Is my therapist licensed?

Physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are licensed by their respective states.

Physical therapists must earn a master’s degree or receive a doctoral degree in physical therapy (a DPT) from an accredited college program. Physical therapists also must pass a state-administered national exam. States also may impose their own regulations for practicing PT. You can find out more information about any other requirements for local physical therapists by contacting your state’s licensure board. Physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are licensed by their respective states.

Qualifications to Look for in a Physical Therapist

Orthopedic Certified Specialist – Probably the most common physical therapy specialist is the orthopedic specialist. These specialists care for post-surgical patients, arthritis, tendinitis/tendinosus, fracture rehabilitation, muscle sprains and strains, neck and back pain, hip and knee problems, shoulder, elbow, and wrist conditions. Some are board certified as Orthopedic Certified Specialists (OCS).

Neurologic Certified Specialist – A large portion of physical therapists work with patients who suffer from neurological, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. Functional retraining including, walking, wheelchair use, getting in and out of bed or chairs (transfer training), moving in bed (bed mobility), and retraining patients to use their shoulders, arms, and hands are just some of the services these therapists provide to those with neurological involvement. A certified specialist holds a Neurologic Certified Specialist title (NCS).

Certified Hand Therapist – Most physical therapists are well trained to treat hand and wrist conditions. Some therapists have taken additional courses and training and have passed a hand therapy certification examination. These therapists are called Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs). A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT), as defined by the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC), is an occupational therapist or physical therapist who has a minimum of five years of clinical experience, including 4,000 hours or more in direct practice in hand therapy, and has successfully passed a comprehensive test of advanced clinical skills and theory in upper quarter rehabilitation. CHTs are required to demonstrate continued professional development and competency by recertifying every five years.

Pediatric Certified Specialist – Pediatric therapists specialize in the rehabilitation of children. They may assist with kids who suffer from cerebral palsy, developmental disorders, neurological disorders, and/or orthopedic problems. A Pediatric Certified Specialist (PCS) is a board certification that some may obtain from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Geriatric Certified Specialist – Some therapists specialize in the rehabilitation of seniors. As the body ages, a variety of challenges arise. We stiffen, we lose strength, our balance skills decline, our bones become brittle (osteoporosis), our endurance decreases, and we take longer to recover from injuries. Balance and fall prevention are of paramount importance to the therapist who is working with seniors and some clinics are solely dedicated to caring for those with balance problems. Most physical therapists work with seniors/geriatric patients. Some have obtained additional education, have passed a board examination, and have earned the Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS) title.

Industrial Rehabilitation Specialist – Specialists in industrial rehabilitation help with those that have suffered on-the-job injuries. Moreover, they will evaluate work tasks, fabricate assistive devices, evaluate your ergonomic situation, and help redesign work flow/tasks to decrease the incidence of injury. Often, industrial rehabilitation specialists will evaluate your ability to perform certain job tasks with a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).

Sports Certified Specialist – Many sports specialists help with retraining the athlete utilizing running, throwing, jumping, and sport-specific programs to name a few. A therapist with the Sports Certified Specialist (SCS) title has passed a board certified test.

McKenzie Certified Therapist – Also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, the McKenzie Method is a philosophy of active patient involvement and education for back, neck and extremity problems. The key distinction is its initial assessment component—a safe and reliable means to accurately reach a diagnosis and only then make the appropriate treatment plan. Rarely are expensive tests required, Certified MDT clinicians have a valid indicator (evidence based) to know right away whether—and how—the method will work for each patient.

Can my therapist provide me with a diagnosis?

In most states, physical therapists cannot make a medical diagnosis. This is something that your medical doctor will provide for you. Physical therapists are important members of your medical team. At this point in time, physicians are typically the health care providers that will provide you with a medical diagnosis.