Ep.5 Reasons for Transgressions

Episode 5 – Reasons for Transgressions

New Professional Boundaries Podcast

In Episode 5, Dr Wendy McIntosh PhD, from Davaar Consultancy recounts a Professional Boundaries scenario about a Police officer in a small town and the various events that led to his transgressions.

You’ll hear how, in hindsight, it was clear that unresolved issues from his own history left him at risk of this particular boundary violation. 

Learn about how taking a candid look at our own history might give us hints about Red Flags warning us of likely vulnerabilities before problems transpire.

Wendy also discusses Consistency or the lack of it, a particularly powerful Red Flag that usually deserves our immediate attention.

This is the fifth part of a dialogue that be will be continued in the following episodes. Use the links above to subscribe, or click the play button to listen.

There are 6 episodes planned in this first season of the Professional Boundaries Podcast and we hope you’ll be back to enjoy and learn from each of them. If you’ve ever wondered about your own boundaries in your Professional role, or been alerted about the risks of crossings or violations, this podcast will help you learn what to watch for, and ways to stay out the danger zones.

Dr Wendy McIntosh welcomes both your interest and curiosity. Send Wendy questions at wendy@davaar.com.au or via Twitter, Instagram or Linked In

In this podcast series, Dr Wendy McIntosh PhD shares insights and strategies about developing and maintaining professional boundaries. Professional Boundaries are not limited to the clinical or therapeutic arena. If you are in a professional role – a teacher, support worker, police officer, a prison officer, council worker, hairdresser. If you are a volunteer or belong to a theatre group, a choir, a sports club, there will be something in this podcast for you and the relationships you have with others. Setting boundaries in our life is necessary for our emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical well being. Setting boundaries is about our safety.

Dr. Wendy McIntosh PhD

Dr. Wendy McIntosh PhD

Since 2005 Wendy has been developing her knowledge and interest in the area of professional boundaries. Wendy delivers workshops on boundaries in Australia (where she now lives) and Internationally when invited to do so. She is continually integrating learning and insights she gains from the work she does in professional boundaries. Wendy comes from a nursing, and predominately psychiatric nursing, background.

Wendy consistently receives feedback on her passion, knowledge, and creativity as a presenter and facilitator. Enjoy exploring boundaries in this podcast series as Wendy takes you on your own reflective journey on your professional boundaries.


Sir Walter Scott Quote – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12678303
Thomas Gutheil, (1989). Borderline personality disorder, boundary violations and patient-therapist sex: Medico-legal pitfalls. American Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 597-602.
The Drama Triangle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_XSeUYa0-8

Recommended reading on Transference
King, R.,& O’Brien. T. (2011). Transference and countertransference: Opportunities and risks as two technical constructs migrate beyond their psychoanalytic homeland. Psychotherapy in Australia, 17 (4), 12-17.

Music clips in this podcast:
“Lightless Dawn” by Kevin McLeod (Found at http://FreePD.com) &
“Pond” by Rafael Kruz ((Found at http://FreePD.com Artist- https://www.orchestralis.net/)
License: CC 0 BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Transcript: Podcast Five – Reasons for transgressions

According to Aristotle – “All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.”

He was a police officer, recently graduated from the police academy. As a child, he had witnessed and experienced domestic violence from his father to his mother. As a young child, he wished that he could have done something to stop the violence. He had hopes that someday his father would have an accident, an injury or would die so that he never came home again. As a young officer he accepted a posting to a rural and remote area, he was glad to leave the city behind. Glad to leave his trauma behind. His father was no longer alive he had died whilst driving home one night under the influence of alcohol. He assessed that his mother would be ok without him being there, they had regular phone contact and he always felt reassured at the end of the phone calls.

He was a few weeks into his positing and he was enjoying his new role. He was taking some time to establish a network of friends. He was the only officer in the village, his colleagues operated out of the main station which was 50 kilometres away. One night he received an emergency call to attend a domestic disturbance in the village. He knew the address, he had met the young woman who lived there and he liked her. He had heard through the village grapevine that her partner would beat her on a regular basis. The protocol was that he had to wait for other officers to arrive to assist him rather than go into such a situation on his own. He knew his colleagues would take some time to get there.

