qualities of a good physical therapist

5 Qualities of a Good Physical Therapist


Whether your healthcare provider prescribed physical therapy or you’re able to self-refer for treatment, you might be wondering how to find the right therapist for your needs. That’s understandable, considering there are more than 300,000 licensed physical therapists in the United States, according to data from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA.) Look for these five qualities of a good physical therapist to help narrow your search for a healthcare professional.

1. Excellence

Every physical therapist should strive for professional excellence. But what does that mean? First, they develop objective and independent judgments based on the generally accepted standards of care. When creating individual treatment plans, they consider current research, their clients’ needs and goals, and their own experience and training.

They also keep growing as clinicians. Physical therapy techniques and treatments continue to evolve. As a patient, you want and deserve access to the latest evidence-informed treatments that will improve your life. The exceptional physical therapist is a lifelong learner, always seeking ways to refine their knowledge and skills through professional development.

2. Positivity

It’s normal and reasonable for physical therapy patients to experience setbacks during treatment. Many come to the clinic frustrated or discouraged by pain and mobility challenges. Student-athletes who miss out on a season because of a sports injury may not be all that enthusiastic about therapy.

Imagine being in any of these scenarios and encountering a physical therapist with a bad attitude. Physical therapists should motivate patients to approach therapy with a growth mindset, focusing on what they have already accomplished in the clinic—rather than how far there is to go.

In fact, research shows that a good attitude can help improve outcomes for patients in pain.  With support and encouragement, physical therapists help clients feel more optimistic about their progress and take pride in their hard work.

3. Integrity

Integrity is one of the core values listed in the APTA Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist. It is adhering to strong ethical and moral principles like dependability, honesty, and trustworthiness.

That means being on time, giving you their undivided attention, and addressing your personal health concerns with discretion.

Physical therapists with integrity honor their commitments, acknowledge their mistakes, and put forth their maximum effort. They treat all patients the same and respect themselves and those around them.

4. Transparency

Positivity should never be mistaken for false promises. An effective physical therapist is honest and realistic with their patients. They won’t lead them to believe they will progress further than is possible given their condition.

They know that progress is fluid, and they prepare patients for potential hiccups in their therapy journey. This is the key to building trust, which is the foundation for a productive therapist-patient relationship.

If they can’t answer a question or it’s outside their scope of expertise, they enlist peers and other providers for guidance. They provide all of the information necessary for patients to make informed decisions about their own health and wellness.

5. Compassion

Your physical therapist may not share your physical symptoms or challenges, but they have the capacity and desire to understand your experience. They try to see your situation from your perspective to better meet your needs.

Many patients seek physical therapy for chronic pain. Long-term pain can be emotionally and physically debilitating. An empathetic physical therapist strives to provide relief through exercise, manual therapy, and other treatments to improve their quality of life.

Most physical therapists will say their passion for helping others inspired their decision to choose this profession. And the best therapists remain committed to that goal throughout their careers.

If your clinician is lacking some of these qualities of a good physical therapist or you’re just not having a pleasant experience, consider seeking treatment elsewhere. You should always feel safe, supported, and encouraged throughout your physical therapy journey. Find a physical therapy clinic near you

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