect cannot last forever; in fact, it
usually cannot even sustain itself for a whole session. Consequently, depending
on the amount of time left in a session, the first approach to apparent loss of
emotional control is the boundary of tempo and to let the emotion play out, as
long as it is not destructive to the client. Obviously your boundary-of-tempo
changes if the client threatens you physically or starts to destroy property.
3 Steps to Setting Boundaries with Out-of-Control Clients
the situation of out-of-control clients in a crisis situation my internal feelings
tell me when to start setting a boundary. How I set this boundary is by asking
the client to focus on me. I state:
-- 1. "I need you to look at me," or "to
look up," etc.
Next, I talk about any behavior connected to the affect. I
say, "I want you to stop pacing now; please sit back down." In setting
this boundary I lower my voice significantly and speak much more slowly than usual,
but with emphasis. Thus, I use tempo to set a boundary.
Once the client has stopped
the behavior, I sometimes focus on their breathing. If it is appropriate, I say,
"Let's get your breathing back to normal. Follow my lead." This joint
rhythm of breathing is maintained until the client becomes calmer.
All along I
try to remain as aware as possible of my own body language, which I find is most
effective in reinforcing this boundary if it expresses calmness.
my client who loses control on a regular basis, I find setting this boundary with
a structured and predictable sequence of interventions and statements is helpful.
- Reamer, F. G. (2001). Tangled Relationships: Managing Boundaries in the Human Services. New York: Columbia University Press.
What are two aspects of tempo in setting boundaries? To select and enter
your answer go to .