There was protocol and there was his reaction. He did not wait. He drove to the house, jumped out of the car and as he entered the house, he announced who he was.

Welcome to this Podcast series – Professional Boundaries, Your safety, your wellbeing.
I am Wendy Mcintosh from Davaar Consultancy and I am delighted that you are joining me on another journey into the world of professional boundaries. This podcast series invites you to reflect on your Professional Boundaries and to appreciate how knowing the five foundation stones of boundaries can assist you in the everyday work that you do. This is our fifth episode.

As I have stated in previous episodes I wanted the podcasts to be as interactive as possible and I been inviting listeners to email me any questions, scenarios or reflections they had about boundaries. I am delighted to say that I now have podcast listeners contacting me with scenarios they wish explored during an episode and two folks who have approached me to ask that we have an episode specifically on collegial boundaries. So thank you for that, we will build your themes into future episodes. Keep your questions, scenario, and reflections coming. Let us keep boundary discussions alive and robust. Contact details for ongoing discussions or questions with me are given at the end of this episode.

I realised as I was thinking about content for this episode that there was one theme that I had not yet integrated as a thread through my previous episodes. That thread is consistency. Consistency in the way a professional works with a customer they see on a regular basis. Consistency in the work a professional does with a number of customers. Consistency in a team approach. Consistency modelled throughout an organisation.

Boundaries are more challenging to have in place – when an organisation is loud about its mission statement, vision statement and expectations about how employees conduct themselves and then team leaders, supervisors, and management team – loudly role model something quite different. Talk about setting up moral distress in a workforce. Talk about taking work home. Talk about feelings of unfairness and injustices. Talk about employees wanting to do more for a customer than what the professional role requires. Well, we will talk about these further as we continue on our boundary journey.

In today’s episode, we explore foundation stone number four – Reasons for boundary transgressions. I have developed a multilevel model to explore and explain the reasons for transgressions. I find that factors from all four levels contribute in some way to influencing a transgression. The four levels that I focus on are the Intrapsychic, Interpersonal, Organisational, and Broader System. I will give a brief introduction about each level and then using the scenario of the police officer I shall describe each level in greater detail.

Let’s start with the Intrapsychic Level
Intrapsychic is defined in the Marion Webster dictionary as “being or occurring within the psyche, mind, personality”, for me the Intrapsychic also includes a person’s beliefs and moral compass. At this point, I want to pause to consider – when I talk about the Intrapsychic in terms of boundaries, I include that of the individual client and of the individual professional. Remember, the professional is always responsible for commencing, maintaining and where necessary effectively ceasing the professional relationship. This is because of the inherent power/vulnerability dynamic in the relationship. However, there may also be other vulnerabilities in the client (beyond them being a client of the service) that predisposes a professional to be at greater risk of boundary transgressions with that individual client. I will explore this more, later in this episode.

At the core of the Interpersonal level is the relationship between the professional and the other person, for example, the professional and a client, the professional and a colleague, the professional and a client’s support person. This level includes the dialogue, the interaction, the communication, the spoken and the unspoken, the dynamic of power and vulnerability, the social roles ascribed to each person such as nurse-patient, hairdresser-customer, support worker-customer, teacher-student, counsellor-client, police officer-customer.

At the Organisational Level– it is important to consider how policies and procedures, guidelines, mission statements, job descriptions, Duty of Care, resource allocation, and expectations can challenge or compliment professional relationships. Expectations of supervisors and team leaders of their staff, expectations of staff about their team leaders and supervisors, collegial and peer expectations in a team. Sometimes it is just too tricky to sort out expectations from .. well ..expectations. Other themes to consider at the organisational level are workplace cultures, is this a safe place in which to work, is this a shame blame workplace or one that is transparent and open. Is there accountability role-modelled at all levels? How are professional boundaries modelled in this workplace?

