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You may have grown up with a parent who didn't respect your boundaries: either taking you over or being too out-of-touch (or both). There is a "good enough" zone of closeness for each of us at any given time and this zone can be violated or we can feel abandoned (as kids or adults) in ways that do real harm to our ability to defend ourselves in the face of other people's needs and expectations (becoming a doormat); or that prevents closeness and intimacy (becoming a porcupine). Some people struggle by getting too close while simultaneously being deeply disconnected…and feel confused when other people either avoid or get enraged at them. Boundaries can be a big focus in therapy for some people as a way to balance a personal sense of strength and presence with the need for both tenderness and good defenses in relationships that matter.

If you feel confident, you can more easily assert yourself; if you assert yourself effectively more often, you will feel better about yourself. Improving your ability to be assertive--not passive, not aggressive, not both--is all about being clear about your boundaries, knowing deeply that you have every right to set boundaries, and committing to doing so again and again. I can help you discover and practice the skills that work best for you in setting and keeping good boundaries. Even if you don't yet deeply feel you have a right to set them, you can often "fake it 'til you make it" as we work on helping you truly feel "allowed" to assert yourself. On a deep level, you may feel that you can't or aren't allowed to assert yourself. If so, this kind of belief system is probably one you've held for a long time. But just because it goes deep and has been around awhile doesn't mean you can't challenge it, and change it. This is courageous work, and it doesn't take forever! My role is to guide you to use the perspective you have today to challenge the old beliefs as they come up in your daily life now. And once you've got it, it's like riding a bicycle: you know it forever and never (or rarely) fall off.

Interpersonal boundaries are essential for having safe, genuine, and effective relationships --whether at home or the office, with friends or family. If you feel walked over, taken advantage of, or disrespected by those in your life, you may struggle with boundaries that are too loose. Alternately, you may have boundaries that are too strong--although you feel protected, that protection may come at the cost of feeling close and connected to others. I can help you find the middle ground of appropriate boundaries, and teach you how to set them with others in a way that is both clear and kind. Understanding more about different communication styles, and learning (or brushing up on) assertiveness skills can also be a helpful way to strengthen your boundaries.

Jason Seidel, Psy.D.
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Elizabeth Nelson, Ph.D.
Kristen Morrison, Ph.D.
The Colorado Center
for Clinical Excellence