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Self-Advocacy: Choosing A Therapist

Self-Advocacy: Choosing A Therapist

What is one of the most important skills you look for in a therapist? Ask ten people and you will
likely get ten different answers. Many people will simply go wherever their doctor sends them.
But we recommend taking a more active role in determining where you will receive your physical
therapy or speech therapy. A good first step is considering your own preferences and priorities.
Is it important to you to have a therapist with many years of experience or do you want someone
who is a recent graduate? What type of setting do you prefer? Do you like a lively environment
or would you prefer a quiet clinic? Ask about the structure of your sessions. Will you see the
same therapist at each visit? Does that therapist see other patients at the same time?
Understanding your personal inclinations will help guide you to a therapist who can best meet
your needs. And, while your doctor may recommend a particular provider, it is always your
choice where you receive care.

When you call or visit a clinic, remember that the most important question you may ask the
therapist is, “What don’t you treat?” Therapists who value honesty, integrity, and professional
ethics should have a specific answer to this question. They should have an understanding of
their own strengths and weaknesses and feel confident and comfortable referring you to another
clinic if you would be best served by a different provider. We refer several patients a month to
other clinics and we are happy to do so knowing that we are helping them take the first step
towards excellent care.

No clinic can meet all the needs of every patient. Take the time to find a provider that will help
you meet your goals efficiently. Advocate for yourself. Ask questions of your providers and
expect honest, straight-forward answers to help you determine who is the best fit for your
particular needs at any given time. Speech Therapy and Physical Therapy are some of the
most intimate and prolonged relationships you will have with a healthcare provider. You will
spend hours with your clinicians working toward mutually-agreed upon goals for your return to
the highest level of function possible. Choosing wisely and trusting that your clinician has the
skills necessary to provide you with the best care possible is an integral part of the therapeutic

Think of your healthcare like your home maintenance. If you needed a home repair, you would
likely interview multiple professionals, get estimates, and seek the opinions of others before
hiring a contractor for your specific needs. You know that the painter doesn’t hang your
cabinets and the flooring specialist doesn’t install your drywall. Similarly, therapists have their
own areas of expertise. Treat your body as well as you would your home. Visit clinics, interview
therapists, and choose your Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy specialists with confidence.

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