Clear and Ethical Boundaries Track 4 - Defense Mechanisms

Clear and Ethical Boundaries Track 4 - Defense Mechanisms

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Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, & MFT!!

Section 4
Track #4 - Defense Mechanisms

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We have explored your attitudes and how they are linked to learned behaviors and gender culture. Now let''s increase your self awareness of the impact of your personal needs in light of defense mechanisms, security versus growth, and middle-class values.

Regarding defense mechanisms, the nature of life''s demands are such that there are times when it is constructive to make temporary use of defense mechanisms like -- denial, projection, regression, fantasy, and so on. As you know, this helps us to guard against anxiety and pain that would otherwise be overwhelming. For example, I treated a client, Jane, who used denial as a reaction to her husband''s physical abuse. Only when it extended to her daughter was Jane able to overcome her fear, face reality, and make use of help and resources.

As you know, you need to be able to recognize the presence of defense mechanisms both in yourself and in your clients. Ask yourself whether your uses of defenses are constructive -- or destructive, consciously -- or perhaps unconsciously aware at the time. As you know, your selection of a particular defense mechanism is strongly influenced by your background. For example, do you have a family member that uses humor to deal with painful feelings? If not, what coping mechanisms did your family use...denial? projection? regression? Think for a minute…when a client uses these mechanisms, do you become uncomfortable because they mirror your issues? Do you need to more consciously set a boundary between your feelings about a client''s use of a defense mechanism and the ones you employ?

To assist with this process of learning to know and use yourself more effectively related to your awareness of setting ethical boundaries with your clients, ask yourself the following questions: How do I think and feel about myself? Answer in one word or a phrase. What is my self image? Do I feel I am physically or intellectually handicapped in some area or do I feel I am whole? Do I see myself as old, middle-aged, or young? Am I fat, thin, or average? I feel one of the most important factors in self awareness, and thus in setting ethical boundaries with clients, is how you feel about yourself. I know when I feel I like myself, I feel I usually relate in a more open, receptive manner to my clients. Let''s explore this further.

According to Brems, in "Dealing with Challenges in Psychotherapy and Counseling,"
Your ability to be comfortable with yourself is based on the following four factors:

#1. Awareness of and ability to accept yourself as a fallible person and therapist with strengths and weaknesses. We have already covered cultural role expectations placed upon males being the "white knight," so to speak and having all of the answers, and females to being submissive. How are you at self acceptance?

#2. Development of a flexible adaptive pattern that does not demand perfection of yourself and hence does not expect it of others. We as therapists always strive to accept our lack of perfection, but where are you right now as you listen to this CD? Rate yourself, on a scale from 1 to 10. One is low; being a total lack of your imperfection, and 10 is high, being a total acceptance of your imperfections.

#3. Regarding your ability to be comfortable with yourself, how would you rate your capacity to recognize and deal with the impact of negative attitudes? Are you a female who feels discriminated against regarding the last promotion or special privilege handed out to a male in your agency? Or are you male, who feels he is the victim of reverse-discrimination?

#4. Acceptance of the fact that self-liking is not static or unchanging. Self acceptance and liking involves a continuous process of awareness, assessment, and flexibility.

The point to be made here is, setting ethical boundaries with clients begins with your comfort level with yourself as a basis for making objective treatment decisions.

Your ability to be comfortable with yourself is based on what four factors? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.

Answer Booklet for this course
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