Essential ethical considerations for occupational therapists

Essential ethical considerations for occupational therapists

The importance of ethics in occupational therapy

Ethics is central to every profession in the healthcare sector. It boosts credibility and helps you ensure you stay true to the profession. It also protects you from issues with agencies overseeing ethical misconduct.

Knowing about and adhering to basic ethical conduct can help you maintain professionalism at work. This is true in the same way that furthering your education beyond your master’s degree in occupational therapy can boost your career growth. To unlock the doors to positions in leadership and management, you need an occupational therapy doctorate online degree from a reputed institution such as American International College (AIC).

AIC provides an intensive learning environment that lets you collaborate online with peers and graduate in less than two years. Designed for the working occupational therapist, this online course makes it easier for you to advance in your career anywhere in the country.

When it comes to ethical considerations for therapeutic practices, here are some of the things you need to know.

Ethics related to providing therapy to clients

Even after being inaugurated into the profession, it is important to keep in mind that there are ethics that guide the care provided to clients. Some of these ethics include:

Informed consent

Before starting any session, obtaining informed consent from your clients is important. This involves explaining the treatment’s purpose, goals, risks, benefits and any potential alternatives to the approach you want to take. Your clients should be able to ask questions and make an informed decision about participating in any session.

Obtaining informed consent is crucial as it ensures the client understands what they are agreeing to and can weigh the potential risks and benefits. It also establishes trust between you and the client, forming the therapeutic relationship’s foundation.

Advertising and public statements

Therapists should accurately represent their qualifications, services and fees in advertising and public statements. They should avoid making false, misleading or exaggerated claims about their abilities or the potential outcomes of therapy.

For example, a therapist should not claim to “cure” a mental health condition within a specific timeframe, as this is both unrealistic and unethical. Remaining truthful helps to promote honesty, transparency and trust between therapists and clients or potential clients. Upholding this ethical standard ensures that clients can make informed decisions about your care and promotes the overall integrity of the profession.

Dual relationships

Dual Relationships

Avoid entering into business, personal or sexual relationships with your clients. Relationships such as this often compromise the quality of your approach to their health and can create conflicts of interest. This is why many say a therapist should not provide therapy to a close friend or family member. The truth is that even with mutual understanding, dual relationships can blur professional boundaries and make it challenging to remain objective while prioritizing the client’s well-being.


As an occupational therapist, it is necessary to practice within your expertise and continually update your skills and knowledge. Occupational therapists who are not trained or experienced in treating clients with depression or eating disorders, should refer these patients to a specialist rather than attempting to provide treatment. Administering the treatment yourself violates professional ethics, which will compromise the client’s well-being.


Maintaining confidentiality and protecting the privacy of patients is required. Confidentiality helps you create a safe environment that makes clients feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings; however, there are a few occasions when you need to break confidentiality.

If a client shares thoughts of self-harm, you may need to break confidentiality to ensure the client’s safety. In this case, reporting your concern to another resource is required to protect your client from self-harm.

Cultural sensitivity

Developing awareness of and demonstrating respect for clients’ cultural backgrounds and beliefs shows that you acknowledge and respect their differences. This helps to build rapport and trust and helps ensure the treatment approach is effective for the client.

By eliminating all biases you may have towards a race, gender or sexual preference, you can improve the quality of your professional life and personal experience and support all the people who actually need your help.


Therapists should respect clients’ autonomy and support their right to make decisions, even if they disagree. Respecting autonomy is essential because it empowers clients, fosters trust and acknowledges their ability to make decisions that best suit their needs. All you need to do is to advise them on a better strategy to approach whatever situation they find themselves in.


Therapists should work to promote the well-being of their clients and act in their best interests. Promoting the well-being of clients involves using evidence-based practices and monitoring their progress. When conventional methods don’t work, you can refer clients to other experts or explore alternative evidence-based approaches that may be more effective for their needs.

Record keeping

Record keeping involves keeping notes on your clients. You must maintain accurate and timely records of your client’s progress, interventions and other relevant information. This helps track progress, ensure continuity of care and protect both the client and therapist in case of legal or ethical issues.

Effective record-keeping can be achieved through electronic health record systems, written notes or audio recordings. Whichever method your use, it is important to ensure that the method adheres to privacy and security guidelines to avoid any form of punishment in the future.


Ethical conduct is sometimes hard to adhere to, especially because the lines between what is right and professional ethics is thin. Always remember these ethical considerations to provide safe, effective and ethical therapy to your clients. This will not only lead to your success as a therapist, but it will also foster trust between you and your clients and improve the success of patient outcomes.

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