Roles & Boundaries in Higher Education


As an educator, I have to remember that I am not a counselor, even though much of my class is built around soft-skills and information that I would explore and work on in a counseling relationship. But, I am an instructor, and it is imporant for me to know the difference, as well as to create and stick with an educational boundary that isn’t quite like the boundary I’d set with a group therapy session.

Of course I knew that my counseling informed my instruction, but it wasn’t until I was processing a student-student conflict that happened last week in class (of which I had felt I handled it badly and was in triage mode the rest of the class period, as well as ruminating all weekend) that as an educator I actually handled myself very well. But, as a counselor, I was holding myself to this supremely high expectation that is not reasonable given my circumstances.

And, in my role of adviser, I am noticing my boundaries loosening quite substantially in the year that I’ve been there. I’m beginning to feel ‘invested’ in these student’s lives, so when one is crying in my office because of crippling anxiety, or proudly sharing their name change to their biological family heritage, I’m finding myself caring, which isn’t to say that I didn’t care before, but I had built a strong mental boundary to eliminate lying in bed at 3am wondering how they are doing or what might help them be more successful. I know the student relationships are what feeds me, but there is the phrase ‘death by chocolate’ for a reason. And the crippling sadness and despair found in many of my student’s is having an effect.

So how do I find the balance? Less counseling in the classroom, in terms of what I expect of myself emotionally, and more counseling in the advising office, in terms of how I deal with boundary issues. But I’m not entirely sure how to do that…

Thoughts? How do you navigate boundaries and self-care and the various roles you have in your life?

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