How do you actually choose a therapist to visit for the first time?

I’ve written previously about reasons to return to your therapist (or not) and the feedback I have received has been good. Its proven to be useful guide – some people have changed therapists, some have stayed where they are despite initial misgivings. Scroll down my blog to find out more.

This time I thought I would give guidance on how do you choose one in the first place. There are lots of channels and each have pros & cons. I’ll start from the more common/relevant/successful ones and work down.

  1. It doesn’t matter. What I mean by this is that ALL therapists (chiros/physios/osteos/massage) are all trying to do a good job, put bread on the table, pay the mortgage etc. All have been trained to internationally recognised standards and all are subject to oversight and penalties to ensure their practice is current, effective and that they themselves are decent members of society. However, this doesn’t, necessarily make them a good therapist for your condition.
  2. Word-of-mouth (WoM). This is the most common. First and foremost you need to know the therapist is not a wierdo so your friend’s/colleague’s judgment is vital. Again, this doesn’t, automatically make them a good therapist for you or your condition. Also, people are “unreliable” witnesses. What I mean by this is we forget important things or misinterpret information. In my practice a couple of years ago I asked every patient, following my assessment to immediately to to their personal trainer (in the same building) and tell them what I had diagnosed and prescribed; virtually 100% incorrect by the time the PT had retold me. Where did the breakdown in communication occur? I could only improve mine – so all patients are sent an email detailing the specifics of their condition and what I want them to do.
  3. Your GP or surgeon. If a therapist is savvy enough and good enough to have built a reputation and relationship with senior clinicians then they are pretty good. This takes time, experience, results and excellent communication skills. If a surgeon advises someone specific you would be well advised to use them.
  4. What kind of practice do they work from? The quality of physio you receive depends purely on the practitioner’s skill set but where they are based will give you clue as to how experienced they are. Large practices can afford to deliver training and so can employ less experienced people so don’t choose a practice (BUPA, Nuffield, The Medical, etc), choose an individual. Also larger practices tend to have shareholders so normally charge more for less. They do often have better facilities and better access to other services so would suit those with more complex issues. Individuals in small rooms tend to offer good value especially if they’re part of a gym but make sure they have suitable experience to work independently – minimum of 5 years. Also check accreditation and licencing, especially if they deliver acupuncture. ALL clinic rooms should be clean and well equipped and with access to toilets and cleaning facilities.
  5. Google: in terms of location and important factors such as opening times, parking, access etc this is crucial and I would advise that a quick check prior to visiting in all cases is useful.
  6. Google Reviews: there needs to be at least a handful of good ones and hopefully no bad ones. But given that this is a medical profession few people are likely to complain via Google – there is the HCPC for this. Where there are less than 5* reviews check the clinic’s response, this might be a better indication of how good they are than a slew of 5* reviews.
  7. Check their websites, most physios (especially) will have a strong web presence due to different clinic’s and interests. Do you like the cut of their jib? Are they into the same things you are into (shouldn’t matter but does help)? Does their profile match your expectation? Remember, in the UK there are a couple of important things which provide reassurance online; 1) Physios (and to a lesser degree chiros and osteos) are not allowed to make spurious claims to advertise their services. Contrast this to America and Canada where Chiros claim to be able to do all sorts of stuff from curing cancer to fixing autism. 2) There is an unspoken rule that an individual practitioner won’t say they are better than others. How would any of us know? Besides, that’s not the point – the best diagnostician in the world is no good if they cannot communicate.
  8. Speak to them. Not their receptionists. Either by phone or message. A good practitioner is going to give you good advice FOR FREE and not try too hard to get you to book, normally because they’re too busy. They should be honest i.e. if you have literally just sprained your ankle they should advise to see how it goes for a couple of weeks before even thinking of popping in. They should also not be afraid at suggesting A&E or GP first.
  9. Professional magazines, online or otherwise. I’ve written for a few, do not be fooled. Most editors want free contributions so most articles are written by people trying to make a name for themselves. That’s not to say this is a bad thing – read the article and make up your own mind.
  10. Researchers: good researchers don’t often make good Physios. But they sometimes make the BEST.
  11. Online forums. In my opinion, worse than Google. They are a combination of the worst elements of WoM and random selection. So asking other runners/climbers/bikers/etc is a total lottery. Avoid.
  12. Ask your mum – definite no-no.

So, that’s my advice. Or come see me. I’m good. But I would say that.