As counsellors we have to consider our boundaries all the time- everything we say and do has the potential to cause harm- one of the reasons I like the PCA is because it doesn’t believe in imposing on clients and for me, that lessens the risk of harm. I have read accounts of counsellors who ‘try’ one interpretation or technique week after week (and oh, when I first started, did I wish I had some of those. All I had was me, however), and it seems like a fine line to tread.
I am part of a small community locally and some of my client group overlaps. I know from my clients that I have had some ‘near misses’, where I have chosen not to go to an event they have gone to, or I was at the event but at a slightly different time, and I am used to that, and how that feels. I expect that for clients in that demographic there may be overlap and we cover that in boundaries at the beginning.
Recently however, I bumped into something quite unexpected. A client was discussing their house*. They mentioned they had something on the house that made it very unique. And I realised with surprise that a house with that description is on a street close to me, that I pass (often in Lycra when I am out for a run) on most days of the week. Now, I couldn’t check with the client where they lived- that would be a misuse of power, because if that is my client’s house (and even if it is not) I am not going to be reciprocal about where I live. It would force a power-imbalance. So I just have to ‘suck it up’. If my client and I see each other, we will deal with that. And if we don’t (it has been a few months and we have not yet) then all is well.
But it is a very odd feeling- I am self-conscious when I go past now, and still putting aside that mental interjection when we meet. I find that I am more actively trying to stay away from there – not by putting myself out massively, but by making small changes to try and ensure both our privacies. But it is just another example of where an unexpected boundary crops up. Some people live and work in small towns and expect this all of the time, but would be affected by a different type of boundary- I know this, and I am sure that I will find other boundaries that I nudge against. This was my first one, however, so it has stayed with me.
*not their actual house, just an example chosen as an identifier