My Road to PT

The Ultimate Guide to Writing PT School Application Essays

Here are some pointers for writing essays when you apply to physical therapy school. Please know that there isn’t a single best way to write your essays and everyone will answer each prompt differently, so do what works for you!

Essays are challenging to write, especially without any guidance. I had about 10 revisions of each of the 7 essays I wrote, had several people read them each time, and still had trouble writing some of them.

How to Start Writing Your Essay

1. Organize Your Thoughts

Write down the essay prompt, either on a computer or by hand. Read it a couple times, even out loud, until you have a good idea of what it is asking.

Then write down any thoughts that came to mind. They can be related to the prompt, or you can just write down what you like about the physical therapy profession or any specific experiences that stand out to you.

It doesn’t matter if you’ll actually end up writing about them. Don’t worry about your grammar or if it is written well. Just write down all of your thoughts into bullet points, or just a few words or a sentence for each idea.

If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, there is a section at the end of this post just for you. There are a lot of questions that may help you come up with ideas for your essay, so go check them out!

2. Turn your ideas into paragraphs

Write more about each point that you wrote down. Try to form a paragraph and relate it back to the prompt. If you’re struggling on writing more than a sentence or two about the bullet point, then maybe one of your other ideas will be better to include in your essay.

3. Choose 2-3 things to talk about

Now that you’ve written as much as you can about each bullet point, you should start to see a general direction to keep writing your essay. What are your favorite topics? What ideas can relate to each other to make a cohesive essay? What ideas answer the prompt the best?

4. Form a Complete Essay

Now that you’ve chosen your favorite paragraphs, format them into one essay. Now you can add an introduction paragraph that briefly mentions these paragraphs and your overall topic. Then you can add a conclusion.

5. Edit Your Essay

Now that you have a complete essay, you can read it from beginning to end. If it doesn’t flow well between each paragraph, add some transition sentences. If you don’t answer the prompt very well, rewrite some sentences. Keep editing and rewording until the essay is finished.

How Do You Format Your Essay?

You can format your essay however you like! I recommend that you have an introduction, some body paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, you don’t need your typical “5 paragraph” essay. Some supplemental essays may also have a shorter length, so you might only write two paragraphs.

You can indent each new paragraph, or just put a space between paragraphs instead of indenting, unless the school states that there is a specific way they want you to format your essay.

General Tips for PT School Essays

I know that writing your essays is not as simple as those 5 steps. It can take weeks and be mentally exhausting. However, I’ve included a bunch of tips to help guide you to writing a great essay.

  • Be careful what you write about patients. If you choose to write about a patient, don’t include any specific personal information like their name, ethnicity, or occupation, or you will be violating HIPAA. Describing their general age, condition, gender, what setting you observed in, general occupation if it relates to your story, and what interventions were used is perfectly fine.
  • Don’t use contractions.  I just did, but that’s besides the point! Contractions are too casual, so avoid them if possible.
  • First-person speech.  It’s ok to say “I” and talk in first person. You’re writing about yourself, after all! Just make sure that you vary your sentence structure so that you don’t begin every sentence with “I”. There is never any reason to say “I think” in any sentence. It sounds unprofessional, so just delete it.
  • Focus on the positives.  If you had any negative experiences, setbacks, or mistakes, don’t spend too much time writing about them. Explain yourself in a couple sentences, but focus on what you learned and how you’ve bettered yourself. Don’t dwell on the past, but try to focus on the positive results.
  • Try to avoid clichés.  Almost everyone can write about how they want to be a physical therapist because they love to help people, or because they got injured and need physical therapy. You can briefly write these things, but you need to have other, more personal experiences that you can write about. Be sure to set yourself apart from others.
  • Why have you chosen each school?  For supplemental essays for a specific school, make sure to mention why you want to go to their school, if it fits into the prompt. It’s good to show that you’ve done your research and are excited to attend their program for specific reasons.
  • Answer the question.  It’s self-explanatory, but it’s so easy to get caught up in what you’re writing and go in a direction that doesn’t answer the original prompt. Make sure everything that appears in the essay helps to answer the prompt in some way.
  • Have others read and edit your essay. Family members, friends, classmates, college writing center, or people on the Student Doctor Network Forums can all help your essay. It’s so beneficial to have an outside perspective on essays, especially because the admissions committee reading your essay won’t read it in the same way that you do. Try to have as many people critique your essay as possible.
  • If you ask for help online, don’t post your entire essay for everyone on the internet to read. Make a new thread or comment on a current essay thread, and send an email directly to the person willing to read your essay. There are people that might steal your essay and use it as their own, so be careful who you send it to.
  • Take a break from writing. Constantly thinking about your essay, rewriting, and editing is exhausting. It’s helpful to take a few days from working on your essay, and then come back to it with a fresh start.
  • Try writing in different environments. I wrote mostly at home, but found that I got stuck with my writing. I started to write at coffee shops, which helped me be more productive. Try working at a library, outside, at a friend’s house, or in a different room in your own house.
  • Essays can take weeks to write.  Make sure you start early enough so you aren’t stressed out from trying to meet an upcoming deadline. Start working on your essays as soon as possible.
  • Be careful when writing multiple essays.  The PTCAS essay is sent to every school, so don’t copy and paste the same paragraphs into any supplemental essays. However, if two different schools have an essay prompt that is similar, then feel free to similar paragraphs.
  • Essays are weighed differently by each school.  Some might not even read the PTCAS essay, others care more about their supplemental essays, or some schools do not care much about a well-written essay.
  • Maximum character length.  You don’t have to write 4498 out of 4450 characters for your essay to be great.  Shorter is fine if you can get your point across. Aim for the character maximum, but it’s fine to have several hundred less than that.
  • What if you wrote too much?  Worry about the essay length after you have written your thoughts down. When you are finalizing your essay, remove the repetitive information and anything that does not support the prompt, for starters. Then you can try rewording your sentences so they get straight to your point.

