7 Signs That You Should Find a Different Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are pretty nice people. They work closely with patients in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and in outpatient clinics. Some physical therapists even come to your home if you are unable to leave due to functional mobility or travel issues.

If you have had a functional mobility problem and have taken the time to find a physical therapist, most likely you will have a positive experience. Before starting physical therapy, ask a few basic questions to be sure that your physical therapist and the clinic where he or she works is a good fit for you.

Not every physical therapist is a perfect fit for every patient. You may find a physical therapist that is nice but is not really clicking with you. That's fine. But there are some instances when you absolutely must find a different physical therapist (or a different physical therapy clinic).


You Have No Rapport With Your Therapist

Physical therapist checking mans knee

Trevor Adeline / Getty Images

When you attend physical therapy, you should feel like you and your physical therapist are engaged in a therapeutic alliance to help you move better and feel better. You don't have to be best pals with your physical therapist, but you should feel comfortable with your physical therapist and feel like a positive therapeutic relationship has been created between the two of you.

Can you have a positive physical therapy experience with very little rapport with your physical therapist? Sure. But if you have attended three or four sessions with your physical therapist and can't remember his or her name, then you probably are not developing a solid rapport with your PT. Maybe it's time to seek out a different therapist.


Your Physical Therapist Does Not Listen to You

physical therapist talking to patient on stationary bike

 Trevor Adeline / Getty Images

All people are biased. It is impossible to get away from it. People have ideas about how things should be done, and sometimes it can be difficult to stray from those ideas and methods.

Your physical therapist probably has specific skills and methods that he or she has learned over the years to help treat patients. He or she may be biased toward certain treatment methods.

But sometimes those specific methods may not work for you. If that is the case, talk to your physical therapist about changing your rehab program to suit your needs. If your physical therapist is unwilling to modify your treatment program a bit to help you, perhaps you should find a new PT.


It Is Difficult to Get an Appointment Time

frustrated woman with phone in hand

Moof / Getty Images

If you contact a physical therapy clinic and need to wait more than a few weeks to see a physical therapist, perhaps you should find a different clinic. Why? Because studies show that many musculoskeletal conditions like back pain and shoulder pain respond favorably when the right care is started early after the initial injury.

If it takes weeks and weeks before you can even start in physical therapy, perhaps finding a therapist who can treat you right away is best. If you are currently in a physical therapy program and are having a tough time getting in to see your physical therapist, maybe a different clinic should be considered.


You Notice Improper Billing and Claims Filing

Concerned woman holding bills and talking on cell phone

Echo / Getty Images

In the US, many physical therapists get paid by third-party insurance carriers. Physical therapy treatment is provided, and then an insurance claim is filed by the treating PT or the clinic's billing department. After payment is made, your insurance company may send you a notice called an "explanation of benefits" that outlines the claim that was filed and what treatments were billed to the insurance company.

What if you notice that your physical therapist billed your insurance company for a treatment that you did not receive? First, speak with your therapist's billing department about the possible discrepancy. Mistakes happen, and a corrected claim can be filed.

But if you consistently notice improper charges and billing shenanigans, head for the hills. There are a few bad apples in every profession, and there may be a physical therapist out there who is not playing by the rules. In this case, find a new PT. (You may want to also notify your insurance company about your findings so that proper steps can be taken to eliminate any fraud or abuse that may be taking place).


Your Physical Therapist Only Provides Passive Treatments

Physical therapist using ultrasound probe on patient knee

Hero Images / Getty Images

Passive treatments and modalities like ultrasound, traction, or massage feel good. They can also be an important part of your physical therapy program. Passive treatments should never be the only part of your treatment program in physical therapy.

Most studies indicate that active treatments like exercise and postural correction are beneficial for many conditions. Be sure that your physical therapist teaches you about your condition and offers you solutions for self-care to help with your condition.

Passive treatments may only serve to make you dependent on your physical therapist. Active treatments help to give you control over your situation.


Lack of Personal Attention and Care

Women sitting in hospital waiting room

Robert Daly / Getty Images

Your physical therapist is probably a busy person. He or she is likely managing many patients and working to ensure each person receives the best care possible.

Sometimes your physical therapist gets busy, and he or she may be managing one or two patients at a time. But if your physical therapist is bouncing between you and four other patients, then you may want to find a physical therapist who offers more personalized care and attention.

Some physical therapy clinics schedule patients every 15 minutes. Others schedule patients every 20 or 30 minutes. Be sure to ask how long each appointment should last, and ask if your physical therapist "double books" patients. Too much double-booking equals less personal attention for you, so you may want to look for a physical therapist who can offer you more personalized care.


Treatment Is Not Provided by a Licensed Professional

Disabled woman doing physical therapy with trainer

PhotoAbility / Getty Images

Your physical therapy treatment should always be provided by a physical therapist or a physical therapist assistant (PTA). Many clinics have other workers like athletic trainers, physical therapy aides, or rehabilitation technicians who help physical therapists manage workflow and patients.

Your care should not be provided solely by these people. Only physical therapists and PTAs who are licensed by the state in which they work can provide your care.

If you are unsure of the credentials of the person providing your care, simply ask. If your care is not provided by a licensed PT or PTA, it may be time to find a new clinic.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Atlas SJ, Deyo RA. Evaluating and managing acute low back pain in the primary care setting. J Gen Intern Med. 2001;16(2):120-31. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2001.91141.x

  2. Kim D, Cho M, Park Y, Yang Y. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(6):1791-4. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.1791

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.