How Certain Boundaries
and Ethics Diminish
Arnold A. Lazarus, PhD, ABPP
Civilized interactions depend heavily on recognizing and respecting boundaries. To violate a boundary, whether of an entire nation or one individual, is to usurp someone’s legitimate territory and invade his or her privacy by disregarding tacit or explicit limits. In quality relationships, people honor one another’s rights and sensibilities and are careful not to intrude into the other’s psychological space. It is therefore not surprising that the literature on psychotherapy continues to dwell on this important issue from many different perspectives.
Ethical considerations are closely related to matters of personal and interpersonal boundaries. The recently revised ethical principles of psychologists (American Psychologist, 1992, Vol. 47, no. 12) spells out numerous specific boundaries that all professional psychologists are required to respect. Many of the ethical principles and proscriptions emphasize the avoidance of harassment, exploitation, harm, and discrimination and underscore the significance of respect, integrity, confidentiality, and informed consent. Nevertheless, when taken too far,
Lazarus, A. A. (1994a). How certain boundaries and ethics diminish therapeutic effectiveness.
Ethics and Behavior, 4, 255–261.