A Counselor Reflects on Healthy Boundaries and Safe People


Ask a Professional: An Interview with Kristi Clements; LPC

We are on Week 6 of an 8-week series called, “You Are Here.” As a family, we’ve been navigating through some common cultural phrases to see if they hold up to any real pressure or scrutiny in the face of the Gospel. This past week, we examined the phrase, “Eliminate negative people from our life” and the cultural belief that we should get rid of anyone in our lives who is difficult or draining. 

To follow up on this topic, we talked with Kristi Clements, a licensed professional counselor and long-time missionary member. She and her husband, Brandon, helped plant Midtown Lexington two years ago. She also started her own Counseling & Consulting practice and regularly treats people dealing with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. 

How do you define “boundaries” as a counselor?

Boundaries are our personal property line, which marks what I am responsible for. Boundaries define what is mine and what is not mine. They are incredibly freeing because they show me where my responsibility ends and someone else’s begins. Boundaries give us our sense of ownership and help us take responsibility for ourselves. 

We’ve been talking about some cultural norms or phrases that have slowly but surely seeped into the way that we are living our lives, and specifically this sense of freedom to “eliminate negative people from our lives.” How would you encourage people in discerning if it’s the right time to remove yourself from a person or situation? 

I would use a process called “boundary development” which allows a person to examine why they are finding another person to be challenging or difficult to love. From there, we would work to discern how they are being responsible “for” a person versus “to” that person and we would work to correct that behavior. We would then begin the process of identifying healthy boundaries that need to be established in order to start developing a healthier relationship with that person and the best way to communicate those boundaries with the other person. 

Where, in your practice or around your group of believers, have you seen people misuse this concept of “boundaries”? 

Boundaries are a lot like chainsaws. They are incredibly helpful when we need to cut down a tree or a limb, but if used incorrectly they are quite damaging and can easily cut off an arm! So, we have to think of them as helpful and yet, they are secondary to what the Lord has called us to in our relationships (carry one another’s burdens, speak truth to one another in love, etc.). I find that many people try to use boundaries to just be selfish and not have to do things they don’t want to do. 

How do we to confront or bring up the conversation with someone who is infringing or pressing against our boundaries? Or how do we confront someone who is using boundaries like chainsaws to not be challenged or pressed by people in their life?  

I think we make communication harder than it has to be because of our poor boundaries. So, if someone is infringing on your boundaries say to yourself: “Self, you get to tell them that. You need to tell them that. Don’t have poor boundaries by ignoring your needs because you are scared to hurt their feelings.” Then, go tell that person in a humble way that you need to check in with them about this boundary you have. 

The term “self-care” gets bounced around a lot when we’re talking about boundaries. Where have you seen this idea being misused or abused? What is a helpful way for us to think about self-care as believers? 

I see people use “self-care” as a way to be selfish and mindless, which is not the intent of self-care for believers. The simplest way I can define self-care would be taking time to care for the soul/mind/body and confessing to the Lord our need for Him. Self-care looks a lot like checking in with ourselves (and the Holy Spirit!) and asking what to do with the ten minutes we have between meetings. TV may give us a moment of rest, but true self-care happens more in proactive things like praying, contacting a friend that needs encouragement, moving our body in a healthy way to care for it, drinking a really good cup of coffee that reminds us that God made coffee beans! I think the ultimate goal of self-care is renewal and rejuvenation, but we only get that when we realize we need a savior and the savior is not us.

For you personally, what do healthy rest, self-care, and boundaries look like? 

This is actually really difficult for me. I keep using “they” or “client,” but man, I have a hard time not just being selfish and zoning out. I learned from a sweet member at Midtown to look at my week and highlight energizing things green, draining things red, and neutral things yellow. Then, I can’t just take off all of the red items the next week (let’s be honest, I sometimes want to!) but instead, I make sure to cushion those red events with green items. So, if I know I’m going to have a really difficult conversation with a client, I will attempt to go grab coffee and pray while I walk to Starbucks from my office after. I can’t be selfish and say, “ummm, client, I’m too tired and you’re too difficult this week…gotta cancel!” but I can know that for whatever reason, I will be drained after that hour and need to care for my mind and soul. I think that routine has helped me to know of my neediness for the Lord and practice a lot of “I need a savior and I am not my own savior.”  I also have a running list of things I know I need to do to actually care for my body/mind/soul that I am continually trying to practice. 

The term “safe people” is another phrase that gets tossed around a lot. Where did this term actually come from?

The term, “safe people” got pretty popular when Cloud and Townsend, the authors of the book Boundaries, wrote about it. They defined safe people as people who draw us closer to God, to others, and help us become the person God created us to be. Pop psychology has damaged that last idea, but I do think there is some value in someone knowing you and being able to encourage you in the giftedness the Lord has given you. So, safe people are people that are like you, not like you, and everything in between. Safe people are legitimately any people that are pointing you to the Gospel in your life. 

