What role does CBT play in Setting Boundaries?

In this article, we will answer the question, “What role does CBT play in setting boundaries and try to understand why it is necessary to set boundaries. Also, we will explore the various methods and strategies that help in setting boundaries.

What role does CBT play in Setting Boundaries?

CBT helps us realize the unhealthy consequences that arise due to a lack of boundaries and also equips us with the necessary skills in order to create healthy boundaries through various effective techniques and strategies. 

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are a way to proclaim or showcase what we require, how we intend to be treated, and who we are as a person. It is utilized as a way to define ourselves. 

Boundaries can be broadly classified into two categories. 

Internal Boundaries and External Boundaries.

External Boundaries

Such boundaries are formed between people. Clear, strong, and distinct external boundaries help us to control the engagement and interaction other people can have with us. This also includes safeguarding one’s personal and private space by setting clear boundaries ( For example expecting others to maintain a safe distance from them while talking and not invade their personal space by standing too close. Or deciding what part of the body they can touch and what part if their bodies should not be touched. Also being clear about maintaining privacy)

Internal Boundaries

These boundaries are formed in our minds between our inner mental landscape and the external world. The internal boundaries control the influence of the external stimuli on our feelings, thoughts, and sense of self. They help us in maintaining a strong internal shield so that we can create a coherent and consistent self-image without being swayed by external influence.  (e.g., if a friend sees us as egoistic we have two options with dealing with that scenario. Either we could accept it and internalize these opinions or we can rationalize that these are their subjective thoughts and they are entitled to their opinions but so are we.  

Types of Boundaries

Personal Boundaries 

These boundaries consist of the physical, emotional, and mental limits that we create in order to shield ourselves from manipulation or violation. Personal Boundaries empower us to demarcate our identity, who we are, and our thoughts from the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of others. 

Physical Boundaries

Such types of boundaries are physical Many factors influenced entail the protection of our privacy and personal space. There are appropriate physical interactions for various settings (eg, handshakes, hugs, pat on the back, or even kiss.) A healthy physical boundary entails being aware of this appropriate time and setting and being respectful and courteous to the opposite person. A person’s physical boundary can be violated if they are touched with their consent or their privacy is being invaded or not respected( eg. Barging into the room without knocking or going through someone’s phone etc.)

Emotional Boundaries 

Emotional Boundaries pertain to the person’s feelings. Healthy emotional boundaries impose limitations on divulging personal information. For example, being careful and divulging personal information slowly and gradually during the developmental stage of a relationship, as opposed to revealing everything to everyone. Our emotional boundaries are tested or disrespected when a person patronizes us by belittling or humiliating us. 

Material Boundaries 

These boundaries are related to wealth and material possessions. Healthy material boundaries focus on setting limitations on the distribution or sharing of wealth. For example, lending or gifting your sibling a huge sum of money might be appropriate but not to a colleague you aren’t even close to. Stealing or vandalizing someone’s possessions is violating their material boundaries. It can be violated even when they are forced or threatened to share their possessions or valuables.  

Intellectual Boundaries 

Intellectual Boundaries pertain refer to our cognitive processes which involve thoughts and ideas. For healthy intellectual boundaries, there should be respect and admiration for other people’s views, opinions, and ideas and also an awareness of the situation, context, and acceptable conduct. ( Deciding the appropriateness of the talk according to the situation and reciprocity of the other person is a sign of healthy intellectual boundary. These are violated when a person’s intellectual capacity or their opinions and ideas are disregarded or insulted. 

Sexual Boundaries

Sexual boundaries cater to the emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of sexuality. Healthy sexual boundaries must possess mutual understanding and respect. Also, limitations should be acknowledged on engaging and acting on sexual desires between sexual partners. Sexual boundaries can be violated with unwanted sexual touch, pressure to engage in sexual acts, sexual deviancy, harassment, molestation, or sexual comments.

Time Boundaries

The time boundaries focus on the way a person chooses to utilize their time. refer to how a person uses their time. In healthy time boundaries, a person realizes the value of time and reserves time for self, and manages it in such as way that they can allow adequate time for every facet of their life. These facets could be work, relationships, family, or even personal time. Time boundaries can be violated if someone asks for too much time from someone or misuses, disrespects someone’s time.  

Where Do Boundaries Come From?

Many factors influenceof how our boundaries form and develop:


The way we are raised and the environment we are raised in can greatly impact the development of boundaries.


The things that are dear to us or values that might define us help shape our identity. These things have a huge influence on our thought process and may even influence the boundaries that we set.


