Boundary Violations: A Culture-Bound Syndrome.

J. Kroll,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 29(3): 274-283, 2001.
A backlash against the self-actualizing psychotherapy movements of the 1960s and 1970s in concert with recent concerns about professional sexual misconduct has led some forensic psychiatrists to redefine many routine components of therapy as boundary behaviors. This concern has been followed by the development of conservative guidelines for how therapists should conduct themselves at the newly-defined boundary crossings so as to avoid "violations." The slippery-slope argument that seemingly innocuous boundary crossings may lead inexorably to professional sexual misconduct has lent an urgency and legitimacy to the guideline enterprise, obscuring the perspective that the newly postulated boundaries do not represent the consensus of practitioners in the field. Otherwise highly controversial claims about what is ethical and proper behavior in psychotherapy gain a mantle of incontrovertibility when linked to predictions that ignoring published boundary guidelines will result in damage to patient and litigation against therapist. In this article, three widely advanced boundary guidelines are examined (therapist neutrality, therapist anonymity, and stable fee policy) for coherence and relevance to the richly diverse practice of psychotherapy.