Choosing the Right Physical Therapist for You

Have you been to see a physical therapist in the past and thought the whole experience was unsuccessful?

Consider this…you may not have seen the right PT for you and for your condition. No two physical therapists are the same. You might have two PTs who graduated from the same PT school, the same year, and who passed the exact same boards exam. But those PTs have different backgrounds and different clinical experiences.

There are a variety of specialties within the profession.

When I entered physical therapy school, I didn’t realize the variety of specialties and settings available within the profession. Within the APTA (governing association for PTs) alone, there are 10 board certified specialties. Everything from orthopaedics to wound management is included. And this doesn’t even include the countless other certifications (manual, sports, chronic pain, etc.) you can get through different organizations.

Here’s the path that most physical therapists took to earn their Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT):

  1. Graduated with a 4-year undergraduate degree with the necessary prerequisites for PT school

  2. Applied to highly competitive PT schools

  3. Completed 3 years of doctorate level coursework with 25+ weeks of hands-on clinical experience

  4. Passed a national boards exam and became licensed in the state they are practicing in

In order to be a new PT nowadays, you must earn the doctorate. In theory, every entry-level DPT should have the same education and preparation to start their first job. However, the personality, the clinical experiences they had as a student, and the post-graduate continuing education shape the PT.

How should you choose the right PT for you?

Start here: What are you coming to PT for? Look for a PT in your area that specializes in your condition. Google can be your friend. Even if you have a basic complaint of shoulder pain or knee pain.

Ask for recommendations from friends and family. You might be surprised how many people you know who have gone to physical therapy.

You also want to consider the setting the PT works in. Unfortunately, the traditional model of many physical therapy clinics is to pack as many patients in a day as possible because of poor reimbursement from insurance. A single PT could have 4-5 patients at one time. Many PTs now are switching to a cash-model so they can actually have patient-centered care and see patients 1-on-1.

This blog post by Dr. Sarah Crawford goes more into the benefits of paying cash for PT.

Ultimately, the physical therapist you choose for your treatment should:

  1. Be highly knowledgeable about your condition.

  2. Give you their undivided attention for at least 30 minutes each session. With a good therapist, you might find you spend more time talking than a hands-on assessment that first session. That’s where the PT gains much of their insight about you and your condition.

  3. Mesh well with your personality and incorporate your personal goals into your treatment.

  4. Explain your condition and treatment plan in a way that you could easily go home and explain it to your family.

Our physical therapists at Anchor Wellness Center specialize in a variety of conditions and treatment methods, including TMJ, chronic pain, dry needling, neck and back pain, pelvic floor and women’s health. You can learn more about each of the physical therapists here to see which one might be best for you.


About the Author:

Dr. Chelsea Walter is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with an emphasis on treatment of spinal conditions. She graduated from Saint Louis University in 2014 with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy and completed undergraduate work at the same institution. From 2018 to 2019, she was a post-graduate resident with the McKenzie Institute. There she achieved certification in the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) and board certification in orthopaedics (OCS). Chelsea enjoys working with clients who are active in the gym or with recreational sports. She has led an active lifestyle from early on in life and enjoys hiking, travel, and spending time with family