Living in Two Worlds: Boundaries and the Art of Self-Disclosure

Co Authored by Sabrina Johnson LMSW & Max E Guttman LCSW

Dualities. Binaries: Mental Health has them. There are no answers per se to unpacking every aspect of its complexities but it is a little more black and white than deciphering Good from Evil. It’s about conflict, values & ethics. It’s personal, it’s professional, it’s individual, global and every intersection of finding the liminal space between two worlds.

There is no question that being a peer and mental health professional has its challenges with negotiating boundaries with co-workers, friends, allies, and consumers. Where does disclosure become overexposure and unprofessional in the clinical realm. Yet, living as a peer, practice as a professional means mutuality and disclosing your life in the most open manner which may require peers to discuss their lived experience which complicates and conflicts with boundaries which set the standard for clinical practice in mental health. 

This struggle sets the stage for today’s dilemma in mental health, how to be transparent, authentic, and real for the best interest of the consumers care, treatment, dignity and right to the best practice and options for their health and wellness. So, how do peers and professionals handle this complexity?

Being a social worker and peer means building empathic connections with clients and colleagues. We know what it’s like to be sick. We know what it’s like to treat that sickness. Bridging this gap is fundamental in provoking the best possible care available in mental health. 

We all have our histories, but authentic peers are comfortable with their journey and the journey of clients in the most intimate and supportive relationship in a system which is centered around suffering and deep pain.  

Fundamentally, its about restoring human aspect of care in the human services. Well, it’s about time. But we aren’t there yet. To get there, the relationship between peer professionals needs to shift. 

We need supervisors, clinicians, and administrators which understand this duality and nurture its delicate and complex layers. Ultimately, support and openness, holding space and challenging fear of the unknown, the gap becomes a bridge to the best possible care in mental health.

Where do you draw the line between your history and a clients suffering? 


 

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