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Toni Talks about PT Today

What Defines a Good Therapist?

Published March 8, 2011 12:58 PM by Toni Patt

Recently I had a conversation with another therapist who alleged I don't like the profession of physical therapy and questioned why I am a therapist. This assertion was based on various things I've written in my blogs. I was asked why I even practice physical therapy since I only write about bad things. Anyone reading the blog would never seek the services of a therapist unless told differently by someone else.

I was momentarily speechless. I recognize people aren't going to agree with everything I write. I also realize no matter what I write, someone is going to interpret it in a way other than was intended. Everyone has an opinion. I just happen to have a unique medium for expressing mine. For those who disagree strongly, there is always the option of posting a response.

I polled my coworkers today. None thought there was any relationship between not agreeing with the APTA or expressing opinions that didn't always put PT in the best light. They did see relationships between skills, knowledge and wanting the best for one's patient and being a good therapist. I know other therapists who disagree entirely with the APTA. Some refuse to pay for a membership because of this. By the criteria of my earlier conversation, those PTs would not be considered good therapists and possibly ones that dislike their profession.

Individuals disagree. That is why we have two political parties and elections. That is why we have so much conflict about how to repair health care. Just because I disagree with your opinion doesn't make me a bad person or therapist. I describe things that I disagree with and would like to see changed. I use examples of the mediocre because describing people who are excellent at what they do wouldn't have the same impact.

The majority of PTs and PTAs are excellent at what they do. Many others are very good at it. Only a small percentage would fall into the "not-so-hot" category. There aren't that many but enough to make an impact. That is the group that might be considered bad therapists.

I apologize to the person I was speaking with if something I wrote was offensive. It wasn't meant to be. Nor did I mean to imply the profession of physical therapy is part of some evil empire and composed of individuals who know nothing about what they're doing. Personally, I don't think disagreeing with the APTA makes someone a bad therapist. Nonetheless, I write what I think and will continue to do so.


Dr. Patt, as one who disagrees with you on many things, often here on these pages, I would like to state that your passion for your patients and your profession do come through to me. I have learned things from reading your posts, or sometimes something you wrote has caused me to reevaluate my own ideas and work. I call that professional discourse.

You and I will probably never see eye to eye on many things, but I'm grateful to read your viewpoints each week.

A piece of advice was given to me by the outgoing director of a home care agency that was being bought in a rather hostile takeover years back, "You will be asked, cajoled, threatened, and ridiculed in order to get you to compromise yourself in health care. Don't! In the end, it is all you have."

Cheers, Dean

Dean Metz March 9, 2011 1:26 PM

I understand you are using your experience to categorize the "excellent" "very good at" and "not so hot" but I think it is crossing that thin line of offensive and"poor journalism" (in the regards of blogging) to make those characterizations. Without a more objective statement it is very difficult to take that seriously. Granted, a more objective measure may not be available. I know therapists at some of the top institutions that I would not let touch me. Here in NYC there are a large number of POPTS where we could call the therapists "not-so-hot" right off the bat. What percent of our profession do these all make up?

Supposedly we have somewhere in the 40% range of APTA membership of all practicing clinicians. Obviously APTA membership is not the ultimate measure of quality of PT. There are so many different settings and outcome measures this task you are attempting to put into a simple blurb/paragraph does not seem to be a very good approach.

I have a similar opinion to your "accuser" in that it does seem you are very down on the profession.

As a new professional and one that is in the process of opening up my own clinic (and one that tends to disagree with the APTA as well) I think we need to be over analytic about all aspects of PT (down to each blog post out there). We as a profession need to sharpen up or we will miss the big healthcare boat. We need to do more than just treat the patient in front of us as best we know how. We have to strive for better everyday and push our colleagues to do the same. I have seen too much apathy and acceptance. (end of rant...for now)

Bo Babenko March 8, 2011 5:07 PM
New York NY

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