Tips for Specific Essays

If you’re stuck with writing your essays, see if you can answer these questions. You don’t need to answer all of them or any of them to write a great essay. A lot of these questions will overlap and be useful on other prompts, so make sure to read through everything if you need help.

Hopefully these questions will get you out of any writers block you may have.


You can find the essay prompt on the PTCAS Essay page , or on their Facebook page once it is released. When I applied in 2014, the essay prompt was released in early June, and the PTCAS application opened in early July. This gave me an entire month to write my essay before I could even start my PTCAS application.

The essay prompt changes every year or every several years, so I can’t give great advice for this. These are some tips from past essays, so hopefully they help.

  • How have your life experiences shaped who you are?
  • What observation experiences can you talk about?
  • Are there any patients that have influenced you?
  • How has an experience impacted how you want to want to practice physical therapy?
  • Who are the most influential people in your life?
  • When did you know that you wanted to be a physical therapist?
  • When have you been on a team or worked in a group? How was the team approach better than working by yourself?
  • Where do you see the field of physical therapy going, and how do you fit into that picture?
  • What sort of physical therapist to you see yourself being?
  • How would you treat your future patients?
  • What dream goals do you have?
  • What character traits are important to have as a physical therapist
  • What experiences have strengthened those traits for you, or what traits are you currently working on?
  • How has your time spent as a patient affected how you will be a physical therapist?
  • Are there any specific therapists that you wish to be like, or any therapists that you don’t want to become?
  • Why will you be valuable to this profession?
  • Are you interested in teaching, research, owning your own business, traveling, working for a nonprofit, or volunteering in another country?

Autobiography Essay

  • What challenges have you overcome in your life?
  • What are some of your major accomplishments?
  • Why do you want to be a physical therapist?
  • What things have you done that helped you grow as an individual
  • What activities have you participated in?
  • Who are some influential people on your life?
  • How have your family, friends, or peers shaped who you are today?
  • How would other people describe you?
  • What 5 words describe you the best?
  • What character traits are important for a physical therapist to have? Do you have these traits, or how are you improving them?
  • What is important to you?
  • How will your experiences make you a successful physical therapy student/physical therapist?
  • How did your upbringing shape your personality, and how will that make you a better physical therapist?
  • How have your experiences led you to the physical therapy career instead of other health care careers?
  • Is there a central theme about your life experiences?
  • How can you contribute to the field of physical therapy and your future patients?

Diversity Essay

  • Describe your life experience as it is related to your culture.
  • Is it hard to understand others who are from a different culture?
  • Do you have a culturally different perspective than your peers?
  • Does your culture have a different set of health care beliefs, or have you encountered another culture with different beliefs?
  • Have you had an experience in life where you felt like your culture created a barrier for you?
  • Have you volunteered for an economically disadvantaged population?
  • Do you have trouble relating to higher socioeconomic classes?
  • Have your experiences helped you relate better to certain people?
  • Have you witnessed any social, cultural, or economic barriers when observing in a health care setting?
  • How have you learned from any of these experiences?
  • How does recognizing, understanding, or appreciating diversity make you a better physical therapist?
  • Have you worked with individuals with disabilities?
  • How do these experiences support that you will be able to work with diverse patients when you are a physical therapist?

Reapplicant Essay

  • Have you retaken any classes?
  • Did you retake the GRE?
  • Do you have additional observation experiences?
  • Did you observe in any new settings or see a different patient population?
  • Did you have any additional work experience?
  • Where you involved in any groups or team sports?
  • Did you volunteer?
  • How are you more prepared to be a successful student?
  • Have you improved any personal skills?
  • Have you worked with individuals that are different or gave you a unique perspective?
  • What have you learned and how have you improved?
  • How did these new experiences change your perspective, improve your application, change your personality, taught you something new, made you grow, or support your desire to become a physical therapist?

Does Your Academic Record Accurately Reflect Your Capabilities?

Most people say that you should only answer this section if something major happened in your life that was out of your control, like an illness, personal injury, family emergency, death of a loved one, etc.

Don’t use this area to write a list of excuses for why your grades weren’t as good as you wished. Examples of excuses: Explaining that you weren’t mature enough, didn’t study hard enough, partied too much, took too many difficult classes, or went to a challenging university. Those are excuses because you were responsible and they could have been avoided or handled better. If you are eager to explain yourself, you can try to add a sentence or two into your PTCAS essay.

A lot of people had lower grades at the beginning of their college career, so if your grades improved over time and your transcript shows that, you don’t need to write an essay to explain yourself.  It takes a while to learn how to succeed in college, and admissions committees understand that.

Additional Resources

Unfortunately there isn’t much information about physical therapy school essays. I found these resources for general essay writing, grad school essays, and med school essays, but they’re mostly applicable to physical therapy school too!

PTCAS Essay Prompt Essay Workshop 101 Writing the Personal Statement Personal Statement Before You Write Your Personal Statement, Read This Writing Your Medical School Personal Statement: Tips and Myths Writing the Personal Statement for Medical School

Student Doctor Network Forums:

Supplemental Essays character limit   PTCAS Essay question for 2015-2016 application cycle! Essay   This year’s personal statement prompt? Should I or should I not write about this in my essay? Re-applicant essay Does your personal statement have to be 4500 characters? 

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how to write an essay about physical therapy

The link you set for the reapplicant essay doesn’t lead to that blog post. I wanted to ask if you know if reapplicants should submit the same essays if the essay question is the same this year?

