Seeking Therapy


How patients choose a physical therapist.

By Shirley Freeman

As an occasional physical therapy patient and marketing professional, I have given some thought to how patients choose a physical therapy clinic or therapist.

My first experience in seeking treatment was six years ago when I developed Achilles’ tendonitis and could barely walk. Fortunately for me, I had a friend who was a physical therapist (PT), and I did not need to consider looking further. I knew she was passionate about healing others, and once I began treatments, it was evident that her patients loved her and we all experienced real results.

It is a bit more complicated for those who either have a new injury or surgery requiring pre- and/or post-surgical rehabilitation. In most cases, their physician recommends a physical therapist whom they know and like. More savvy patients may research online to determine what clinic is most convenient and will read testimonials before deciding. Others may seek references from family and friends who have been successfully treated. Some choose a particular PT because they have seen or heard an advertisement that made an impression.

Unless you have an immediate need for physical therapy, it is not on your radar. But what physical therapists need to keep in mind is a potential patient could be in search of physical therapy care at any time. Good therapists nurture branding and “top of mind awareness” by educating their patients about the latest techniques they employ as well as the various types of conditions they treat. Education—mildly disguised as marketing—is the best tool to retain patients and attract new ones. For instance, include the various treatments offered on flyers and posters in the waiting room, ask patients for testimonials and publish them on your website, place them in newsletters, or create radio and TV ads with these testimonials. People like to see, hear, and read what others think about treatments and services. The more branding you do will also make an impression on the referring physicians in your region.

It is easy to assume everyone knows what you do. Recently, I had a marketing client who told me they had hired someone to redesign their logo. “Why didn’t you ask me? I design great logos.” Oops, they did not realize I design logos because I never told them. Lesson learned.

If you have a patient whose shoulder is being treated after surgery, and they do not know you offer dry needling that may help chronic migraines, then that patient will not be able to share that you could help their neighbor who suffers from bad headaches.

After physical therapy, most patients are healed, and you will never see them again. Some, like me, come back with new ailments. There is always attrition. Make a big impression by educating your patients, as well as staying in the public’s mind with regular marketing, and you will attract new patients. The bonus could be that your former patients may also become your best referral resource.


Shirley Freeman is a web designer and marketing consultant in Hampton, New Hampshire and provides marketing, graphic design and web services for small businesses, many in the medical industry. Her clients include a number of physical therapists and PT clinics throughout New England. She is also a physical therapy patient at Hampton Physical Therapy near her home in the beautiful seacoast region of New Hampshire. She can be reached at

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