Finally the Broader systemic considerations – by this I mean the factors that impact the work of the organisation such as relationships and expectations of other services who have a reliance on or partnership with the organisation. Broader systemic influences could involve legal, criminal, educational, health, housing, Centrelink. Broader systemic factors can influence the organisational factors, this in turn impacts on the interpersonal relationship, this, in turn, can impact on the intrapsychic experience of the professional and the client. Let me explain further.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott, 1808).
Well okay, I am not sure about the deceiving bit, however, boundaries sure can be a tangled web that is woven by many people, by many situations, by many expectations. You may recall in an earlier episode my comment that as a professional you are never alone with a patient in the interactions you have with them. There will always be at least one other person and generally a crowd in that interaction with you. The other person/s will not be physically visible in the room with you, however, you may well hear the whisper of their words in your ears, experience the gentle tap of their finger on your shoulder, or visualize them in front or beside you. The other person or persons can include, the patient’s family member/s, your colleagues, your supervisor, the CEO of the organisation you work for, the CEO of an organisation in partnership with your organisation. If you are a professional who is answerable to a regulatory body – then representatives from that body may also make an appearance in your thinking, your experiencing of the relationship with the patient in that moment of interaction with them. Confused? Okay, let me slow this down a bit.

In boundary workshops, I set up a sculpture of the four levels using materials, objects, and participants. Representatives in each level have a voice and address the professional who has identified a scenario they wish to explore. The busy noise, confusion and conflicting expectations come alive as many voices state what they expect from the professional in terms of their relationship with the patient. It gets so loud that many times the voice of the patient goes unheard as the professional tries to manage the needs of all the stakeholders that they have identified as being involved in the service provision for the patient. All those stakeholders that are symbolically“in the room” with them and the patient. In this experiential presentation of the four levels I ask the professional to notice what they notice in response to the busy noise – a common experience is relayed – “this is too much, I cannot meet everyone’s demands, I have to focus here on the relationship with the patient, at the time that I am engaging with them”. I have to pause, I have to breathe, I have to sort out the priorities of what is expected of me in relationship to my patient”

This exercise allows a very big “ah-ha” realisation for some individuals, the push and pull effect of different expectations from many of the stakeholders who have some invested interest in the relationship between the patient and the professional. Sometimes those expectations are unrealistic. Sometimes those expectations could be in conflict between stakeholders, between stakeholders and the professional. A common expectation conflict I explore in workshops is the wishes from family members that the professional do more for “the patient”. Do more than what the professional can do either in terms of their employment and in some cases their professional regulations. In the wishes to have their needs met, family members do not consider the organisational or professional restraints that could be there for the professional. The family just want their needs met, their loved one to be looked after. Generally, it is after the fact – when a professional has given more, done more, gone the extra length to meet the family’s wishes that a complaint is made. Basis of the complaint – the professional was getting too close to the patient. It is also worth considering – here – whose needs are really being met by the professional attending to the families’ wishes rather than setting a boundary that is required for them to stay in the zone of helpfulness expected by the organisation and / or regulatory body?

Consistency is key. Consistency in the way a professional works with a customer they see on a regular basis. Consistency in the work a professional does with a number of customers. Consistency in a team approach. Consistency modelled throughout an organisation.

So let me now explore the initial three levels in greater depth using the scenario with the police officer to assist me.

In the intrapsychic level, there are a number of personality types (also referred to as complexes, or syndromes) that are at greater risk of transgressing professional boundaries – these are named as – martyr, saviour, rescuer, rogue, opportunist, psychopath. Common intrapsychic wishes for personalities who fall into the martyr, saviour or rescuer roles include a wish for magical powers to make things better for the customer and or the hope of being admired or idolized by the customer. When I explore with participants the origins of their rescuer role, many identify childhood experiences related to the family of origin dynamics as the beginning of that role response for them.