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Sorry for taking so long to reply! I just saw your comment this morning.

Thank you for letting me know about the link. Occasionally blogs are taken down, so I’ll have to go through and make sure to remove all the links to that site.

That’s a tough question, and I don’t think there is really a correct answer. If you read the Student Doctor Network forums , you can find others who have run into the same situation. Do you know why you were not accepted the first time around? If you didn’t meet the GPA or GRE requirements, your application may have been automatically disqualified and your essays might have never been read. You can choose to use the same exact essay, but hopefully they haven’t been read by the same program already. You can also choose to edit your essays a little bit, and maybe add any new experiences that you’ve had since you last applied.

Best of luck this application cycle! 🙂

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Hi Katie! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I really appreciate it!!! I’m just wandering if you know any PT personal essay editing service?

Hey Lauren! Sorry for the delay in my response, and I hope it isn’t too late.

When I was applying to schools, I sent my essays to 3-4 of my friends (including an English major), so I got tons of feedback from them. There’s also the Student Doctor Network forums, and there are DPT students and PTs that offer up their spare time to edit essays! Just be cautious when sending your essay to strangers on the forum – make sure that they have a decent number of posts on that site.

I’m not sure if there is an essay editing service online, specific towards PT admissions essays.

If you need any last minute help, feel free to email me your essay and I can give some comments! Best of luck with getting into schools! 🙂

how to write an essay about physical therapy

I’m almost finished with my PTCAS application process and I found this. Super helpful, I’m making some edits to my essay now. Thank you!

how to write an essay about physical therapy

You’re welcome! I’m glad I could help! Good luck with applying and everything.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Thank you, that was so helpful!

You’re welcome! Thanks for the nice comment 🙂 glad I was able to help!


Physical Therapy Personal Statement Examples

Your physiotherapy personal statement is the most important element of your university application. It is usually the factor that universities consider when deciding whether or not they should admit you to their school. We’ll show you some physical therapy personal statement examples in this article!

Your physical therapy personal statement should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject and why you would have been such a valuable member of their university community.

We propose that you browse over some previous Physiotherapy personal statement examples for inspiration when you begin writing your own.

physical therapy essay examples

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Below are some physical therapy personal statement examples . These examples will allow you to see what shape and tone you require, as well as what colleges are searching for in general.

It’s Good To Know: Candidate Statement Sample

When I was a kid, I first heard the term “ physical therapy .”

My older cousin suffered from a brain aneurysm and then had to walk properly again through therapy. I had no idea what the science or profession was that was underlying the work. My only knowledge was that my relative was gradually recovering. Years later, I’m ready to turn that magic into a job. Helping people makes me think I’m getting the most out of life, thus I want to become a physical therapist. I’d like to leave a legacy of inspiration behind.

I remember working as a health coach and have had the pleasure of inspiring people to make positive changes in their lives. I also picked physical therapy as a career option since I am motivated by the desire to help people. As a volunteer at Camp Camp, I help physically challenged youngsters to access outdoor activities that were previously unavailable to them. I assist these children in making what appears to them to be unattainable a reality. Physical therapy strikes me as particularly related to the patient population.

I would like to be a guide again for the future and a healer for the past, as well as a solution to a single problem. I can’t imagine another career that will give me the foundation to make such a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Since my enthusiasm for the field, I believe I should be accepted into a physical therapy program.

Physical therapy is more than just a simple professional choice for me. It has forced me to overcome numerous challenges. My Bachelor of Science from the University of Denver was a huge milestone for me to be the first of three children to receive a college diploma. During my academic years, I majored in Electrical Engineering. It was a major that I believed would lead to a prominent job and one that my family would be proud of. However, I quickly discovered that Electrical Engineering was not my passion.

It required a lot of courage for me to abandon a career path that might have led to success. Volunteering allowed me to do some soul-searching. At this point, I decided to change my major to Kinesiology and start a new profession. I’ve given it a lot of thought before making this decision. Other employment possibilities have not only occurred to me, but I have also pursued them. Still, I return to my original plan of pursuing a career in physical therapy. I am certain that I will succeed in this program. I would bring my determination, motivation, and personality to every element of the program if accepted.

Food Habit Paragraph

I’ll continue to do well in my subjects academically. My volunteer work will be integrated into my whole experience so that I may bring that motivation to the curriculum. I’ll draw inspiration from my life experiences and family to push myself even harder. I intend to communicate with peers to obtain a better understanding of other facets of this profession while also sharing my own story. Finally, I will accomplish all of these goals in collaboration with a group of academics and students.

I am committed to achieving success in a career that I like every day. I didn’t understand it could be a future career when my cousin used physical therapy to learn to walk again when I was a kid. It seemed more mystical to me; an incomprehensible occurrence that altered someone’s life. Even though I now have a much more mature perspective on the events of my childhood and am aware of the science underlying the phenomenon. I still get a sense of magic when I think about how far I’ve come and where I’m going. I’m fortunate to have discovered a career that motivates me to get out of bed every day and do something positive.

You can use this sample as a physical therapy assistant personal statement. But never copy-paste it. 

My parents have had a vision of the career they need me to get when I grow up since I was a toddler. They encouraged me to forge my path to a better future and placed great expectations on me. They are proud of me because I am the first in my family to graduate from college. I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp with little access to medical care, technology, or further education. There is no way to compare that situation to the one in the United States. My parents instilled in me the belief that even a person’s personality is defined by their work. They informed me that it aids in the understanding and expression of one’s individuality, improves stability, offers satisfaction, and allows people to achieve their goals.

