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Three Simple Tips To Choosing A Physical Therapist

Choosing a Physical Therapist (PT) can be a daunting task.  People often ask, “How do I choose a Physical Therapist?”  We put this simple guide together as a resource for choosing your PT.

You may not know...

  • Many people are unaware that they have a choice as to where they attend Physical Therapy (PT).  The best physicians will include the patient in the PT decision which will allow you the opportunity to discuss the criteria below with your doctor or prospective PT clinic.  However, if your doctor's office hasn’t asked you for input in the decision, that may be a red flag, and you may want to shop around. 
  • A referral for PT, for example to "XYZ Therapy Clinic", generally does not require you that you go that specific clinic.  In most cases, you can take your referral to YOUR CHOICE of PT clinic. It’s possible that this may vary by state and by insurance plan, but your local PT clinic should be happy to help you sort this out.

People who have had PT in the past seem to fall into two vastly different categories…those who love their therapists, and those who had horrible experiences.  This wide range of experiences inspired us to consider the differentiators associated with PT. 

The following are three simple tips to choosing a Physical Therapist:

  1. Qualifications - Choose a PT that is well qualified.  The highest level PTs are Doctors of Physical Therapy, holding a doctorate degree and thus not only have the letters “PT” following their name, but also have the letters “DPT” following their name (for example, Dr. Jane Doe, PT, DPT).  Beyond that, there are multiple additional certifications that PTs can acquire with additional training.  Most PTs will be happy to talk to you about their qualifications and any specialized training they may have.  If a PT is too busy to answer your questions promptly, or at length, that's a red flag and likely indicates that they may not be able to provide the type of care that we recommend in point #2.
  2. One-to-one care - What good is a highly qualified PT if they cannot spend time with you?  Look for a clinic that offers something called one-to-one patient care.  That means that you will see your highly qualified PT for the ENTIRE APPOINTMENT.  Sadly, most clinics no longer offer this level of service. If you've had PT in the past and you were seen briefly by a PT, and then you spent time with a PTA, or a Tech, or were alone on a table with heat or ice, then you know how impersonal, boring, and what a colossal waste of time that kind of care (or lack thereof) can be.  Think of PT as a participation sport.  The more the patient participates, becomes invested, and follows the plan, the better the outcome will be.  Ask your therapist this direct question, "will you provide me with dedicated, one-to-one care for the full appointment, or will you be juggling multiple patients?"  You can also ask, "Will I be with you the whole time, or will I also be working with one of your assistants"?  If your PT can commit to one-to-one care, you’re probably in the right place.
  3. Availability - What good is a great PT and one-to-one care if you can't be seen for several weeks, or if you can't get the appointment times that will make you successful?  Don't put your recovery in jeopardy.  Inquire very directly with the front office staff about availability.  Be careful that you don't confuse hours of operation (“we're open until 7pm”) with availability (“If you like, I can book you for 6pm every Tuesday and Thursday right now”).  Availability is often overlooked, but critical for good outcomes, so ask the right questions to ensure you don't find yourself unable to get into a good rhythm with your therapy.


Hopefully these three simple tips to choosing a Physical Therapist will be helpful in your Physical Therapy search and assist you in setting the stage for a successful course of therapy.  Let us know if you found this article helpful.  Good luck on your path to wellness!