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Too Close or Too Far: Setting Best Boundaries With Clients

October 25, October 31, November 2 & November 7, 2023

Presented by Chelsea Simms, LCSW & Elizabeth Mackey, LMSW

“Too Close or Too Far: Setting Best Boundaries with Clients” will be provided over four days in 2-hour segments via distance learning due to the COVID-19 context. This training focuses on expanding the practice, knowledge, and skill of outreach workers, social workers, case managers, peers, and psychologists who work in Homeless Outreach services in Los Angeles County. The format of each day will include 1 hour of didactic training on concepts, theory, and research related to interpersonal boundaries in client-outreach worker relationships followed by 1 hour of vignette-based activities and facilitated discussion.

The didactic portion will begin with an overview of key terms related to interpersonal closeness in therapeutic work including boundaries, boundary clarification, boundary-setting, transference, counter-transference, empathy, and autonomy, with an emphasis on building self-reflection skills around these concepts. The trainers will explore with participants how to recognize when boundary clarification is needed, as well as consider implications of client-provider power dynamics, culture, and professional background/training on their experience and management of boundaries with clients.

Additionally, this training will employ a trauma informed lens, to help providers best understand how past experiences may shape their clients’ approach to boundaries, as well as their own (Levenson, 2017). Participants will be taught to reflect on internal and interpersonal client experiences utilizing concepts such as the neglect-overprotect continuum and moral distress (Mänttäri-van der Kuip, 2019; Marsh & Kelley, 2018). Trainers will also guide participants in identifying personal values and characteristics that impact their experiences of setting boundaries with clients. Finally, provider wellbeing will be discussed, with a review of strategies to prevent burnout including radical acceptance and eliciting or providing quality supervision (Begic et al., 2019; Linehan, 2015).

The vignette-based activities and discussion will focus on four types of common boundary situations that can come up in work with unsheltered individuals: avoidance, over-identification, sexualized transference, and countertransference. Participants will be encouraged to apply concepts from didactic portion of each day’s training to the vignettes, including identifying boundary-setting skills for each scenario.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call:

National Disaster Distress Helpline:
In distress because of a natural or human-caused disaster?
Call for immediate counseling 24/7 at
1-800-985-5990 Or text TalkWithUs to 66746
(English/Spanish 24/7)

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