Over the past 10 – 15 years, the meaning of a “physical therapist” has changed significantly. Previously, a patient or a medical doctor, would have known a physical therapist as someone who “gives exercises” for an injury, or provides a “hot pack and massage”. BUT… NOT ANYMORE!
It is important to consider that NOT all physical therapists are created equally. At a minimum, all physical therapists must be licensed in the state that they practice. However, their education and training make each one different.
The profession of “Physical Therapy” has changed drastically over the last decade. A physical therapist with the distinction of “DPT” after their name, signifies that individual has completed the highest level of training for a U.S. physical therapy professional, and is called a “Doctor of Physical Therapy”. The DPT professional is capable of performing a detailed evaluation of your condition and determining what type of physical therapy program is best suited for you, utilizing the most recent evidenced-based treatment techniques.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), states “By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy, recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the “practitioners of choice” to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to movement, function, and health.”
By becoming a “doctoring” profession, patients have more rapid access to physical therapy, and in most states (including NJ) have some form of “direct access” to physical therapy, as opposed to requiring a physician referral. Direct Access is said to decrease wait times for access to care and even help reduce both cost to consumer and overall healthcare costs. One study shows that patients who get physical therapy through “direct access” needs fewer visits (86%) to get the same outcome.
Therefore, when looking for a physical therapist, look for a “DPT”!