Know How to Pick ’Em: What to Look for in a Physical Therapist


If you have a prescription for physical therapy (PT), chances are good that your physician has given you a handy-dandy card that neatly lists the locations of his or her preferred providers. It would appear your destiny is to see one of those therapists. However, you have the power to decide who you do (or don’t) see for treatment. In fact, all 50 states (plus DC and the US Virgin Islands) have some form of direct access—meaning you don’t necessarily need that physician’s script to see the physical therapist (PT) of your choice.

As Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) states, “Recovery from an injury is hard work, and many people don’t realize the importance of choosing the right therapist and facility for their needs. Although most physical therapists are well-trained and provide good care, practices are not all the same. Falling into the wrong hands can do more harm than good.”

Knowledge is PT-picking power. Choosing a PT might seem like a daunting task—especially if you’ve never been to therapy, or you’re unsure of what qualities define a good therapist. Here are some things to look for in a PT:


It’s valuable to find a therapist who has extensive experience treating patients with the same injury you’re experiencing. A PT with specialization will have the specific knowledge and tools required to provide the best possible care your particular condition.


Be sure to find a licensed PT—more specifically, one who’s licensed in your state. If a PT assistant (PTA) provides care, be sure a licensed PT supervises him or her.


Will the therapist treat you at the same time he or she is seeing other patients? Ask the clinic about its patient treatment protocol. Some therapists focus on one-on-one treatment, while others work with multiple patients at the same time. If you want focused attention, you need verify that you’ll get it—before your first appointment.

The therapist your physician suggests might be the perfect PT for you. But if you don’t feel that’s the case, you have the option of looking outside of your doc’s suggestions to find a licensed PT with the appropriate specialization and a focus that matches your preferred treatment style. Need help locating a PT in your area? Use our easy PT Finder.

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