Therapist Shopping

In my area of work, I’ve heard all the horror stories involving a visit to the family doctor or emergency room doctor.  In nearly every case, the story-teller questions how the doctor could ever had earned his/her license to practice medicine.  The complaints cover everything: wrong diagnosis, crappy bed-side manner, doesn’t know English, made me feel worse, just gave me pills, and so on. But sometimes people just like to complain. Complaining can be therapeutic, and hey, I’m here to listen.  But sometimes people that complain about their doctor, or any health care provider for that matter, are completely in the right.  They should complain.  And they should seek a second, or even a third opinion if they see fit.  Unfortunately, although you could simply avoid that doctor if he/she is stationed at one specific hospital, it’s not as easy to just change your family doctor. Luckily, most family physicians and ER doctors are excellent at what they do.  But no Doctor is going to get EVERY diagnosis correct and it IS ok to ask for another opinion if you think it’s necessary. As of 2007, Ontario was short a whopping 2000 plus physicians!  As well, 85% of physician reports being at full capacity.  So, if you don’t like your doctor, good luck finding one of those 15% who aren’t full.  An easier way may be to find a future spouse who has a doctor you like, as most physicians will take a spouse onto their caseload.

The moral of the story? We don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a doctor – you have to hope he/she won’t miss anything during an evaluation and then trust that the correct treatment is given. Luckily, choosing a physiotherapist is a lot less strenuous!  Roughly 800 Physiotherapists graduate from the 14 accredited Canadian Universities each year, and that number will continue to grow. Don’t want to comb the yellow pages to to find someone to ‘fix’ your back?  Try the “Find a physio” link from the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.  The site lets you narrow your search criteria so you find the exact type of physiotherapist you are looking for. This still doesn’t necessarily get you the best therapist for you.  You have to be the judge of that!  When you go for your appointment, use your instincts.  Does the therapist listen to you when you describe your symptoms?  Does the therapist ask you about YOUR goals?  Does the therapist answer your questions fully and definitively, or at least point you towards resources that can provide more information?  Do you feel comfortable with the therapist?  You may not be able to answer these questions after one visit, but you should have a pretty good sense if you think your therapist is a good fit for you.  

Unlike finding a physician, you have the luxury of being picky with your physiotherapist. Most clinics employ multiple physios, and if not, there is probably another clinic a few minutes up the road.  Just like any profession, some people are passionate about what they do, they care about the people they interact with and they go the extra mile to make sure that the job is done as well as it can be done…and others just like to get paid for what they do. Some injuries require a physiotherapist with special knowledge and extra training, while other injuries can be treated by any competent therapist with a license to treat.  You may have to do your own injury research prior to seeking out a physiotherapist to see what type of care is required.  When you schedule your initial consultation, ask if the therapist has experience treating your specific condition.

NOTE: This shouldn’t exclude new graduates from treating you! New grads can be much better therapists than older therapists, and all new grads have working experience as it is part of the entry-level education in the US and Canada. Don’t settle!  If you start a treatment program and you have a bad feeling about the therapist and the type of treatment you are getting, or if you’re not seeing results in a reasonable amount of time, ask questions – and if the answers aren’t satisfactory, change therapists!  There is nothing stopping you from doing so, and insurance companies WILL continue to pay for therapy if you need to change therapists for whatever reason.

If all else fails, make a trip to Toronto to see one of Aim2Walk‘s therapists! – Matt

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