My goal is to overcome the challenges that my family has faced, rather than allowing them to rule me. I try to set an example for my brothers and the rest of my family’s children. On the road to success, you’ll need to plan your career, work hard, use the right tools, and dedicate yourself to it. My ambition is to become a person who can help the poor and make a difference in the world. I want to set an example for people to follow by leading by example.

When I first grasped the importance of physical therapy, I comprehended what it meant to be disabled across all levels: physical, mental, and emotional. I was in a car accident a few years ago, and then as part of my recovery, I needed to see a therapist to help me regain function in my injured back and shoulder. Then and there, I discovered firsthand how important a physical therapist is in the healthcare field.

I discovered that the therapist’s commitment to restoring the patients’ health, assisting them in moving again, and returning them to their normal lives is critical. My personal experience taught me that a skilled therapist must have a thorough understanding of the body’s movement, endurance, and strength, particularly in the areas of my back muscles, arms, and joints. That medical practitioner assisted me in managing my discomfort and improving my mobility.

Eventually, I decided to reconsider my goals, modify my career path, and make every effort possible to obtain one of the most gratifying professions. I’ve decided to apply for physical therapy because it will allow me to make a difference in someone else’s life, just like it did in mine a few years ago. Because it has become a true passion for me, I hope to uphold a set of core beliefs and principles as just a physical therapist and achieve perfection as a specialist.

How To Write a Personal Statement For Transfer Money?

I want to treat my patients as if they were members of my family. I’ll never turn them away due to financial constraints. I want to be a source of inspiration and strength for them. I want to be the one that makes the patients have a good time, feel relieved, and not worried or sad about their situation. After being injured, I know how difficult it is to restart a normal life. I understand how difficult it is to go through difficult moments. I value my family’s support because they are the driving force behind all I do or strive to be. They gave us the ability to be the first in my family to graduate high school and obtain the Seinfeld Scholarship Award as well as a Bachelor of Science in Health Science with a Psychology focus.

This is one of the finest physiotherapy masters personal statement examples.

My best friend’s brother had been in the military in Afghanistan during high school. His family was devastated to learn that he’d been involved in an insurgent explosive attack following months of combat. He had been in critical condition for more than a week. While surgeons were able to save his life, they were unable to salvage his limb. He was shocked but alive when he returned from Afghanistan, and he began physical treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center. During his two years of recuperation, I paid him numerous visits and observed how he gradually acclimated to being capable of moving, and then walking with such a prosthetic.

It was because of this experience that I decided to pursue a career in physics. Most people envision therapists directing a patient through simple motions repeatedly to “retrain” limbs to work in a specific way when they think of physical therapy. Although this is an important part of their employment, being a physical therapist also requires the capacity to provide emotional counseling and treatment. My friend’s brother had an extraordinarily gifted therapist who indicated that, while losing a leg would undoubtedly impact his life, it was still possible to live a regular life with it provided he had the determination to stick with it. Interacting alongside his physical therapist and seeing him acquire confidence in his new life inspired me to pursue a career in physical therapy. I wish to gain understanding and skills in a variety of industries as a Master’s student studying physical therapy.

I’ll learn the most up-to-date techniques and approaches in the sector, as well as the medical foundations for their application. But, I would be presented with current research that points to new directions for physical therapy, and I may do my study to simulate human damage and healing. All of these experiences from my Master’s in Physical Therapy program, I believe, will improve my capacity to interact with physicians and patients in the future as just a physical therapist.

My Home Town Paragraph

1) Select An Expertise

  • Begin by identifying a memorable experience. One apparent option is to select a physical therapy experience that inspired you to pursue the profession. However, the question does not state that this must be clinical or physical therapy-related, so don’t limit yourself to these scenarios.

(See  PTCAS personal statement examples where people have described their experiences).

Consider the following experiences as possible topics for your writing:

  • Overcoming difficulties/adversity
  • Living with a physical or mental impairment
  • Taking care of a family member who has a handicap or suffers from a chronic disease
  • Experience as a volunteer
  • Missions to provide medical assistance
  • Working on a specific patient case
  • Working with others/leading a team
  • Teaching/mentoring

2) Describe How Your Life Has Changed As a Result Of The Experience

As given in the above physiotherapy job personal statement examples, tell about how the experience changed your career. Once you’ve narrowed down a few such events, you’ll need to figure out how each one “affected your personal growth, such as attitudes and perspectives.” This event should be ruled out if you are unable to recognize a shift in your growth.

Perhaps you worked with someone with whom you disagreed, but you learned to understand and respect their point of view. Maybe your time as a caregiver taught you how tough everyday duties can be for someone who has a chronic disease or handicap. 

Perhaps your work with marginalized populations has given you a better understanding of healthcare inequities and inspired you to provide care in these areas.

3) How Will This Experience Influence Your Future Career as a Physical Therapist?

how to write an essay about physical therapy

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re writing this essay to apply to physical therapy programs. As a result, you’ll want to wrap up this response by discussing how this shift in viewpoint has prepared or motivated you to become a great physical therapist.

Consider the following questions when you respond to the final section of the prompt:

  • Did your professional ambitions change as a result of this experience?
  • What impact has your shift in viewpoint had on the way you’ll approach patient care?
  • Is there anything in your answer that relates to the APTA Core Values?

Before selecting the real experience for this prompt, think about each event from steps 1-3. Before you define your statement, you might want to doodle some short sketches to assist you to get started.

Take advantage of the prompt’s versatility. Don’t stress about finding that one-of-a-kind experience; instead, focus on a single incident that defines your tale.

Hire our personal statement writers. You can see our occupational therapy personal statement examples. 

