Boundaries come in all shapes and sizes.  Continental plates, country borders, state lines, property fences, locked doors.  Then there are other, more nebulous boundaries: meniscus, the plane between water and air; penumbra, the line between light and shadow.

In the individual world, boundaries govern the material, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realms.  Boundaries determine to what extent you affect or are affected by others, how you engage. But why do we need them?

Boundaries are both protective and adaptive.  Statements like ‘I’m not going there,’ and ‘They over-stepped/crossed the line’ are common enough indicators of how important it is to have limits.  We moderate ourselves in order to live peacefully in our relationships and in community.

Boundaries are learned.  Childhood, including how we were treated by parents and siblings, informs our concepts of dependence, independence, and co-dependence.  We need to be very aware of whether the boundaries we have in place are useful, mature, and relative to now – or are they left-overs from a younger/other life phase?

Boundaries can change.  Just as fences have gates and houses have thresholds, our boundaries have access points where trust, insight, and patience can help us to evaluate them and feel good about where they lie.  This process is the act of defining yourself, understanding your limits, creating your true identity. In this liminal space of vulnerability sits opportunities for self-growth and intimacy.

In therapy, both individuals and couples must seek to define, explore, and assess their boundaries.  What do you expect of yourself?  What do you expect of others, including your therapist? (McLeod, 2013) Where is, what is, the line that governs how you deal with the existential dilemma of being an individual in relationship with others? (Proctor, 2014)

Do you need support redefining your personal/professional boundaries? Developing and building interpersonal awareness is a key aspect of the work often explored with clients. Please get in touch if the above article resonates with you in light of your own situation.


McLeod, J., & Ebooks Corporation. (2013). An introduction to counselling (5th ed.). Maidenhead, Berkshire ; New York: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education.

Proctor, G. (2014). Values and ethics in counselling and psychotherapy.

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Disclaimer: This article contains the views of the author and is not a replacement for therapeutic support. Please reach out to a registered therapist if you are experiencing distress and require assistance.