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We can start off by saying physical therapists are not discount doctors. They are specially trained in the science of physical therapy, recovery, and preventative precautions to protect the physical body. They understand pain, and they understand recovery. They understand the fear of surgery and seek to avoid that at all costs. 

A Debate on Semantics: Are Physical Therapists Doctors?

In October 2011, the New York Times published an article on the confusion of the term ‘doctor’ in various medical fields, including that of physical therapy, pharmacists, and nurses. The author and an interviewee spoke on their fear that the word ‘doctor’ would not mean the same thing as it once did (being trained in the medical field with the ability to prescribe medicine and diagnose medical issues) since many are claiming the ‘doctor’ title. Much of the strife is due to the fact that physicians (or, traditional doctors in this sense) undergo several years of additional schooling to earn the title of doctor, while (in 2011 and prior) the other previously mentioned positions often only require a bachelor’s degree. Beginning In 2015, physical therapists and nurses were starting to be required to obtain doctorate degrees prior to professional practice. 

Physical therapists grow and adapt intellectually as time goes on.

Looking back for a moment, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) said this in their Vision 2020 statement made in the year 2000:

“Physical therapy, by 2020, will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy and who may be board-certified specialists. Consumers will have direct access to physical therapists in all environments for patient/client management, prevention, and wellness services. Physical therapists will be practitioners of choice in patients’/clients’ health networks and will hold all privileges of autonomous practice. Physical therapists may be assisted by physical therapist assistants who are educated and licensed to provide physical therapist directed and supervised components of interventions.” 

Nowadays, a Doctorate of Physiotherapy (DPT) is the preparatory step toward eligibility for the physical therapy license exam in the United States. This higher-level requirement is to ensure top-of-the-line physical therapy care for all patients. So, while physical therapists aren’t doctors in the traditional sense, they are trained as doctors in their specific field of physical therapy. A key difference between the two (aside from specified training) is the notion that fellowships and residencies are optional in the PT program. The undergraduate degree lasts for a typical 4 years, and the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree lasts anywhere from 3-4 years, meaning physical therapists get a minimum of 7 years of school before being able to practice. 

Additionally, APTA responded to the New York Times piece by saying that “in order to provide accurate information to consumers, the association provides clear guidelines for physical therapists regarding the use of the title “Doctor.” The guidelines state that physical therapists, in all clinical settings, who hold a doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT), shall indicate they are physical therapists when using the title “Doctor” or “Dr,” and shall use the titles in accord with jurisdictional law.”

So, since 2015, physical therapists are doctors, but they’re not physicians. They undergo additional schooling as required for their specific professional practice just like any dentist, nurse, doctor, surgeon, optometrist, orthodontist, or therapist. 

Our Pro Active physical therapists know their stuff. 

When you visit a Pro Active Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine clinic, rest assured you’ll receive personalized care whether it’s preventative or restorative. If you’re privy to physical pain, we offer a variety of different physical therapy services while servicing patients across Colorado. Whether you were injured on the job, on the field, on a normal day, or weren’t injured at all, our licensed professionals can help you get where you want to be as far as mobility is concerned while also helping you recover, reduce pain, and generally avoid premature surgeries. Seeing a physical therapist can also help you manage side-effects of aging (arthritis, osteoporosis, heart or lung disease, diabetes, vascular conditions, or assisting to prevent falling) as well as help to improve balance. Many clinics also specialize in a number of Women’s Health and related concerns, such as pregnancy, postpartum, and other bodily functions. 

If you’re ready to say goodbye to pain, call, click, or stop in for a quick consult at Pro Active Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine today. 


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