If you are looking for athletic training personal statement examples , the above examples may help you. But if you are confused you can ask us for more help.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Author & Editor Team: : Adila Zakir, Alexa Smith

Our review panel has been working in academic and non-academic writing for more than 1 decade.

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How Do I Write My PTCAS Essay (Personal Statement)?

The PT School application process is challenging, to say the least. But, it’s incredibly rewarding, because at the end of this process you’ll be on your way to starting your career and getting your dream job as a physical therapist.

One of the most important parts of the PT School application process is the personal statement , or the essay . Each year, the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service ( PTCAS ) sets a specific prompt for the personal statement. This personal statement is submitted to every school to which you apply. In short, it’s a chance for you to set yourself apart from the other applicants. So, how do you write your PTCAS essay ? Let’s dive in to learn more about this part of the application process, and learn more about our services to help you with your personal statement here !

What is a Personal Statement?

A Personal Statement is an essay that explains your background and allows you to describe yourself. It’s a common requirement for graduate schools and jobs, so it’s especially important for you to use the personal statement to explain why you want to pursue this opportunity.

A Personal Statement can be a general description of yourself or it can answer a specific prompt . It’s common for graduate schools to ask specific questions for the Personal Statement.¹ In this case, the Personal Statement is a chance for you to show the admissions committee who you are beyond the data in your application . In an essay format, you can expand upon your character, goals, and background, allowing the admissions committee to get to know you.

What Should I Know About a Physical Therapy Personal Statement?

PTCAS Personal Statement prompts can vary in topics, but ultimately they touch on the physical therapy profession. It’s important that you answer the PTCAS question in your essay. But you should also view this as an opportunity to describe yourself to the admissions committees. Keep in mind that these committees are reviewing hundreds, or even thousands, of applications each year. Use this opportunity to set yourself apart .

In your essay, you should explain why you want to become a physical therapist, but try to avoid using a common reason such as “I want to help people.” Show the admissions committee your passion for physical therapy and prove to them why you belong in physical therapy school and why you’re going to become a great physical therapist.

Above all, remember that through the 4,500 characters in your essay, you’re not just telling the admissions committees who you are… you’re showing them.

Contact us today with any questions or for help with your PT school personal statement!

Lab P. The Personal Statement // Purdue Writing Lab. Purdue Writing Lab. Published 2020. Accessed July 26, 2020.

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86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best physical therapy topic ideas & essay examples, ⭐ simple & easy physical therapy essay titles, 👍 good essay topics on physical therapy, ❓ physical therapy research questions.

  • Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Physical Therapists In the recent past, as a result of the increased autonomy of physical therapists in executing their duties, there has been an increase in the number of ethical and legal responsibilities of individuals in this […]
  • The Career of a Physical Therapist The cost of attaining a degree in Physical therapy at the University of Delaware is estimated to be about 9,486 dollars for the in-state tuition fee and 23,186 for the out-of-state. We will write a custom essay specifically for you by our professional experts 808 writers online Learn More
  • Negligence in Physical Therapy Even if the therapist owed a duty to the patient and acted outside the standard of care, the plaintiff still has to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the action of the therapist caused an […]
  • Physical Therapy Activities The justification for conducting this particular research was premised on the fact that relatively few studies had attempted to evaluate and address the relationship between physical therapy treatments and outcomes by specifically investigating the individual […]
  • The Relationship Between Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant Conversely, the training offered to the PTA’s enables them to provide care, support, and physical handling of clients under a management strategy developed by the PT.
  • ACL Surgery Physical Therapy Plan Resistance training can be incorporated into the exercise program to help build strength and improve stability in the knee. Working with a physical therapist with knowledge of ACL rehabilitation is necessary to guarantee the program’s […]
  • The Education of Physical Therapy Students In the era of COVID-19, many students were forced to study online, and this type of learner has become one of the most popular in the medical sphere.
  • Aspects of Geriatric Physical Therapy The authors of the study evaluated secondary data and presented the interconnections of an essential chain of mechanisms reflection on training processes such as enzymes, neurotransmitters, and ion channels positively influencing the cardiovascular system, cardiorespiratory […]
  • Job Opportunities for a Physical Therapist Assistant Since a range of health issues and disorders are addressed in the specified settings, the assistance of a qualified PTA is likely to be quite welcome in a rehabilitation center.
  • Physical Therapy: Orthopedic Chairs Proposal Being aware of the fact that the received orthopedic chairs are out-of-date and out of service for necessary repair, I have to inform healthcare staff about the shortages of new products, and our administrator is […]
  • Funds to Set Up Physical Therapy and Rehabilitative Medicine Department There is a current need to evaluate the provision of physical therapy in society today, taking into consideration the number of people who need therapy, and the people with actual access to the service.
  • Arthritis: The Use of Physical and Occupational Therapy Incorporating credible evidence, the paper expounds on biological factors such as unusual bowel permeability, genetic and microorganism as the causes of arthritis The paper examines the use of physical and occupational therapy, as some of […]
  • Paraplegia: Normative Model for Physical Therapy Education Adjustment to the way of life and the budget is likely to follow in order for the family to cope with the paraplegic condition.
  • Analysis of the Physical Therapy Market For this reason, it is possible to admit the existence of a significant business potential related to the development of the MBE Ltd.
  • Physical Education: Effect of Phototherapy Therefore, it is evident that the intensity of an exercise directly influences one’s heart rate, breathing rate, skin coloration, sweating, and recovery.
  • Careers in the Health Professions: Physical Therapy The organization is the sole accreditation agency in the United States with regard to education in Physical Therapy. He is married with two children and is undergoing computer course in the hope of landing a […]
  • Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease Hypotension is an “abnormal condition in which the blood pressure is not adequate for normal perfusion and oxygenation of the tissues”.
  • Medicine Issues: Physical Therapy as a Profession The aim of this essay is to discuss the profession of physical therapist explaining the role of women in this field.”Physical therapy in the United States was originally an occupation composed almost entirely of women; […]
  • The Career of a Physical Therapist Assistant The career of a physical therapist assistant is exciting, flexible, and highly rewarding, but students require necessary qualifications to join the profession.
  • Physical Therapy: Overweight or Obese People With Osteoarthritis The abstract is a comprehensive summary of all the components of an article. Analyzed results are found in the results section of the article.
  • Physical Therapy in Canada and Thai Research indicates that the advancement of technology in medical field has also provided the need for physiotherapy in the field of health.
  • Dealing With Patient Resistance in Physical Therapy
  • Physical Therapy in Gynecological Practice
  • Good Physical Therapy as an Alternative to Drugs in Pain Management
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation: Use in Physical Therapy
  • Application of Physical Therapy in Urology
  • Discrimination in the Private Physical Therapy Practices
  • Exploring the Theory of Expert Practice in Physical Therapy
  • Evidence-Informed Physical Therapy of the Musculoskeletal System
  • Physical Therapy for Athletes
  • Experimental Methods of Physical Therapy Effects on the Human Body
  • Code of Ethics of the American Physical Therapy Association
  • Treatment Methods Used in Physical Therapy
  • Contraindications and Restrictions for Physical Therapy
  • Robotic Rehabilitation for Physical Therapy
  • The Possibility of Reducing the Dose of the Drug Through Physical Therapy
  • Physical Therapy After Triangular Fibrocartilage Injuries and Ulnar Wrist Pain
  • Pulsed Radio Frequency Energy as Physical Therapy
  • The American Physical Therapy Association
  • The Effectiveness of Physical Therapy
  • Positive and Negative Side Effects of Physical Therapy
  • Advantages of Modern Physical Therapy
  • Physical Therapy and Acquired Brain Injury Patients
  • Methods of Physical Therapy in the Treatment of Diseases of Various Systems and Organs
  • Physical Therapy: The Pharmacological Aspect of Musculoskeletal Systems
  • Physical Therapy in Gynecology for the Recovery and Treatment of the Body
  • Physical Therapy for Pain Relief
  • Contraindications to the Use of Physical Therapy Methods for Treatment
  • Post-stroke Balance Rehabilitation of Multilevel Physical Therapy
  • The Influence of Physical Therapy on the Human Body
  • Viewing the Practice of Physical Therapy From a Professional’s Perspective
  • Patient Satisfaction With Physical Therapy
  • Accelerating the Achievement of Desired Treatment Results With Physical Therapy
  • The Appointment of Physical Therapy for a Certain Range of Indications
  • Physical Therapy for Neurological Conditions in Geriatric Populations
  • Physical Therapy for Becoming a Licensed Physical Therapist
  • Combination of Physical Therapy With Other Therapies
  • Effective Methods of Treatment Using Technologies Close to Physical Therapy
  • The Downsides and Benefits of an Effective Physical Therapy
  • Physical Therapy for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • What Does Physical Therapy Mean?
  • What Is the Main Focus of Physical Therapy?
  • What Are the Types of Physical Therapy?
  • What Are Things Physical Therapist Do?
  • What Usually Happens at Physical Therapy?
  • Who Benefits From Physical Therapy?
  • Why Do Patients Go to Physical Therapy?
  • Why Do Doctors Recommend Physical Therapy?
  • Does Physical Therapy Really Help?
  • Can Physical Therapy Harm a Person’s Health?
  • How Long Does Physical Therapy Last?
  • Should a Person Immediately Go to Physical Therapy if There Is Pain?
  • Is Physical Therapy Painful at First?
  • Does a Person Need to Go to Physical Therapy Often?
  • What Happens to a Person When They First Visit a Physiotherapist?
  • How Does Medical Terminology Relate to Physical Therapy?
  • How Physical Therapy Has a Positive Impact on Patient’s Disease, Deformity, or Injury?
  • How Can Clinical Decision Making for a Physical Therapy Assistant Help?
  • What Happens After Physical Therapy Is Done?
  • What Clothing Should People Wear to Physical Therapy Appointments?
  • What Can Not Be Done Before the Medical Examination?
  • Should People Take Painkillers Before Physical Therapy?
  • What Time of Day Is Best for Physical Therapy?
  • Is a Physical Therapist Better Than a Chiropractor?
  • How Does Physiotherapy Work?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2024, March 2). 86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples.

"86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." IvyPanda , 2 Mar. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) '86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples'. 2 March.

IvyPanda . 2024. "86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." March 2, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." March 2, 2024.


IvyPanda . "86 Physical Therapy Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." March 2, 2024.

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The following essay question is required for the PTCAS application: Every person has a background, an identity, interests, or talents which they feel their application would be incomplete without having mentioned. Describe the traits or experiences that make you unique and explain how they will help you be a successful physical therapist.

The essay has a 4,500 character limit.


  • Keep your topic general : Keep the statement general as this essay is sent to all the programs you apply to. If you plan to only apply to one program, we still strongly recommend keeping your statement general in case you later apply to additional programs. Once you submit your application, the essay cannot be edited or changed.
  • Do not exceed the maximum length : You can see both the word and character count below the field in the application. The right-hand number shows the maximum number of characters that you can use in your essay. As you type, you can see how many characters are still available and the associated word count. Characters include spaces, carriage returns, and punctuation. You cannot save your essay if it exceeds the 4,500 character limit.
  • Use your own words : Plagiarizing any part of your essay is a violation of the code of conduct and may subject you to sanctions.
  • Use simple formatting : Formatting such as tabs, italics, multiple spaces, etc., will not be saved. To delineate paragraphs, type a double return between each paragraph.


