– Shivani Patel, PT
The number of people working as physical therapists in the United States has been rising at a rapid rate, growing from around 247,000 in 2019 to nearly 256,000 in 2020. Understanding what makes a good physical therapist, including key skills and techniques, can help you choose the one who’s best for you.
Quality #1: Desire to Help
All health care providers should be motivated by a desire to help people, and this is particularly true for physical therapists. Since physical therapists are responsible for developing and maintaining a plan that produces the best possible outcome for their patients, it’s important that they take this responsibility seriously — but do it with a smile and an overall positive attitude.
Physical therapists are charged with critical jobs such as helping to restore function, improve mobility and relieve pain. For patients whose ability to move is limited by disease or injury, physical therapists play a pivotal role in their recovery; they are often responsible for helping a patient get back to living their normal lives.
Quality #2: Ability to Set and Reach Achievable Goals
A successful physical therapist knows how to accentuate the positive aspects of a patient’s recovery and focus on an action plan that works for the patient. At the same time, physical therapists must be realistic, helping patients set achievable goals and expectations.
Quality #3: Caring Disposition
Perhaps above all, a physical therapist needs to be caring. When patients can see how much their therapist cares, they will be more likely to listen to advice — and follow through.
Quality #4: Well-Versed in Various Therapies
In addition to mindset, the techniques a physical therapist uses can determine their level of success. Many experts favor the McKenzie Method, which was developed by physiotherapist Robin McKenzie in the 1950s. The McKenzie method is a reliable assessment process intended for all musculoskeletal problems, including pain in the back, neck and extremities.
This method helps physical therapists understand a patient’s symptoms to determine the most appropriate and effective course of treatment. Not only can the McKenzie Method eliminate symptoms, it can also empower patients to self-treat in order to avoid future recurrence of problems.
The main goals of this method are quickly easing patients’ pain, helping patients return to normal functioning and activities while minimizing the risk of future pain and reducing the need for return treatment visits.
Quality #5: Ability to Engage, Inspire and Motivate Patients
Patients who play an active and engaged role in their physical therapy have been shown to have better outcomes, and it is the job of a good physical therapist to encourage and inspire patient participation.
Physical therapists can motivate patients by explaining that they have the power to manage their own health and make informed decisions about their care. When patients feel they have some control over their treatment, they are more likely to take it seriously—and have a better outcome as a result.
Finding a Good Physical Therapist
With so many providers to choose from, it can be helpful to know what to look for in a physical therapist. If you’re dealing with a health issue that may benefit from physical therapy, consider talking to your doctor about a referral or do some research on your own. After all, your health is in your hands, and the right physical therapist can help you get back to being your best self.