Ethical breaches and deviations of method in psychoanalysis: A heuristic model for differentiation of boundary crossings in psychoanalytic work


The boundary concept has been central to discussions on ethics and psychoanalysis over the past few decades. The main distinction has been between less malignant boundary crossings and more harmful violations. More recently, the concept has been criticized as not discriminating between technique and ethics. The author argues that these problems are connected to the way the boundary concept is defined. He suggests that it is specified to indicate a delimitation of an analytic area of conduct. In an analogous manner, an area of ethical conduct is framed by a boundary between ethical and unethical actions in the treatment situation. The analytic area has a narrower limitation than ethics and a stricter articulation of its concept of attitude; not all unanalytic actions are unethical. This simple model of interpersonally specified boundaries allows us to discriminate between different kinds of transgression in analytic work. In addition to violations and crossings, a third instance is described denoting a transgression of the analytic but not the ethical boundary. These can be called boundary stretchings, and are either intended or unintended deviations of method. The slippery slope mechanism of ethical misconduct is an imminent risk if boundary stretchings are ignored and not subject to scrutiny and analysis.

International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 2013, DOI:10.1080/0803706X.2013.781272


Published Jan. 21, 2014 8:30 AM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2015 2:48 PM