In some professional relationships, the customer can idealize the professional and this may completely complement the professional’s wish to be idealized. So begins a relationship of fantasy with expectations that can never be truly met. Gutheil in 1989 wrote … “the sealed off environment in which therapy often takes place can turn into a “magic bubble”, a collusion of mutual admiration and / or mutual need that becomes impervious to the restraining influences of consultation, supervision, good judgment, and common sense”. Although Gutheil had written this specifically about the therapist-client relationship, I have worked with professionals from many different professional backgrounds who have also experienced the magic bubble of collusive admiration and need. This is especially true in situations where the professional is working in rural and remote areas, isolated from peer groups, distanced from their families.

Away from supervision and professional counsel, there can be an increased risk of developing familial relationships with customers as the professional seeks to find a connection that has meaning for them. To have a sense of belonging somewhere – that belonging may then be the development of a friendship or sexual relationship with a customer.

If we consider the young police officer in the scenario at the beginning of this episode, there are a few red flags waving. His own experience of childhood trauma, his wish that he could have done more to stop his father’s violence, working in a town 50 kilometres away from colleagues. Difficulty establishing connections in his new environment.

Our scenario continues …….when the young officer entered the house – the couple were standing a distance from one another – voices were raised, however, there were no obvious signs of physical contact at the point the officer entered the house. He raised his voice, he raised his gun. He does not remember much else until he heard another voice and gradually recognised it to be the sergeant from the other station.

We will return to this progressing scenario later.

Many times when I have replayed with some participants their transgressions where a customer was physically harmed by them, they describe having no clear memory of events, rather they describe a reactive process to a situation. Raising their voice to a shout, hitting out at the other person, in one instance kicking a client who had fallen to the ground. As we slowed down the replay of their behaviour individuals were more able to fill in some gaps as to the triggers that led to the transgression and more importantly to make links between their past experiences and what had occurred in the transgression.

Those “ah-ha” moments so integral to awareness and potential for change.

It may well be that a professionals vulnerability to transgressing a boundary arises from the very motivation that led them to their chosen profession – the hope of escaping one’s own problems by focusing on those of another person, the hope of meeting one’s own dependency needs vicariously by attending to those of the client. For example, Miller (1981) explored the theory that many psychotherapists were compelled as children to satisfy their parent’s unconscious expectations at the expense of their own emotional and development needs. Could this also be true of some police officers, lawyers, council workers, members of parliament, health professionals? Driven unconsciously by a desire to do better, be better, whilst moving further along the over-involved road. I wonder. Was the young officer’s actions motivated by childhood wishes to protect his mother played out as a police officer – acting to protect another woman he considered vulnerable and at risk?

I also consider in this Intrapsychic level, the impact of health, family and work stressors that can result in internal conflict and thus increase the potential for boundary transgressions, let me tease this out further. When an individual is experiencing symptoms of a psychiatric or medical illness there can be an impact on decision making, emotional responses to situations and behavioural changes they can all increase a vulnerability to create a boundary transgression.

Many participants I have worked with for boundary transgressions discuss current relationship stressors including, controlling partners, partners or children with a mental illness or disability, a medical condition, financial difficulties all of which again have influenced decision making in terms of the professional relationships including accepting “loans of money” from clients to help pay bills, having clients become lodgers in their homes for extra “rent money.

A common enough theme for individuals I see who have become over-involved with a client is that of a history of childhood trauma that has included experiencing domestic violence, neglect, physical and or sexual abuse. I am not saying here that every professional boundary transgression occurs because the professional has a history of childhood trauma because I do not think that is the case. However, there is a common enough theme in the work I do for me to highlight it. What I will say here however is that I have found that when there is intrapsychic conflict about what an individual wants to do vs what they are required to do by their organisation and or their professional regulatory body – they are at greater risk of acting reactively in the professional relationship with another person.

Consider for example a scenario where a professional is given an invite to attend a birthday party of a child whom they have been providing care for. The professional’s intrapsychic self is thrown into conflict. Personally, the individual wants to say yes, professionally they know they should not. In the intrapsychic conflict, there are significant biophysiological changes stimulated by the release of Cortisol into their body. In a nanosecond, a new motivating factor emerges that of not wishing to let the other person who gave the invite down – so the professional accepts the invite. Another intrapsychic level of conflict is then triggered – the professional then worries about what their team leaders response will be if they find out the professional attended the event. That worry may further intensify the intrapsychic conflict which results in the professional not attending the event.

