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Ethics of dating a former patient

The Committee does not believe it feasible to establish any bright-line rule for when, if ever, initiation of a romantic/sexual relationship with a former patient would be ethically permissible.As indicated, the rationale for obstructing such relationships is the risk that the patient "who comes to therapy in a vulnerable state" will be exploited by his/her therapist.

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The Committee has struggled with the question as to when the restriction in Guide § 2.1. Of course, the restriction obviously applies for as long as the physical therapist continues to treat the patient.

However, the Committee is not willing to say that the § 2.1.

C restriction ends once the final treatment session has been concluded.

Discussion The Committee, in considering the ethical questions you have raised, starts with the recognition that the relationship between a physical therapist and a patient/client is one of the most intense among health care disciplines, given the length of time the physical therapist may be in close physical contact with patients (Scott R, 1998).

Patients must be considered vulnerable within this patient/therapist relationship due to their level of trust in the therapist and the power differential inherent in the relationship.


  1. Aug 3, 2001. Topic Sexual Relationships with Patients/Former Patients. C. Your first ethics question goes to the permissibility of a physical therapist's initiating a romantic/sexual relationship with a patient after he/she. Whether the relationship extends beyond the date of the last treatment is a thornier question.

  2. Consulted a colleague, and he said the usual prohibitions about dating a former patient would not necessarily apply given I never treated her as an individual. What is ethically appropriate in this situation? Can I date this woman now? Answer It would not be ethical for you to have a social relationship with this former patient.

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