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After a two month break during which I seem to have facilitated a spirited discussion concerning the merits and failures of Alcoholics Anonymous, I'm now returning to my ongoing essay series concerning the technical contributions of various schools of psychotherapy to the psychotherapy process.

I covered psychodynamic, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral contributions in past months, and also the importance of non-technical aspects of psychotherapy.

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Psychological boundaries can be said to exist too, even though such boundaries have no physical reality.

Psychological boundaries are constructed of ideas, perceptions, beliefs and understandings that enable people to define not only their social group memberships, but also their own self-concepts and identities.

Rather, there are frequently sub-groups that form within larger groups that have special status and power within the group as a whole.

The prototype for this sort of power hierarchy is the nuclear family (e.g., parents with children).

Self cannot exist without also "Not-self" existing, just as figure cannot exist without ground against which to contrast.

Identity necessarily includes social relationships which are built into the self to varying degrees.

Though individual clinicians have grasped the intrinsically social and ecological nature of identity since the early days of therapy (e.g., Freud's idea of Transference, and contributions of lesser known but nevertheless important psychodynamic clinicians such as Harry Stack Sullivan), it was not until the 1950s and 60s that an organized and fully ecological vision of psychotherapy took shape in the form of what is today called Family Systems theory.

In this very social vision of therapy, groups of people operating as units are the proper client to which therapists must address their efforts.

A boundary is a barrier; something that separates two things.

Walls, fences and cell membranes are examples of physical boundaries.

Not surprisingly, the approach was pioneered by clinicians working with families and couples, and has been championed by the Social Work profession.

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