Be sure to read over your essay several times to catch any spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc., errors before submitting. Once you submit your application, you cannot edit your essay. If you find an error after submission that you believe could have major effects on your application, we recommend sending a corrected copy directly to the programs you applied to.

Home — Essay Samples — Nursing & Health — Therapy — Professionalism In Physical Therapy


Professionalism in Physical Therapy

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Published: Mar 6, 2024

Words: 505 | Page: 1 | 3 min read

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how to write an essay about physical therapy

The PT Application Essay Course

As a physical therapist, writer, and editor, I’ve helped hundreds of future physical therapists get into over 175 PT schools. I’m so excited to combine all my experience and advice into a new video that will guide you in writing a physical therapy essay that will help you stand out from the crowd! This course combines my years of helping future PTs write and edit their perfect PTCAS personal statement, and will help you do the same!

I’ve recently updated the course to reflect the new PTCAS personal statement for 2023 and include even more helpful information I’ve gathered editing essays over the years!

To purchase, simply submit payment via   Venmo  (@jasmine-marcus),  Cash App  (@jmarcusdpt),  PayPal  (jmarcusdpt@gmail), Apple Pay or Zelle (email me for username) + make sure to give me  your email (the one you use to sign into Gmail/YouTube), and a personalized link to the course will be emailed back to you within a day!

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how to write an essay about physical therapy

Why I Want to Be a Physical Therapist, Essay Sample

Essay about why i want to become a physical therapist.

When I think of what a physical therapist does, the first thing that comes to mind is helping people get back on their feet after an injury or an illness. While that is true, there is much more to it than that. A physical therapist has many responsibilities and duties they must abide by in order to keep the public safe. The four main things they must be able to do are: diagnose and treat injuries, teach how to prevent those injuries from happening again, treat diseases related to movement, and serve as expert witnesses for injured workers.

In this essay, which I write with the help of a custom paper writing service , I will share my reasons for pursuing a career in physical therapy, highlighting the key factors that motivate me to take this path. 

Reasons Why I Want to be a Physical Therapist

Physical therapy is an absolutely enormous field – one of the largest in the healthcare industry. But, when I think about what I love most about being a physical therapist, it’s that it’s so versatile. The type of work you do can be tailored to fit whatever you enjoy doing most. Some people really enjoy working with athletes; others like making older adults feel as comfortable and mobile as possible. You can choose to focus your efforts on one age group or another, find a great mentor in someone who works with your preferred area of focus, or even become a specialist in a specific sport.

Inspiration from My Therapist

From early childhood, I enjoyed playing sports and working out. But all of that changed when I suffered a serious knee injury during my senior year of high school. After the initial shock and pain, I was faced with a difficult decision — either let it heal on its own or face months of physical therapy and rehabilitation. 

My physical therapist worked diligently to get me back on my feet, helping me understand how important it is to move our bodies for healing purposes. She showed me exercises designed to strengthen my muscles around the knee joint and increase my range of motion. With each activity, she carefully monitored my progress and pushed me to do more than what was comfortable to help my body heal faster. Her guidance helped me regain strength and mobility in my knee much quicker than if I had just left it alone to heal on its own. 

The experience of going through physical therapy inspired me to pursue a career as a physical therapist myself so that I can help others who are struggling with injuries or chronic pain find relief through movement, as I did. 

Positive Impact of Physical Therapy on Patients

The positive impact that physical therapy can have on patients is one of the most compelling reasons why I want to become a physical therapist. Physical therapy can help alleviate pain, improve range of motion, increase strength and flexibility, and prevent future injuries. It can also enhance the overall quality of life by promoting independence, confidence, and self-esteem.

For example, physical therapy can prove invaluable for those recuperating from surgery, such as a knee replacement. It assists in restoring patients’ strength and mobility and reduces the risk of complications like blood clots and infections. Additionally, physical therapy can be a game-changer for those with persistent conditions, like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapists collaborate with their patients to create tailored treatment plans that manage symptoms and enhance their overall quality of life.

Variety of Specialties

One of the reasons I am drawn to physical therapy is the wide range of specialties within the field that allow PTs to continually broaden their knowledge and expertise. For example, PTs can specialize in areas such as neurorehabilitation, aquatic therapy, and pediatrics.

Pediatric physical therapy, in particular, appeals to me as someone interested in working with children while also gaining a deeper understanding of how adults function. Working with children requires a unique skill set and approach that can be both challenging and rewarding.

Alternatively, geriatric physical therapy may be a good fit for those seeking a more relaxed environment. This area of specialization involves working with older adults to improve their physical function, mobility, and overall quality of life. Regardless of the specialty, the opportunity to continually learn and grow as a physical therapist is an aspect of the profession that excites me.

Building Relationships with Patients

Another aspect of physical therapy that I find rewarding is the opportunity to build relationships with patients. Unlike other medical professions that may only see patients briefly, physical therapists often work with patients over an extended period of time. This allows for a deeper understanding of their needs, concerns, and goals, and the chance to establish a bond built on trust and mutual respect.

Through my experiences as a volunteer in physical therapy clinics, I have seen firsthand the difference that a physical therapist can make in someone’s life. For example, I worked with a patient who had suffered a severe stroke and was unable to walk or talk. Through months of physical therapy, she regained her ability to walk and communicate, and her quality of life improved dramatically. Seeing her progress and the positive impact on her life was incredibly rewarding, and it strengthened my desire to pursue a career in physical therapy.

