When you receive health services like those of a dietitian, you depend on your provider for their knowledge and expertise to improve your quality of life. Being a client and a friend with your dietitian is having more than one type of relationship, called a dual relationship. Dual relationships can blur professional boundaries and interfere with or even damage your therapeutic relationship.

A trusting relationship with a client is crucial to providing safe, high-quality dietetic care. This trust is built by setting and maintaining professional boundaries. This means that regulated health professionals like your dietitian have to limit other relationships with clients. Treating family and friends or becoming friends with an existing client can interfere with or damage the therapeutic relationship. A dual relationship can be a slippery slope that compromises your nutrition care.

Registered dietitians are accountable to the College of Dietitians of Ontario to establish and uphold clear professional boundaries at all times. The college is the regulatory body that oversees the dietitian profession by setting and monitoring standards for the delivery of safe, competent and ethical nutrition services. It works to keep the public safe, and expects that dietitians will use their professional judgement to manage or avoid dual relationships like being friends with clients or starting a business with them. However, it is strictly forbidden by law for any dietitian to have a romantic or sexual relationship with a client.

Registered dietitians are trained to maintain professional boundaries. It’s always a dietitian’s responsibility to determine when a dual relationship is developing and to take measures to protect your therapeutic relationship so you get the best nutrition services possible.

If you think the behaviour of your registered dietitian has crossed an ethical line, you can raise the issue with the college. It regulates the profession of dietitians so that you can feel confident that you and your family are receiving appropriate services.

Find more information at www.mydietitian.ca