Relationships, Not Boundaries
Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 2002; 23(3): 203-217
The authors find it more useful to pay attention to relationships than to boundaries. By focusing attention on bounded, individual psychological issues, the metaphor of boundaries can distract helping professionals from thinking about inequities of power. It oversimplifies a complex issue, inviting us to ignore discourses around gender, race, class, culture, and the like that support injustice, abuse, and exploitation. Making boundaries a central metaphor for ethical practice can keep us from critically examining the effects of distance, withdrawal, and non-participation. The authors describe how it is possible to examine the practical, moral, and ethical effects of our participation in relationships by focusing on just relationships rather than on boundaries. They give illustrations and clinical examples of relationally-focused ethical practices that derive from a narrative approach to therapy.