Breach of Appropriate Personal Boundaries

Legal advice and support for people who have been harmed by someone in a position of trust in a medical or therapy setting

Our experience includes cases relating to psychotherapists, counsellors, hypnotherapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, community psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists in mental health services, mental health social workers, gynaecologists, breast surgeons, acupuncturists, osteopaths, homeopaths, GUM (sexual health) health advisors and GPs.

The breach of personal boundaries may be emotional, physical, personal, sexual, business or financial, sometimes a combination.

As with other forms of negligent treatment by psychotherapists and counsellors, Clients have their own unique experience of boundary violations.  However, the vast majority of cases involve abuse over a period of time, often involving a gradual erosion of acceptable professional/client boundaries leading to emotional and, sometimes, sexual abuse.  The period of time over which the acts are perpetrated can range from a single occasion to weeks, months or years.

There can be many ways in which boundaries can be breached as every case is individual and every Client has their own unique experience.  The following are just examples of what can occur (in no particular order):

  • Entering into a personal relationship, for example a friendship;
  • Engaging in sexual activity, or sexual innuendo or inappropriate comment, for example relating to the patient’s appearance or dress;
  • Entering into a business relationship with the Client (for example by paying the Client to carry out administrative business tasks for the practitioner – the payment could take the form of a reduced fee for therapy sessions);
  • Encouraging overuse of telephone, text or e-mail contact between sessions;
  • Meeting up outside of sessions for a drink or a meal;
  • Allowing sessions to go on for too long;
  • Moving sessions to the end of the working day;
  • Holding sessions at inappropriate venues;
  • Hugging, holding hands, kissing;
  • Giving and accepting gifts;
  • The practitioner disclosing their own problems and difficulties, and discussing these with the Client.
  • Attending social gatherings/functions/shows together;
  • Meeting family members;
  • Going on holiday together;
  • Asking the Client to perform tasks, or offering for others to perform tasks for the Client.

Have you been affected by adult abuse? Speak to specialist Therapy and Professional Abuse lawyer Victoria Thackstone by calling 0800 012 9085, or contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.


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