As a patient, you can expect your speech-language pathologist or audiologist to maintain professional boundaries. A professional boundary is a parameter of a safe therapeutic relationship, recognizing the power imbalance and responsibilities of a regulated member.
Professional boundaries help define the difference between therapeutic and personal relationships and avoid potential misunderstanding of words and actions.
Your speech-language pathologist or audiologist should treat you respectfully and maintain professional boundaries while providing services, including ensuring informed consent is obtained before they provide services. Where physical touching may be required during your appointment, your speech-language pathologist or audiologist should let you know why and how they will touch you, give you the opportunity to ask questions and respect your decision to proceed or decline the physical touching.
Your speech-language pathologist or audiologist should also take steps to ensure professional boundaries are maintained, outside of providing services, such as declining to meet with you socially (outside of your scheduled appointments), declining any “friend” requests on social media and communicating professionally over the phone or in writing.
If you have concerns about a speech-language pathologist or audiologist’s professional boundaries or if you wish to submit a complaint, please complete ACSLPA’s complaint form or contact the Complaints Director.
Some relevant standards of practice and ethical responsibilities are captured below to assist you in understanding the obligations of speech-language pathologists and audiologists and to assess whether your boundaries have been respected.
Regulated members ensure that they obtain informed consent before the provision of services (Standard 2.3, Informed Consent).
Regulated members maintain appropriate professional boundaries with clients, professional colleagues, students, and others at all times (Standard 2.4, Professional Boundaries). Some indicators for this standard are:
- Behaving respectfully and responsibly with clients and colleagues;
- Avoiding sexually suggestive comments/actions, racist or discriminatory comments/actions, or the expression of opinions/remarks that could violate the professional boundaries;
- Ensuring informed consent; or
- Consider ending professional relationships if boundaries are violated, cannot be established or cannot be maintained, or transfer care as necessary.
Regulated members demonstrate respect for all persons, promote the well-being of others, and recognize clients’ rights to autonomy in decision-making regarding their care (Responsibility 1, Code of Ethics). This includes providing services in a courteous, compassionate and caring manner (Responsibility 1.3, Code of Ethics).
Regulated members demonstrate respect and support the autonomy of clients to make choices and decisions regarding their own care and/or to refuse treatment and withdraw from services at any time (Responsibility 1.5, Code of Ethics).
Regulated members demonstrate professional behaviour and integrity in the delivery of safe, ethical, quality services (Responsibility 2, Code of Ethics). This includes maintaining appropriate professional boundaries (Responsibility 2.2, Code of Ethics).