Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Consulting to ethical responses to boundary violations in therapy organisations: an occupational hazard in need of organisational consultation

There is growing awareness, shock and publicity about the abuse of professional boundaries by clergy as well as by therapeutic and health care staff. This abuse stretches into abuse by psychoanalytically trained therapists. Such events result from and cause huge distress and long lasting trauma in the lives of the abused. They also reveal the risk that these caring professions dedicated to upholding high ethical principles have a destructive shadow side. In addition to the distress caused by such incidents they can be the cause of workers losing their livelihoods or having their reputation threatened. For those who have been involved in the various roles that seek to offer de-toxification of these events, it is well known that it can result in organisational crises, divisiveness among ethics committees and a regression to primitive judgements based often on personal and group or 'tribal' loyalties. In short the acting out of perverse split off desire for a toxic mix of power, sexual expression and money can easily become an uncontained virus in the organisation charged with upholding professional boundaries and ethical behaviour. There is now a literature that describes the particular pathologies and possible interventions to identify and ameliorate such violations, but little is written about the organisational dynamics that ensue nor what interventions might make a difference in containing capacity. This presentation describes a variety of consulting roles in working with organisations and individuals involved in complaints and procedures around ethical investigations and hearings and their consequences. It argues for the need for an organisational psychodynamic approach to understand and manage the violence of the destructive dynamics that can attend such experiences. It provides analysis of a variety of formal and informal organisational roles and tasks. Theoretically the presentation will draw on the idea of occupational health and occupational hazard to describe the culture and roles that might be destructive in such cases. It also explores the link between entrenched role-lock and organisational culture. It begins to describe a range of possible systemic interventions to address these issues. The author writes from the experience of about 12 instances of his involvement in such interventions. The presentation will be discursive rather than a read paper, along with some power point diagrams. I welcome the use of a translator to include Spanish speakers. References Bogdanoff, M. & Elbaum, P.L. (1978). Role lock: Dealing with Monopolizers, Mistrusters and other assorted characters in Group Psychotherapy. Int. J. of Group Psychotherapy. NY.Cellenza, A (2007). Sexual Boundary Violations. Therapeutic, Supervisory and Academic Contexts. New York: Jason Aronson. Eisold, K. (1994). The intolerance of diversity in psychoanalytic institutes. Int. J. of Psychoanalysis, 75:785 800. Gabbard, G.O. & Lester, E. (1995). Boundaries and boundary violations in psychoanalysis. New York: Basic books. Morgan, Jones, R.J. (2010) The Body of the Organisation and its Health. London: Karnac.