Post the event a potential new consequence presents, a question from the person who gave the invite – “why did you not come”, perhaps an expression of anger and or disappointment is directed towards the professional, “you have let me down”. That comment can hurt deep inside if I have a wish to be liked or idealized by the clients I serve. I will experience hurt. Sometimes a more painful comment is made such as “our child was so disappointed that you were not there, they had a specific gift to give you” – ouch that one can really hurt.

Remember context is important. It’s worth checking in with the organisation you work for. Can I attend a birthday party, a funeral? Do I attend in my own time or paid time? Do I wear my uniform or civvies? Always good to check these things out at an organisational level. Context is important.

Scenarios like this are good times for those reflective boundary questions – Why this child, why now? Why accept this invite when I have said no so many times previously to invites of other children I look after. Perhaps the red flag is waving saying – there is something different here, I am not being consistent.

Consistency is important. Consistency in the way a professional works with a customer they see on a regular basis. Consistency in the work a professional does with a number of customers. Consistency in a team approach. Consistency modelled throughout an organisation.

In the interpersonal level, it is good to be curious about the unconscious dynamic relationship that could be occurring and this is where models such as Transference and The Drama Triangle provide many “ah ha” moments for individuals I work with.
I will use the scenario that is unfolding with the police officer to explore these models. First some further information about the scenario.

The officer was reprimanded for his behaviour and for not following protocol. He rationalised with this sergeant that he appreciated he acted inappropriately and that he would ensure he would never take such action again. At no time in the discussions between himself and his sergeant was his childhood discussed. At this point in the young officer’s professional journey – he was not making any clear links between his childhood and his actions at work.

A few weeks later he accidentally met the young women at a petrol station, they got into conversation. She asked him if he wanted to go with her for a coffee. He was off duty, he said yes. They had coffee in a public place.

In the initial social meeting – they did not discuss the night that he had come to the house. Rather the conversation focussed on common interests they found they both had. The woman terminated the conversation saying she had to get home before her partner returned from work.

That began regular meetings between them and as the relationship grew the woman disclosed more about the relationship she had with her partner. The officer’s concern for her safety was heightened each time they spoke. He was aware of but did not make any links about the feelings of fear and anger that were surfacing in him. He started to talk with her about leaving the relationship, he would keep her safe, that they could move away together.

One week after their last meeting – the officer was asked to go to a meeting with his sergeant. A complaint of stalking had been made against him by the partner of the woman. The complaint focused on the time that the officer had spent with the woman. The woman stated that the officer had been pressuring her to leave her partner against her wishes. Further, she stated that she had not wanted to argue against the officer because she was not sure what he would do to her or her partner.

What was the purpose or intent of the officer’s actions with the woman?
Whose needs were being met?
Was there other options that the officer could have used – especially at that first invite to coffee?
What stopped him using the other options?

I trust that I have provided enough information form previous episodes that you have come up with some responses to those questions using the boundary framework. I am now going to introduce you to The Drama Triangle to help us explore the role of rescuer, perpetrator, and victim that played out in the relationship between the officer and the woman and her partner. I will then consolidate further with using the transference model to highlight unconscious expectations, wishes, and desires operating at the time.
I want to acknowledge that these are not the only models through which to explore reasons for boundary transgressions however both have been around many decades and still hold true when understanding unconscious dynamics in relationships.

If you are unfamiliar with the drama triangle you may find it useful to access a short video through the link provided at the end of the podcast transcript which is available on our website.

The drama triangle grew out of the larger framework of Transactional Analysis. It was developed by Karpman in 1968. Karpman suggested that if possible we avoid getting into the triangle in the first place through awareness about our intrapsychic self, the relationships we are in and relationships we want to be in. Good boundaries and good support mechanisms in organisations we work in. Karpman was keen that as individuals we understood our process of introjection and projection. Introjection refers to the ideas and attitudes of others that we adopted. Projection is where we project our feelings or characteristics onto another person in the current relationships we have. Karpmen was clear the professional’s usual gateway to the triangle is through the role of rescuer, at some point the professional will be perceived in the role of perpetrator and then will end up in the victim role. In the victim role, the professional has experiences similar to the person they “rescued” such as a sense of hopeless, feeling unsupported, perhaps experiencing anger and resentfulness.

