We’ve all had that visit to a medical office: you wait in the waiting room for at least half an hour, only to see your provider for maybe five minutes. Finding personalized care in any medical field can be difficult, and physical therapy is no exception.
Finding the right person for your treatment is imperative. But how do you choose? How do you know if a therapist you’re considering is the right one for you?
At EW Motion Therapy, our mission is to help our clients move, feel, and live better. We only hire therapists dedicated to personalized care and helping clients reach their potential. Even if you do not choose EW for your therapy, we want to help you find the right person for your care.
A great physical therapist can help you achieve great things, and to aid you in your search, we have made a list of some clinical qualifications and personal qualities to look for in a physical therapist. If you keep these qualities in mind you will find the right therapist the first time.
To begin your search, most clinics have a Staff page on their website that introduces you to their team. Feel free to browse that page to learn more about your assigned therapist and their clinical qualifications. When you come in for your first few sessions, you can then see if they have the personal qualities to be a great physical therapist.
Clinical qualifications to look for in a physical therapist
There are a few important clinical qualifications you should look for in a physical therapist.
A practicing physical therapist has to be licensed. This means they must have a valid degree from a physical therapy program, a passing score on the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), and a current valid state license.
Seek a physical therapist that is a lifelong learner. Your therapist should always be a student, continuing to pursue new learning within their field. Suppose your condition could benefit from a unique program, specialized treatment techniques, or a certain specialization. In that case, there are many opportunities for therapists to continue their education and become more specialized, such as strength and conditioning, dry needling, etc.
Do not think a therapist who is a recent graduate is too inexperienced - they gain almost a full year of clinical experience as part of their doctorate program, and they may be up to date on the most current best practices for your treatment. Also, many clinics require new hires to be part of an internal mentorship program that will continue to expand their knowledge.
Finding a therapist with these qualifications will ensure you see a true professional who has the skills and knowledge to develop the best treatment possible for you.
Personal qualities to look for in a physical therapist
Clinical qualifications are essential, but the science of physical therapy without the art is meaningless. Finding someone who can make a connection with you in addition to being an experienced therapist is equally important. Developing a personal connection within the first few sessions is ideal, but we know that this is not always the case. If you do not connect with your therapist, it is usually easy to switch to a different person within the clinic or to a new facility.
When you’re beginning treatment with a new therapist, you can ask yourself some potentially eye-opening questions.
Can I have a conversation with this person? If it feels awkward or difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation, then maybe that person is not the right therapist for you. You need to be able to advocate for your goals and speak up when some part of your treatment is not working.
Is this person really listening to me? When you bring up criticism or a desire to adjust your treatment, you need to make sure that your therapist is really taking what you say into consideration and not brushing it off. This ensures that your therapist is continually modifying your treatment program to fit your needs.
Is this person spending one-on-one time with me? A great therapist will spend most of your session working one-on-one with you to make sure you are doing your exercises correctly. If your therapist gives you some exercises to do and leaves you unattended, you will probably not receive the personalized care you need.
Is this person teaching as they treat? A large part of physical therapy is the educational aspect, so you can learn how to take care of your own body without the therapist’s help. A great physical therapist should teach you about your body. If they are not emphasizing a comprehensive treatment approach, including exercises, sleep, and other aspects of overall health, you may not have the proper education needed to improve after your treatment period and maximize long-term improvement.
Are they putting your needs and goals first? During your sessions, a great therapist should be entirely focused on you. No one should matter but you and your treatment goals. Your therapist should serve as a guide to put you on the path to better health.
If you can confidently answer yes to all of these questions and you see results from your treatment, then you have found the right physical therapist. After a few visits, if you answer no to any of these questions, you can talk to the front desk staff when scheduling your next session. They can help you find a new therapist that fits into your schedule.
Finding the right physical therapist for you
It can be a trial-and-error process to find the right therapist, but once you do, you can relax knowing they have your best interest at heart and will help you feel better.
Doing research of your own will help you find a therapist with the clinical qualifications you need. If the therapist you start with is not ideal, it is usually easy to switch to someone else within the same clinic - being honest up front is the best way to go. You should always have a choice when it comes to your treatment.
Even if the clinic is not in your ideal location, do not let that deter you from pursuing treatment there. Great therapists are willing to work with your schedule and not let it be a barrier.
Great therapists should never treat patients as a protocol but as human beings with real goals and needs. At EW Motion Therapy, our therapists are some of the most educated in their field, and they ensure that your treatment is tailored to your goals. If you are interested in EW and our therapists, feel free to read our article on whether EW Motion is right for you to determine whether we are a good fit.