10 Traits of Highly-Effective Physical Therapists


\PhysiotherapistContinuing our look at our picks for the top attributes for medical professions, we turn to the highly-rewarding field of physical therapy and ask what makes for an effective (and successful) therapist.

Thinking of getting in to this field? Want to weigh-in on what you think makes for an ideal physical therapist? Read on and have your say about the following traits:


While less than a quarter of PTs are APTA-credentialed, a study of clinical instructors in the Journal of Physical Therapy Education suggested there is a lack of motivation but great benefit to adding credentials that promote ongoing education, allow physical therapists to effectively network/collaborate with their colleagues, and instill confidence in both patients and peers.


The average physical therapist in America has more than 5 years experience, with physical therapy administrators and educational staff having 2-9 years experience on average. Experience is nice to have once you’ve got it and many PTs who are effective have lots of experience, but there are other factors as important or more so in being an effective physical therapist…



In August 2003, the APTA Board of Directors adopted as a core document Professionalism in Physical Therapy: Core Values. One of those values – accountability – is demonstrated “through a number of sample indicators that includes maintaining membership in PT-related organizations.”

Engaged in regular professional development

Physical therapists benefit from this more than most medical professionals in that they can more quickly apply new skills and procedures learned during professional development and see results more with patients immediately.


Involved in professional associations

For example, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) promotes physical therapy and advocates for physical therapists in Washington DC and locally, offers opportunities for networking and collaboration, provides resources and professional education, and promotes evidence-based practice.


Physical disability often involves loss or reduction in one or more abilities. While a physical therapist works with patients in an attempt to recover some of these diminished functions, a modest, reverential, even submissive attitude can help give patients the confidence they need to begin recovery.

Good Physiotherapist

Willing to do home visits

Home physical therapy is gaining popularity for patients and PTs who are willing to do house calls. Those who favor this kind of work can often enjoy higher profits due to the added-value of this service.


Beyond common decency, being kind to your patients means both of you will be in a good mood for treatment sessions and teed-up for positive results. A well-treated patient is more likely to feel good about themselves and get comfortable, often multiplying the effect of treatments.



Due to their close relationship with their patients, physical therapists who are able to be a sociable human being while still remaining professional will lead their clients to feel at ease during therapeutic sessions. Especially important in the profession, physical therapists must master their interpersonal skills or face career disaster.


Having confidence (or faith initially) in your abilities as a physical therapist – as in many medical professions – will give you competence, and thus, more confidence. Equally important, this chicken-and-the-egg process will engender confidence in your patients.


A highly knowledgeable physical therapist will exude confidence once there are few unknown factors that can effectively inhibit his or her performance. Perhaps more than any other trait on this list, physical therapists must – above all – know what they’re doing and know that they know what they’re doing.

Find physical therapist jobs.

Do you agree with our latest professional traits spotlight? Were you surprised by any items? What qualities do you think make for a good physical therapist? (Any not on this list?) Let us know in the Comments area below.


9 comments on “10 Traits of Highly-Effective Physical Therapists”

  1. Interestingly enough I happened to read this blog after a conversation I had with a PT last Sunday. Unfortunately I’m struggling through a back injury and have a need for a PT right now. I had a conversation with a PT friend of mine that does mostly home health and he referred me to a PT at Mercer in Atlanta that he thought was the best PT in the Southeast (to hear him talk he probably thinks this guy is the best in the world).

    Aside from being incredibly knowledgeable and gifted, the two most memorable traits this friend was most excited about were that the PT was incredibly Humble and a Great Person (I interpret Great to mean Kind and Sociable). I think there’s something to this list of traits.

  2. I recently went through physical therapy on my hip. I got a great result because I was paired with a physical therapist who had a very similar injury. The therapist commented on more than one visit that “he knew what I was feeling/going through.” I think one of the critical traits of a great PT is empathy.

  3. Having gone to outpatient rehab for PT last year, I can personally attest to the importance of a therapist’s kindness, personability and competence in their field. The journey of rehabilitation is rewarding but it can inlude pain and lots of frustration. A good therapist can help their patients acheive goals and help them to stay motivated during the process.

  4. I also have had a recent experience with a PT. My PT become my friend. I trusted her as if I’d known her for years. She was all of the things mentioned above. My PTs confidence kept me calm through all the treatments. She assured my time and time again that I would get better soon. I enjoyed the out patient setting as well. It was great to see people working out together in that setting.

  5. I’m a highly qualified physical therapist with an APTA certification and I am looking for a physical therapy job in the Southeast. Please call me if you have any top paying physical therapy jobs available. I just left my current physical therapy job and can start my next assignment next week.

  6. Unfortunately, we just had a bad experience with a PT who claimed she actually owned the clinic where I brought my son for treatment. On the counter, were a couple of patient information face sheets. She was condescending to me when I was insistent that my son was supposed to have a special brace for his hand. I immediately took my son out of the clinic and filed a complaint with HIPAA and with my insurance company for the lack of professionalism. I have to take him to another clinic which is much farther away, but if we receive competent care, then it should be worth leaving that clinic.

  7. I’m a high school senior looking to major in Physical Therapy. I was looking for any information on the type of courses that I may be involved with in college. I am hoping to be involved with some type of sports team when I am finished getting my major. Any advice.??


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *