APTA FAQ

1. What exactly does an APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapist do?

APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapists help get people back in motion—literally. They work in private practices, schools, corporate environments, fitness facilities, and hospitals to examine, diagnose, and then prevent or treat conditions that limit the client’s ability to move. Sometimes teaming up with other healthcare professionals, licensed physical therapists are committed to offering alternatives to surgery, medication, and both short-term and chronic pain.

2. What credentials are required of an APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapist?

Every APTA-affiliated licensed physical therapist must earn a graduate degree – either a master’s degree or a clinical doctorate — from an accredited program. Then, prospective physical therapists take a national licensure examination.

Increasingly, APTA-affiliated licensed physical therapists are earning Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degrees—more than 75% of all recent Physical Therapy graduates hold a DPT degree.

3. Why become a Physical Therapist?

Most jobs in this day in age require a computer, a desk, and a chair—and many long hours seated. APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapists ensure that clients have access to strategies and resources for dealing with the pain, stress, and tension that comes with a sedentary life. Athletes rely on physical therapists for evaluation and rehabilitation, while some physical therapists help the elderly to remain mobile, comfortable, and empowered. Put more broadly, physical therapists work in all fifty states and across the world to educate, aid, and heal.

Hundreds of millions of American report chronic pain, yet physical therapists believe that humans have the capacity to get stronger as they age. Drugs or surgery aren’t always the answers to chronic pain, and a personalized training or exercise program can boost brain and heart health and function. APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapists have dynamic, critical jobs: to keep people everywhere in motion.

4. I’m a Physical Therapist. Why should I join APTA?

As a physical therapist, APTA offers the advocacy, professional development, and wealth of resources you need to propel your career, keep your practice up-to-date, and remain informed about issues affecting your practice on both local and federal levels. APTA advocates in Washington, DC, as well as in state capitals across the United States on issues ranging from health care reform to the Medicare therapy cap. APTA helps you to contact representatives, stay abreast of critical issues, and remain an active participant in the policy-making that’s shaping your profession.

With the belief that licensed physical therapists make a difference in the lives of their clients for the long term, APTA is committed to promoting the benefits of physical therapy. As an APTA member, you’ll have access to the marketing and PR tools necessary to share your abilities with consumers. MoveForwardPT.com offers resources for both consumers and health care professionals, and BrandBeat, APTA’s branding campaign, empowers licensed physical therapists to strengthen and circulate the profession’s brand. Discounts, live events, and a broad range of in-print and electronic publications, databases, and social networking avenues ensure that APTA members are in touch, informed, and engaged.

5. What are the eligibility requirements for joining APTA as a physical therapist? What about as a physical therapist assistant?

Physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) members need to have graduated from a CAPTE-accredited PT or PTA. Student members must be enrolled in a CAPTE-accredited PT or PTA program; for students, membership is limited to five years for doctorate students, two years for master’s students, and two years for an APTA-credentialed residency or fellowship.

6. I’m interested in scheduling an appointment with an APTA-affiliated licensed physical therapist. How do I go about selecting one?

Keep in mind that most states allow clients to make appointments with licensed physical therapists without requiring a physician’s referral. You have the freedom to choose your own licensed physical therapist, but your insurance policy may ask for a PCP visit, or may limit your access to preferred providers only. It’s critical that you choose a licensed physical therapist.

Use the electronic resource Find a PT to locate an APTA-member licensed physical therapist. When seeking out a licensed physical therapist, always inquire as to whether your insurance is accepted, but keep in mind that a licensed physical therapist outside your insurance plan might be the best choice for you—a specialist, for example, might be the most qualified person to treat a specific condition.

7. What other tips should I keep in mind when choosing an APTA-affiliated, licensed physical trainer?

As you’re searching, examine clinic websites for locations, hours of operation, special focuses, physical therapist biographies and credentials, and any financial policies in place.

Don’t forget that licensed physical therapists often specialize in treating specific areas of the body. Consider this: physical therapists focus on everything from prenatal and postpartum care to athletic injuries and muscle maintenance. All APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapists are  state-certified, but the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) address eight different arenas: orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurology, women’s health, and clinical electrophysiology.

8. What can I expect at an appointment with a physical therapist?

The job of the physical therapist is to teach the client to prevent or manage an injury or condition. APTA-affiliated, licensed physical therapists will motivate you during the course of your treatment, keeping you informed on your progress and reminding you of your goals, both short- and long-term. Your physical therapist will work with you to create a treatment plan designed specifically for what you need.

Ultimately, your physical therapist will help you to better understand the workings of your body—and there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy lifelong benefits.

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