Practice Alerts

Disclaimer: Practice guidelines provide licensees with general guidance to promote good practice. Law, rules and regulations, not guidelines, specify the requirements for practice and what may constitute professional misconduct.

Alert 16: Maintaining Appropriate Professional Boundaries

It is your responsibility, not your patient/client's, to maintain appropriate boundaries in your professional relationship. If a complaint is filed, it will be your responsibility to demonstrate that the patient/client has not been exploited or coerced, intentionally or unintentionally.

Be especially vigilant regarding any conduct that could impair your objectivity and professional judgment in serving your patient/client, and any conduct that carries the risk and/or the appearance of exploitation or potential harm to your patient/client.

Since physical therapy involves hands-on contact with patients/clients, it is advisable to discuss with your patient/client, prior to contact, the areas you will be touching and why. Informed consent by the patient/client to touching, particularly of intimate or private areas, could reduce the risk of complaints.

Recognize and avoid the dangers of dual relationships when relating to patients/clients in more than one context, whether professional, social, educational, or commercial. Dual relationships can occur simultaneously or consecutively. Prohibited dual relationships include, but are not limited to:

  • forming a sexual relationship with a current or recent patient/client;
  • referring patients/clients to services in which you have a financial interest, without disclosing that relationship;
  • bartering with patients/clients for the provision of services; and
  • entering into financial relationships with patients/clients other than their paying for your physical therapy services.

While the following types of relationships may not be strictly prohibited, the close personal nature of the relationship may raise serious questions about whether the physical therapist is maintaining appropriate boundaries:

  • accepting as a patient/client any one with whom you have had a prior sexual relationship;
  • treating patients/clients to whom you are related by blood or legal ties.
Citations of Pertinent Law, Rules or Regulations:
Education Law, Section 6509(9) – unprofessional conduct
Regents Rules, Part 29.1(b)(2) – exercising undue influence
Regents Rules, Part 29.1(b)(5) – moral unfitness to practice
Regents Rules, Part 29.2(a)(2) – patient/client/client harassment, abuse, intimidation
Last Updated: April 15, 2021