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The Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, a detailed description of the practice of physical therapy, was first published in the November 1997 issue of Physical Therapy. A revision of the original Guide was published in 2001, and in 2003, the Interactive Guide to Physical Therapist Practice was released in the form of a CD-ROM. The purpose of the Guide was "to encourage a uniform approach to physical therapist practice and to explain to the world the nature of that practice."1 The Guide is divided into two parts:

  • Part 1: delineates the physical therapist's scope of practice and describes patient management by physical therapists (PTs).
  • Part 2: describes each of the diagnostic preferred practice patterns of patients typically treated by PTs.

The Guide1 has defined physical therapy as follows:

Physical therapy includes diagnosis and management of movement dysfunction and enhancement of physical and functional abilities; restoration, maintenance, and promotion of optimal physical function, optimal fitness and wellness, and optimal quality of life as it relates to movement and health; and prevention of the onset, symptoms, and progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities that may result from diseases, disorders, conditions, or injuries.

Physical therapy is defined as the care and services provided by or under the direction and supervision of a PT.1

  • PTs are the only professionals who provide physical therapy.
  • Physical therapist assistants (PTAs)—under the direction and supervision of the PT—are the only paraprofessionals who assist in the provision of physical therapy interventions.

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  • Patient—An individual who is receiving direct intervention for an imp airment, functional limitation, disability, or changing physical function and health status resulting from injury, disease, or other causes; an individual receiving health care services.
  • Client—A person who is not necessarily sick or injured but who can benefit from a PT's consultation, professional advice, or services. A client can also be a business, a school system, or other entity that may benefit from specific recommendations from a PT.
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CAPTE only accredits entry-level PT and PTA education programs, not transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) programs, which are considered post-professional programs.

Education and Qualifications1

PTs are professionally educated at the college or university level and are required to be licensed in the state (or states) in which they practice. Education programs for the preparation of PTs have been recognized in some manner since 1928, when the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) first published a list of approved programs.

  • Graduates from 1926 to 1959 who completed physical therapy curricula approved by appropriate accreditating bodies.
  • Graduates from 1960 to the present who have successfully completed professional physical therapy education programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in ...

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