Professional Boundaries Statement
Statements such as these are designed to inform clients and colleagues about possible conflicts of interest, and the measures that are being taken to ensure that these are mitigated.
In my personal life I have a background of being in both long term “mono” relationships, and a period of being actively polysexual. I am straight but I do not use or define myself in terms of pronouns, because this seems like a different way of labeling to me. I respect other people’s choice to do so. I self identify as male and do not accept the judgemental label of “CIS”. I attend various identity events and trainings, usually at post graduate level as well as socially, and it is quite possible that a client who self identifies as part of a group might find themselves in brief contact with me at such an event. This activity assists me in being gender identity knowledgeable, not just gender identity friendly.
In my personal life I have a very deeply embedded sense of faith and faith practice, especially Mindfulness and Taoist based. This helps guide me in pastoral and faith based work where it is requested. This makes me faith knowledgeable, not just faith-friendly. Clients may notice references online or in faith publications about the fact that I have been ordained as a spiritual humanist and multifaith clergy. Clients may also find reference to my historic role as a Professor within an Interfaith Seminary (Church college effectively) based in New York (2000-2008 approx). I also attend trainings and practice of mindfulness and other Buddhist psychology practices, and Taoist based martial arts. I have also occasionally provide articles or blog entries on faith issues. As part of being an office bearer in different faith related groups my full legal name is unusual and might be visible online, although in social and professional like I am simply “Stuart”.
Ethnically I am essentially “white” but I am also half Jewish, part Irish, part Scottish, a dash of Italian, and Welsh born, so I tend to not label myself in those terms. My DNA test also showed my ancestors were partly Persian, so black and white labelling seems inaccurate.
A significant overlap exists between certain empowering faith groups and models and sexual identity models and there is potential cross over between certain education and support groups.
I am actively involved in politics on a local and national level. Nationally I am involved in the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and I used to write a political “diary” column for a professional journal. I also contribute in the media with comments and letters. Locally I used to be involved in my local branch of the SNP and was an office bearer, although I no longer associate with the SNP due to some of their recent policy choices.
I engage in a range of academic trainings and attend lectures with a number of groups, including PESI, the Royal Society of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, the Royal Scottish Society of Arts and the Open University.
Edinburgh in particular is often referred to as a “little big city” and therefore there is the possibility of contact inadvertently outside the therapy field. Also interests of sexual identity training and spirituality tend to be niche groups, again with potential cross over.
I use humour a lot in my therapy work, and this means that clients should be aware that although I adhere to boundaries in my work, the use of humour may on occasion “sail close” to these. I try hard never to cross them! My use is modelled on the recommendations embedded with the CBASP system of DPI (Disciplined Personal involvement), and the RO-DBT use of humour. I have also consulted with Steven Porges, founder of Polyvagal system on the use of humour in “rupture and repair” for trauma.
During the COVID pandemic, with it’s resultant isolation, I have also tried to increase gentle contact with clients, and it is not unusual for me to share media with clients that I am aware are in their special areas of interest or study, as a means of showing genuine concern and interest. This is done with a simple “thought this might interest” cover note. When people are really struggling I may even share funny stories or media to lift spirits. This is all very light touch, so as to be the exception and not the rule, and to avoid intrusion.
I never impose or introduce spirituality or sexual identity related work into therapy unless clearly requested by the client or required by clinical need. Non-faith use of models such as mindfulness is explained and is by consent. In line with current thinking in critical psychotherapy, I do discuss social psychoanalytic issues / Gestalt fields of influence / the interaction between self and environment in session where appropriate. Where politics is part of the discussion. I do not seek to influence or change the politics of others. I expect to receive the same courtesy back from clients and colleagues as a fellow human being.
I dislike the term “non binary” since thousands of years of thinkers across multiple disciplines have acknowledged that noone is “binary”, and everyone has male and female traits within them. Therefore “nonbinary” merely means “human”. I therefore prefer the term “queer” when referring to hetero-divergent identity. I also prefer neurodivergent when discussing conditions such as ASD / Asperger’s, since “neurodiverse” describes the fact all of us have different brains through our unique developments, whereas divergent describes significant difference. I also prefer the WHO sponsored diagnostic methods rather than the DSM, since for C-PTSD there is more useful description, and for ASD there is more clear differentiation. My use of language is offered to explain MY use of terms, and is not meant to “make others wrong” since language itself is diverse!
I adhere to strict codes of ethics and practice including those of confidentiality. The initial assessment and agreement forms define these.
If I meet you outside of therapy context, I will be guided by you. If I ignore you it is because I have not noticed a “cue” to interact. If you approach me, I will acknowledge you as appropriate. I will avoid all mention of therapeutic affairs and I will keep contact brief.
If we meet in a training or education context, I will avoid any contact above and beyond the matter at hand, and will keep it brief, avoiding it at all if possible.
I will not “out” your status as a client, sexuality, spirituality or any other confidential nature of your “self”. I will choose to appear aloof to others, rather than be drawn into any conversation that might damage your confidentiality.
It is generally agreed that it is inappropriate to build friendships with clients, or their close family or acquaintances. If it is identified that there is a cross over socially, then unless this can be managed to the satisfaction of my clinical supervisor, I will refer. Occasionally it is possible to have common interests with clients, and share media and so forth without deeper interaction. If at the initial assessment stage of therapy it is obvious that a conflict of interest may occur, such as predictable social contact, then therapy will not proceed and I will refer. These boundaries exist to protect the client and are considered good practice. Romantic and or sexual relationships are completely prohibited with current or former clients, and especially since I work with LGBTQ* clients, it is particularly important to maintain very clear and openly discussed boundaries to that effect.
At the time of writing I am in a long term committed mono relationship. If this status changes then this statement will be updated with any potential impact statements.
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