Culture plays a huge role in setting up boundaries. Every culture has a set of their own boundaries that individuals should respect and these set of predetermined boundaries by the culture in a way mold the individuals thought process and influences them tremendously, 

Relationship or Equation

Our equation with the other person also determines what sort of boundary we wish to place. If it is a person we are close to eg Friend, family, or loved one, then we might be lenient and allot more liberties to them as opposed to if they were strangers.


Boundaries are flexible and adaptable to the present conditions and time. They are prone to change as time passes. The rules or requirements that are relevant today might not be relevant tomorrow and thus the boundaries are subject to change. 

Benefits of Healthy Boundary Setting

Boundaries offer a lot of benefits upon their implementation. Following are just some of the benefits. 

  • Increases  sense of safety
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Development of compassion in individuals towards others as well as self
  • Helps deal with resentment
  • Assists in learning effective communication styles
  • Reduces conflict

Tips For Healthy Boundary Setting

Recognize and understand your boundaries

First, try to understand your values and belief system and the aspects you cannot compromise on and would try to safeguard until the last moment. It is not necessary to have a predetermined set of boundaries already but through self-reflection and analysis, you can form certain guidelines that will help you to design your boundaries shortly. (For example, I need and value personal space and privacy. Therefore I am open about this need of communicating while maintaining a respectful distance and being mindful of inappropriate touching with my friends and acquaintances. 

Practice “NO”

Though it is just a two-letter word it is still quite difficult to utter for some people. The word “NO” is very hard to say for some people as they either do not like disappointing and turning away someone in need or are fearful of the consequences of saying no. But if we want our boundaries to be respected and not violated we must make our stance clear and learn to say a clear, loud, and resounding “NO”

Saying yes only when you mean it

Just like how for some it is hard to say no, for some people it is very easy to say, even when they don’t mean it. It can create a lot of problems in the person’s life if they keep agreeing to things they do not wish to do. They are prone to be taken advantage of if they are too agreeable and do not stand their ground. Therefore it is better to take a pause think it over and then say yes when someone asks them for something 

Being aware of the multiple ways of setting boundaries

We are granted ith numerous ways to set boundaries. External boundaries can be created by simply fencing our area or drawing a demarcating line. Internal boundaries are created by acknowledging our values and needs and standing firm by our decision to not give in.  

Be Comfortable and eliminate the negativity

By drawing a boundary we subject ourselves to some uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking emotions. It is not easy to deal with these emotions and they can even make us backtrack on our decision of setting boundaries. At such times we should remind ourselves of the benefits of setting healthy boundaries and try to negate the negative thoughts with evidence. 

Acknowledging the events and reasons behind the boundaries

Our life experiences, lessons, and values taught in our childhood often mold our current personality and ideation. Our belief system is based on these past values and concerns. This affects our ease at rightfully demanding what we deserve and are owed to by others. But our modesty and hesitancy can prevent us from rightfully claiming what we need. In such times it is important to remember that we are shaped through our past experiences and there is a reason why we value some things more than others. Our values and the subsequent boundaries built upon them, therefore, be respected and not violated.  


In this article, we learned about the various types of boundaries, their types, and nature and also explored the benefits of setting boundaries, 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 7 types of boundaries?

The seven types of boundaries are as follows

  • Physical boundaries.
  • Sexual boundaries.
  • Financial boundaries.
  • Intellectual boundaries.
  • Emotional boundaries.
  • Time boundaries.
  • Expectation boundaries


What are unhealthy boundaries?

When our own needs, wishes, values, limits, or safety are disregarded in favor of someone else then it is considered as an unhealthy boundary. Ignoring and violating our values and beliefs and not accepting our clear rejection is a clear sign of unhealthy boundaries that can lead to disastrous consequences.

What do weak boundaries look like?

Weak boundaries may make one feel incomplete without the other person in the relationship. They might even have trouble expressing their feelings and opinions and might feel compelled to engage in physical or sexual activities that they aren’t willing to or uncomfortable with. 

Are my boundaries selfish?

Though the act of setting boundaries might be termed as selfish by some that it is not true at all. Insisting on having clear boundaries is a precaution of protecting oneself from any potential harm. A person has every right to safeguard themselves from any potential threat and if it can be done by creating boundaries then it is not a selfish act but a precautionary measure 


Why do your boundaries matter now more than ever. CBT Psychology. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://cbtpsychology.com/relational-boundaries/ 

Boundaries & Relationships. CBT Psychological Associates. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://cbtpsychologicalassociates.com/boundaries-relationships/ 

LMFT, W. by: N. A., & MD, R. by: B. T. (n.d.). 10 tips for setting healthy boundaries. Choosing Therapy. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://www.choosingtherapy.com/setting-boundaries/ 


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!