In debrief sessions that he attended the police officer was able to see how he had enacted all three roles and that he had ended up in the role of victim. In the beginning of his relationship with the woman, he had assessed that she was a victim in need of rescuing. In his rationalisation he was ideally suited professionally to stop the abuse because he was a police officer. Personally, he was of an age and body size to stop the abuse – something he had not been able to do for his mother. Before long he moved from the role of rescuer to that of perpetrator – a complaint was made against him that he had been stalking the woman. Within a much shorter time frame, he moved from perpetrator to victim.

In the work I have done with professionals I have consistently seen the drama triangle played out. Professionals come to the attention of their organisation and or regulatory body for boundary transgressions. Acts of perceived kindness in the professional may well be viewed through the lens of perpetrator by those looking in. Those other stakeholders including a family member or support person for a client perceive a very different relationship to the one the professional sees. Those other people get concerned and they make a complaint. Sometimes it is the complaint that really raises those red flags that had gone unnoticed or ignored in the interactions between the professional and the other.

There is an important role for organisations to offer employee assistance of employee support programs – be that counselling and or supervision to assist staff to understand the intrapsychic motivating factors that can end with boundary transgressions. In order to effect change, change in thinking, it is important that bridges, connections be made between relationship experiences from childhood and what is experienced in professional relationships with other people, clients and or colleagues.

Now let’s go a little deeper interpersonally for the police officer and explore his behaviour through Freud’s theory of transference. Originally transference referred to the emotional responses of a client towards their therapist. Falling in love, idealizing the therapist, a wish that the therapist would rescue/save them from whatever internal or eternal perpetrator they were experiencing. Internal refers to an intrapsychic perpetrator role (self-talk, self-belief), external refers to another person. When the client perceives that the therapist cannot save them, or more damagingly believes that the therapist is acting in the same way as someone in their past or current personal life that then becomes a transference of anger, betrayal, enragement and even annihilation.

I experience transference as a really useful process to reflect on work I do with individuals. Content that emerges in interactions be that verbally, behaviourally, unconsciously can be red flags that there is something requiring attention in the relationship.

Although transference was originally developed for the therapeutic relationship I see transference being played in everyday professional – client relationships and with colleagues. How many times have you been disappointed when the team leader does not live up to your expectations? How many times as a supervisor have you experienced frustration because your team members do not do what you asked them to do? Intense emotional responses to what – yes the here and now – the adult to adult, professional to professional ….. I propose however that if we ask ourselves the following questions when we are in a heightened emotional response with a colleague there is a good chance that the present, the here and now interaction has triggered a much older role system response in us – that of the disappointed or enraged child. That of the hurt wounded child. Questions we can ask ourselves “how old am I right now” “what relationship do I know this from?” These are good questions to also ask when we experience intense emotional responses to the clients we work with. Our responses to the questions may well highlight the transference we are experiencing.

The police officer was able to reflect that he had been enraged about the behaviour of the woman’s partner to her, even although he himself had never witnessed physical abuse, he had heard through the village grapevine, he had heard what the woman shared with him. He had the stories, he did not have actual visible data. However much older memories and experiences were being triggered for him, that of his relationship with his mum. He was also surprised to experience that he was angry with the woman because she had not left her partner. With some burrowing down – he also gained insight into the anger he experienced that his mother had never left his father.

With support provided by the police service – the officer gained valuable insights – painful as they were, they were significant “ah ha” bridges between the unmet expectations and wishes from his childhood to his current personal and professional experiences. Another significant insight was that he had been vulnerable as the only police officer in the village. He had experienced a sense of isolation such as he had experienced in childhood. He understood that meeting with the woman had no sexual connotations for him, what was driving his actions was a wish to rescue and in equal measures a wish to connect. His transference towards the woman and her story was very strong. At some level, his needs were being met.