How do you encourage people to reach out to community as they are going through counseling with you? 

I usually ask for them to create a list of people that we call their “support system.” This can range from their family to friends to coworkers to neighbors to sorority sisters/fraternity brothers to lifegroup/small group/whatever group with their church to 12 Step Programs to pastors. We sometimes even have sessions with that group to help foster a healthy, working relationship between client and their support network. I also tell my clients they are in session with me 1-2 hours a week max, so the hard work happens outside of the four walls of my office. They need people to help support them when they are doing that hard work.

If you are interested in learning more about the work that Kristi does, you can check out her website: If you think that you need counseling, please contact your lifegroup leader or Ryan Rike, pastor of care. 


Global Missions: Thoughts from Guatemala

This year we sent missionary members to four different locations across the globe to love and serve together. When the final team returned to Columbia for the summer, we interviewed team members from each trip, in order to celebrate with them all that Jesus accomplished through the trips.


We interviewed missionary member Alisha Mitchell about her trip to Coban, Guatemala.

What inspired you to go on this trip?

My parents were international missionaries from the time I was born until about age 9, so I knew part of the purpose for international missions stemmed from Matthew 28 in which Jesus calls us to go out into all the nations and make disciples. The New Testament tells us that God cares for people of all nations, and as Christians we understand that Jesus sacrificed everything for us, giving us the freedom to do the same, so that others may know of his love through his death and resurrection.

Since becoming a believer, I wanted to go on an international missions trip as a response to these truths. The trip to Guatemala interested me the most because I had heard a little bit of the stories of the children and I wanted so much to display God's love for them as His children, that they are not defined by the abuse and neglect they have experienced already.

What was life like in Guatemala?

Cobán is a city in the mountains of central Guatemala where life seems to revolve around a central market. We were considered fortunate to have toilets and sometimes hot showers.

The poverty of the city was probably seen most clearly in the children's hospital that my team visited. There were children crying in corners of rooms, barely any clean or good medical supplies, and there were not many qualified nurses or doctors, much less ones that actually cared.

As far as spiritual life, you are either Catholic or practiced some form of Vodou or multiple-god religion. What I gathered is that most of the people that claim to be Catholic are following more of a prosperity gospel where they only attend if they are sick or need help and think that their attendance will make God like them or give them what they need. Before the children came to the home a lot of them were abused, both physically and sexually, or seen as nuisances and ended up being neglected.

What types of things did you do while you were there?

We spent the first few days hanging out with the children of the home and getting a feel for what their every day life was like. We would play table games or juegos de mesa, freeze-tag, and spend time with them over meals. The conversations with the children over meals were the most fruitful as we were able to ask them questions about their childhood or just getting to know them as individuals. It reminded me of how Jesus spent a lot of his time in an effort to love people and share life with them.

One of the days my team went to the children's hospital in Cobán and donated a lot of medical supplies including ibuprofen and diapers for the babies. The second half of the week we were brought to the new property (meant to have 2 children's homes, a hospital and a school) to plant trees and to pray over it. It was absolutely beautiful and would allow a much greater amount of children to be rescued from neglect and malnutrition.

What would you say was the best part of the trip?

First of all, Christian and Eugenia, the parents of the home, have prayed incessantly for years for funding to start building on the property. God–who's ways and timing are perfect and good as he is always working for the good of those who love him–PROVIDED the funds completely! This news arrived while we were there and it was/is such a joyous gift.

The second was seeing how many of the children truly loved Jesus. It was easy to see as you watched them love one another patiently and sacrificially, caring for each other before taking caring of themselves. They would sing constantly and talk about how they wanted to be missionaries in countries all over the world. It was beautiful getting to see how Christian and Eugenia raised these children to fear and trust God, and to know that Jesus has saved them from spiritual darkness.

How did you benefit from the trip personally?

I learned a lot about what it means to be family with people of all nations because of the blood of Jesus and how the Holy Spirit binds us together as one. Because of this trip, through fundraising, being with the children and being with my teammates, I saw so clearly what it looks like to be different parts of the body of Christ. We are his body, his church and his bride, on mission with him until we die and are able to finally be joined with him perfectly as one.

I also learned more of how God's promises will always be true. In this case, from Romans 8. I didn't know the language well, I was plagued with insecurities and fear, but because of Jesus' righteousness, God does not forsake his children, even in their weaknesses. In the moments when I wanted to hide, he gently and graciously pursued me, letting me know that He will not let His daughter go. He used all of these things for my good and his glory, and He won't ever stop.