Observations & meditations on the day-to-day
“You can contact me at any time” vs. Boundaries.
by Anjali S. Mitter.
The other night, it was almost 10:30pm and I’d just got off the phone with a client. We were both buzzing having had a great conversation about a major breakthrough with her child. Big win. We were happy.
However, the number one thing that I get asked when I say things like this isn’t “oh that’s great what was the breakthrough?” (Insofar as I can’t give details but can give the gist…) but instead it’s often “Oh my GOODNESS. Why were you on the phone with a client at 10:30pm?! Don’t you have any boundaries?! People will take advantage! This is unprofessional!”.
I have lots to say on this. Firstly, I do have boundaries. Everybody needs boundaries and they need to have them firmly set up. My clients know that if I can’t take the call, I won’t take the call. They also know that it’s got to be pretty urgent to call me at an “unconventional” time. But they also know that they can.
I am acutely aware that if I decided to simply work a 9-5, the majority of my clients wouldn’t be able to see me or speak to me because of work, or school, or their homework, or their kids being awake. Therapy is a personal thing, it’s not an arbitrary appointment. Particularly at the moment, with clients having to speak to me from their own homes, it often makes it difficult to navigate kids, partners, work, and so on. I do see a lot of kids, which means I do need to speak to parents, often out of earshot of their kids*.
I work in a forum that is literally built on people’s insecurities, vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams, and needs. I do have boundaries, but those boundaries don’t have to come at the cost of my ability to help somebody. If I’m not available, I’m not available. All my clients know that. But they also know that I’m right here if they really do need me at a strange time.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, this was discussed (you can read it here: www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/spark/in-this-together/therapy-for-children-in-lockdown) but it wasn’t just dramatised for the press: I really am available 24/7, but offering that isn’t me laying myself out to get walked all over. It’s placing the trust in my clients that they have in me. Just because you need therapy, doesn’t mean you have lost sight of all that is good and kind. People don’t contact me at strange hours just because I’m available. I’m available, because I know that emotions don’t keep a steady 9-5. I think we’d all agree that feelings don’t come when it’s convenient.
Boundaries don’t mean compromise. Boundaries just mean balance. It means owning your own space and your abilities within that space. Food for thought: boundaries can also be flexible. We’re not rigid beings, our boundaries don’t need to be either.
*All the kids I see know that I speak to their parents. However, it’s important that the parents can have a separate conversation with me to allow them space to bring anything to the conversation that they feel might be relevant, without worrying about what the reaction of their child might be. Nobody’s trust is being broken: the kids know that I won’t betray their trust in those conversations with their parents, and parents trust that I will keep them adequately in the loop. Creating that trust involves a one-on-one relationship as well as a relationship with a whole family.
For more posts by Anjali S Mitter please visit: Anjali Singh-Mitter
You can also follow Anjali on Instagram