IN THE PSYCHOTHERAPY
Clinical and Research Perspectives
JESSE D. GELLER
The word “boundary” has been used as a metaphor by individual, group, couples, and family therapists, of varying theoretical persuasions, to serve multiple and overlapping ends (e.g., Bowen, 1978; Epstein, 1994; Framo, 1982; Gabbard & Lester, 1995; Greene & Geller, 1985; Gutheil & Gabbard, 1993, Hartmann, 1991; Johnston & Farber, 1996; Minuchin, 1976, Ruttan & Stone, 1993; Smith & Fitzpatrick, 1995). “Boundaries” has been used to describe and understand (1) the discontinuities of time, space, and task definition that separate psychotherapy, as a social system, from the rest of the interpersonal environment; (2) the role requirements that are specific to the positions of patient and therapist; (3) the ethical standards and codes of conduct that arise out of therapists' efforts to protect patients from harm and exploitation; and finally, (4) as the mental activities that enable individuals to construct and preserve personally significant distinctions between self and nonself, fantasy and reality, “inside” personal space, and “outside” extrapersonal space and other aspects of personality functioning that affect the course and outcome of psychotherapy.
This research-informed chapter brings to the foreground the relevance of these interrelated figurative applications of the notion of boundaries to the psychotherapies offered to and experienced by psychotherapists and therapists-in-training. Experience and science support two propositions that shall serve as the primary focus of this chapter. First, there are “reality” factors that are more or less specific to the psychotherapy of therapist-patients that