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Pushing the Boundaries: Relationships With Adolescents

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posted on 03.11.2021, 19:47 by McLean, Julia Margaret

Therapeutic relationships are central to mental health nursing. The nurse's role in maintaining professional yet therapeutic boundaries within this relationship can be challenging. When therapeutic boundaries are breeched within the nurse adolescent relationship the adolescent's safety within this relationship is compromised. There is currently limited literature on how nurses are managing professional boundaries in relationships with adolescents in this setting. The adolescent's nature is to push boundaries; therefore the nurse needs to be acutely aware of this boundary pushing in everyday practice settings. For the safety of the adolescent and the nurse it is vital the nurse understands her role in managing the professional boundary. This thesis explores, through the use of narrative inquiry, four adolescent mental health nurses' experiences of assessing, understanding and maintaining therapeutic boundaries with adolescents in a mental health setting in New Zealand. The unique and specific implications for adolescent mental health nursing are discussed. Three key themes emerged from the analysis and findings: the importance of the nurse clarifying his/her role; the learning that occurs throughout the practice journey; and the role of the nurse in keeping the adolescent and the nurse safe. These findings highlight the importance of clinical supervision and open communication with senior nurses and mentors, which assist the nurse in monitoring practice. When nurses do not have sufficient knowledge of the fundamental principles of adolescent mental health nursing; such as knowledge and skills in both adolescent development and psychodynamic nursing, they are at risk of boundary crossings. Recommendations from this research include more emphasis on psychodynamic nursing principles in nursing education and nursing practice. There is a need for specialised education for nurses in child and adolescent mental health nursing. Nursing entry to practice programmes for new graduate nurses working in mental health, could assist in providing this. There is a call for further research into therapeutic relationships and professional boundaries in this complex nursing specialty.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Applied)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health


Puckey, Thelma; Martin, Margaret