Boundary Work in Trauma Treatment

Boundaries help trauma clients have a sense of safety within themselves and while interacting with others.  Boundaries are vital to trauma work and helping clients heal.  Today’s blog is just a friendly reminder to not only you, but myself as well, about the power of boundary work in trauma treatment.

Clear Boundaries and Safety

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I feel like I have learned a lot about boundaries within relationships.  I know that in order to have healthy relationships you must be clear about your boundaries with others.  As I trained to become a trauma therapist, I started to have a deeper understanding of how boundaries can help my clients re-establish a sense of safety.  For a person whose sense of safety has been compromised or shattered, boundary work can take them leaps and bounds towards their healing.

What is Boundary Work

I have mentioned the term boundary work a couple of times, but what is boundary work and how can you incorporate it in your clinical practice?  I’ve never been one for a step-by-step treatment process…I guess you would say more protocol types of treatment.  I see their usefulness and I also know they can be very powerful.  The main one that comes to mind is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR).  I, on the other hand, enjoy being creative and free-flowing in my work with clients.  So when I say boundary work I really mean coming up with ways to help clients notice, see, and feel their boundaries throughout the session.

The Questions

I don’t have a list of interventions I can give you, but I do have a way of coming up with some boundary activities that are meaningful to your clients.  First I ask myself a couple of questions and then I start intervening based on the information I gather.

  1. Does my client have a sense of their own space? Has their space been intruded on by others? Do they have a healthy relationship with their own bodies? Do they have a sense of owning their space around them? (These are just some of the questions I ask, not all.)
  2. How do I know the answers to these questions? What do I observe in our sessions?

I gather the information from these questions and I start to intervene with what I notice.  For example, if I notice that the client sits on the edge of the seat and never enjoys the support of the chair or couch, then I might start inviting the client to notice how they sit.  I will invite them to explore what it would be like to enjoy the “space” that has been given to them and the support of that “space”.

For most of my clients, as I start to intervene in these different places it allows them to process what is coming up and why they interact the way they do.  These reflections usually can be tied to other experiences in their past.  They are able to gain insight and start to process and integrate past traumatic experiences.  They also began to become more aware of their space and start to take ownership of that space, which can increase their sense of safety within themselves and with others.

In Conclusion

Boundary work can be a great way to help clients re-establish a sense of safety in the world.  I believe boundary work is vital for clients who are healing from trauma. To hear how I provide pyschoeducation to my clients on boundaries go here.

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How do you address boundaries in your work when treating trauma?

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