Boundary crossings and the RD-Client Relationship

The RD-client relationship depends on clearly defined professional boundaries to maintain the mutual trust, integrity and respect essential for quality nutrition care.  A boundary crossing happens when the RD-client relationship changes from professional to personal. In other words,  another type of relationship or feeling towards a client interferes with the therapeutic relationship.




The term “sexual abuse” has a specific legal meaning  under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (the RHPA)The law has zero tolerance for sexual abuse of clients by dietitians. Sexual abuse does not have to involve actual sex. It includes revealing intimate sexual information, flirting, making sexual-related comments or jokes. There are serious consequences for breaking the law by engaging in sexual acts with a client, including  losing the ability to practice as a dietitian in Ontario.

An individual remains a client for an entire year after the therapeutic dietitian-client relationship has ended. Having romantic or sexual relationships with a client during that time is strictly forbidden. It is considered sexual abuse, even if the client consents. Under the RHPA, consent is irrelevant. Even if the client initiates or willingly participates in the sexual activity, and both parties are in love, it is still prohibited for a regulated health professional, such as a dietitian, to have a sexual relationship with the  client. For more complete information see  Boundary Guidelines for Professional Therapeutic RD-Client Relationships.