I’ve come to see that there are 4 parts to setting boundaries.
The first thing we need to do is assessment. Make a quick assessment of where they at.
Second, is we need to create a team. Who are the individuals we need to get around the client so they get the best help? And this is one of the biggest learnings I’ve learned in my 20 years as a counsellor.
My good friend, a mentor, Dr. David Lake said to me, “Rocky where’s the army?”
He said to me, “Do you think you can help this child yourself?” and I said “Well you know who else is there? I’m the only counsellor here.” He said to me, “No, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is where’s the pediatrician? What about the GP and and the like. He said, this is not going to be solved just with you as a counsellor. If the problem is ongoing, what about if it increases in frequency and in duration? These are clear warning signs that we need to get other people around the client so they have the best help.
The other problem I see is that sometimes you refer a student and think that it’s all done. That there is nothing else required. However, I still think you have a role to play and that’s the third thing to consider.
You still have a support role and that’s what an accidental counsellor is. They’re seeing an outside psychologist or whatever help they are getting, you could still catch up with them and support them. The mistake is when you become the primary mental health carer to the person in need. Big problems may occur if there is no improvement. This is why we need the team.
Lastly, it is important to have a contract or a framework on how to work. If you are catching up with the person, consider how long does the meeting go for? Where do you meet? What is it that you discuss? What are off limits? You need to be able to have a framework, a boundary, so that we can operate carefully and productively within our role within a team after making an assessment on whether this is something you should continue. The key question is – are they improving or are they not?