In discussions with his sergeant, it was decided to move the officer from the isolated role into a setting where he had greater access to both supportive peers and ongoing counselling services. His organisation was able to work with him to maintain him in a police officer role and also support him personally. We have explored the scenario of the police officer through the levels of the Intrapsychic and Interpersonal, now we will continue to discuss through the organisational level.

Organisational Level
Questions to ask about the organisational level include: are the policies and guidelines about professional boundaries clearly written in a language that resonates with staff? Are job descriptions clear? What opportunities are available for employees to engage with team leaders or supervisors to clarify what the job description says verses the unwritten expectations of the organisation? What support mechanisms are available when staff identify that they could be or have indeed transgressed a boundary? How consistent are the teams in which you work? How consistent is the organisation in terms of your expectations or job descriptions?

Without a doubt, if there is inconsistency in teams and in organisations there will be an increased risk of boundary transgressions. If there is a lack of policy or guidelines on boundaries then staff will do what humans do well. As individuals, as groups, they will join dots to make sense of the situation from what they know to be truths from their family, their community, their previous life/work experiences. In the workplace, if there are no clear guides about how to establish, maintain and effectively cease professional relationships, within the context of that organisation and professional role required, then employees will make up the relationship rule of engagement that works for them. They will bring in their own mores, moral compasses, and beliefs. After all, that’s how we survive as humans.

The police officer was new to his role, he had recently graduated to the position. Like many professionals who read about boundaries in policies and codes of conduct, like many students who hear stories from lecturers about the risks of boundary transgressions, the officer thought he understood what was required in his professional role. At one level he did. At a much deeper intrapsychic and interpersonal level he did not.

Consistent feedback from participants I see informs that boundaries are not explored in any great or robust detail in the organisations in which they work. Boundaries is a topic for a tick box in orientation. As I trust has been described in these podcasts, boundaries can be as easy as a tick-box, yes I understand, however, the complexity is – boundaries are not tick-boxes, boundaries are about me, I in relationship to myself and to the other person. Boundaries require more than a tick box. Boundaries require Sherlock Holmes inquisitive curious hats and times given in workplaces to explore and understand those complexities. More about that in the next episode.

Back to the police officer, as a beginning practitioner in his new role, there was professional inexperience and naivety about such a highly emotive situation. There was also the reality of his isolation professionally and personally and the lack of immediate support for him to access.

It is important that team leaders and supervisors understand the team dynamics. That team leaders and supervisors role model the boundaries they are asking their staff to demonstrate. Role model and discuss and be curious.

Other workplace factors that can influence professional transgressions towards clients and indeed collegially include; shame and blame cultures, vicarious trauma, workplace bullying, and moral distress. I will discuss these in more detail in episode six when exploring strategies and solutions.

Before I move to finish this episode, I have some more questions to pose to you about the scenario with the officer.

Was the transgression a boundary-crossing or violation?
Was the transgression over or under involved or both?
What categories of concern did he tick (based on the information presented here)?

Have a think and I shall give you my responses to those questions in the next episode.

This podcast series has been written by myself, Wendy McIntosh. A big thank you to family and colleagues who hear each podcast before it is released and who provide valuable editing feedback. Thank you to Nikki Fryn, my internet guru who has done the production for these podcasts. As I said earlier I do love to hear from you our listeners any questions, scenarios, reflections that you want to be discussed as part of a podcast session. There is still much to learn and each question and scenario posed provides opportunities to expand learning about professional boundaries. My email address is wendy@davaar.com.au, you can also contact me through our social media of Twitter and Instagram. I would be delighted for podcasts to be as meaningful as possible to all who listen. So join with me. You can access our podcasts through a number of sources including our website https://davaar.com.au

The spelling for Davaar is D for Donald, A for awareness, V for Visceral, A for Action A for Alert, R for Red flags.

Thank you for listening, let’s meet again in episode six.

Site design by Spirited Web Design