You are the most important member of your own health care team, and you are entitled to choose the most appropriate health care professional to meet your goals.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has provided the following guidelines for choosing a physical therapist for your care.
Know Your Rights
All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow you to contact a physical therapist without a physician's referral. (Your insurance policy may require a visit to the primary care physician first or limit your access to preferred providers only.)
If your physician refers you for physical therapy to be provided in the physician's office, or to a facility in which the physician has a financial interest, know that you are not obligated to receive physical therapy in any specific facility.
You have the right to choose your own physical therapist.
How to Choose a Physical Therapist
- Use the Find a PT database to locate a physical therapist near you. You can narrow your search results by practice area. All physical therapists listed in Find a PT are members of the American Physical Therapy Association.
- Contact the physical therapist’s clinic to determine the services offered. All physical therapists have extensive training and experience. Some PTs treat specific patient groups (pediatrics, geriatrics, sports, women’s health, etc) or practice in specific settings (home health, outpatient, etc).
- Ask if the physical therapist's clinic participates with your insurance company. Receiving care from a participating physical therapist should minimize your financial responsibility. Some physical therapists accept cash payments.
- Ask whether the physical therapist's clinic will submit claims on your behalf to your insurance company. Some policies require copayments for services, and the amount of the copayment may depend on whether the physical therapist is part of the insurer's provider network. You also will have to meet your deductible, which is the portion of medical costs you will need to pay before the insurance benefit begins. The physical therapy clinic should be able to help you calculate an estimate of your financial responsibilities, but it is recommended you contact the insurance company directly prior to initiating treatment to verify out-of-pocket costs. Click here for additional information regarding the deductible and other insurance terms.
- If referred for treatment, verify that your “physical therapy” is being delivered by a physical therapist. “Physical therapy” is treatment provided by or under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Physical therapists use the designation PT (physical therapist) and/or DPT (doctor of physical therapy). Read an explanation of physical therapist education and credentials (PT, DPT, FAPTA, etc) in Adobe PDF.
How Do I Find a Specialist?
Many physical therapists specialize in treating specific areas of the body, such as the back, neck, knee, hand, or shoulder, or they may concentrate their practice on prenatal and postpartum care, sports injuries, stroke rehabilitation, or one of many other areas of physical therapy.
Physical therapists may also be certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) in 8 specialty areas of physical therapy: orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurology, women's health, and clinical electrophysiology.
Specialists are identified in the Find a PT directory with a red icon.