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Boundaries Defined

Mental Health Terms Used in Treating Troubled Teens


Definition: The concept of boundaries is an important one in treating troubled teens. This term refers to both understanding and setting healthy limits with other people, learning how to treat others without violating their personal space.

Boundaries are protective, intended to help improve relationships with others, to define where one person begins and another ends. Setting personal boundaries includes how much one discloses and how soon, physical proximity to another person, as well as when physical contact with another person is appropriate.

Just as physical boundaries are often walls used to separate buildings or property, psychological walls need to be put up to help maintain respect for oneself, and for others. Boundaries help teens learn how to connect in relationships, while at the same time also remaining separate. Boundaries help to keep one's inner self private, allowing each individual to determine what and when they want to share different aspects of themselves with others.

Examples of setting boundaries:

In adolescent group therapy there is usually lots of focus on teaching teens how to maintain reasonable boundaries while interacting with each other, such as not interrupting others, or not threatening someone if what they say makes you angry.

In family therapy looking at and sometimes drawing new boundaries is often a topic of discussion, for example: not allowing a teen to yell at family members, or ask siblings to keep secrets about inappropriate behavior or activities.

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