The Effects of Counseling Provider Attachment Style and Empathy on Boundary Behaviors

Kayla Marmaros, Pace University


Counselors are regularly confronted with boundary issues within day to day clinical practice with clients. Despite the code of ethics serving as a general guideline for appropriate counselor behaviors to ensure optimal client care, its ambiguity leads counselors to rely heavily on clinical decision making (Zur, 2007). The balance of staying within treatment boundaries and wanting to best help clients can be a challenge. Nevertheless, boundary transgressions can have consequences for both the counselor and client, at times leading to suspension of professional licenses and client psychological harm. This study examined counselor demographics (gender, practice setting, years of experience, and theoretical orientation), empathy (cognitive and affective), and attachment patterns (anxious and avoidant) in their influence on counselor boundary behaviors within the therapeutic relationship. Findings revealed demographic factors including male providers and those with more years of experience engage in more boundary behaviors. Study findings also provided evidence that those who are more anxiously attached and have greater affective empathy may also engage in more boundary behaviors with clients. It was found that counseling providers higher in anxious attachment engage in more self-disclosing type boundary behaviors.

Subject Area

Mental health|Counseling Psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Marmaros, Kayla, "The Effects of Counseling Provider Attachment Style and Empathy on Boundary Behaviors" (2019). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI22621333.



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