As a physical therapist, you’ll be able to continue helping people in need of your expertise. You will be able to specialize in areas such as orthopedics and sports medicine or work with elderly patients who have arthritis or balance problems. In addition to working with patients in hospitals and clinics, physical therapists may also work in schools where children learn about fitness and nutrition.

Physical therapy is more than just working out and rehabbing injuries. It can involve helping with various issues, including managing pain, improving movement and range of motion, increasing strength, alimentation, and even preventing injury. I believe that physical therapy is a field that will allow me to continue helping others who are in need and make a difference in their lives.

Tips On Writing an Essay About the Reasons Why I Want to Be a Physical Therapist 

Writing a personal statement essay about why you want to become a physical therapist can be challenging, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to showcase your passion and dedication to this field. Here are some tips to help you write an effective essay:

When writing an essay on why you want to become a physical therapist, use clear and simple language so that the reader can understand what you’re saying. Don’t use long sentences or complex words.

Highlight your skills

Physical therapy requires a unique set of skills, including strong communication, empathy, and problem-solving abilities. Highlight how your own skills and experiences have prepared you for this profession.

Show, don’t tell

Don’t just tell the reader that you’re passionate about physical therapy; show them. Use vivid language and specific examples to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to this field.

Connect your personal story to your career goals

In your personal statement essay, it’s important to illustrate how your life experiences and professional aspirations align with your passion for becoming a physical therapist. Use your essay as a platform to articulate how you envision making a positive impact in this field.

Why Someone Might Want to Become a Physical Therapist

Physical therapy is a rewarding career that involves helping patients recover from injuries and illnesses. Physical therapists work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans and help them achieve their goals. In this table, we will list the reasons why someone might want to become a physical therapist, along with a description of those reasons.

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PT School Personal Statement Examples: a Quick Guide

Table of Contents

Your statement is your chance to “sell” yourself to the admissions committee. We have great PT school personal statement examples to inspire you in crafting your statement.

We hope they provide a wealth of insights into the personal statement process and help you achieve admission to your dream PT school.

What Is a PT Personal Statement?

Personal statements for physiotherapy programs are creative writing assignments required for the UCAS application. It helps the admissions committee decide if you’re a good fit for their class and institution .

When applying to an undergraduate or graduate program, you’ll need to highlight your talents, achievements, and goals in your statement.

If you’re anything like most applicants, the mere thought of writing a personal statement makes you break out in a cold sweat. However, we have made it easy by detailing what to include in a PT personal statement.

How to Write an Outstanding PT Personal Statement

Writing a PT personal statement can be nerve-wracking. However, these steps will help you write an impressive personal statement that brings it all together in one successful, polished piece.

  • Begin with a few phrases on an experience that ignited your interest in the field.
  • Highlight your interest in physiotherapy by discussing pertinent aspects of your work experience, reading, hobbies, or anything else you find interesting.
  • Share what you’ve learned about physiotherapy and what you find most interesting about the field. Tutors in charge of admissions want to see that you have done your homework and are prepared for the program’s challenges.
  • You’ll need great people skills, the ability to work well in a team, and patience to succeed as a physiotherapist. Keep these talents in mind while you write the rest of your statement.

PT School Personal Statement Examples

Remember, your statement is only a small part of the application process and should be manageable. These INK examples detail what to write and how to write it, so it impacts the admission board.

man sitting on sofa

I have always been passionate about the art of physical therapy. I also have a long-standing interest in human anatomy and kinesiology that was further stoked during my undergraduate studies. In particular, I found myself captivated by musculoskeletal injury prevention and management. I want to explore novel ways to enhance biomechanical efficiency through various stretching and movement exercises. My curiosity quickly translated into tangible accomplishments, such as designing several clinical interventions for athletes suffering from injuries or chronic conditions.

I believe PT school will provide me with the necessary skill set to embark on a meaningful career in helping people. As such, I am eager to hone my knowledge and develop effective strategies to rehabilitate clients. By utilizing evidence-based practices, I aspire to use my creativity to find innovative solutions tailored to each individual’s needs. Additionally, providing compassionate care is critical in helping patients reach their goals and regaining quality of life.

Pursuing physical therapy would allow me to make a lasting difference in the lives of those around me. With this in mind, I look forward to combining my enthusiasm and expertise with the invaluable experience offered by your esteemed program. It will help me become a highly competent practitioner and leader in this field.

I have long aspired to attend physical therapy school to hone my natural talents and knowledge of the human body. I possess a unique combination of practical skills and expertise that will make me an asset at any educational institution.

I’ve always had a passion for health and wellness, honed through years of recreational and professional experience. As a volunteer ambulance driver with a rural hospital, I regularly saw firsthand how physical therapy could dramatically improve lives. Further, my work as a strength trainer has provided me with invaluable insight into effective patient rehabilitation and injury prevention. In short, I am intimately familiar with therapeutic techniques designed to restore mobility, correct alignment issues, and reduce pain.

Moreover, I understand the emotional component of healing. Having endured numerous sports injuries myself, I relate deeply to those struggling with their conditions. This empathy allows me to create personalized treatment plans tailored to meet each client’s individual needs. My goal is not just to treat ailments but also to alleviate suffering, providing holistic care and gentle guidance every step of the way.

My diverse skill set and compassionate nature would be a perfect fit for physical therapy school. Therefore, I request that you consider me as an applicant.

Yours truly,

Final Words

These PT school personal statement examples above outline how to present your skills clearly and set yourself apart from competitors . It uses specific details to convey unique qualities.

Review these sample personal statements to learn more about what makes a persuasive personal statement. They also make great comparison points when building your PT school personal statement.

PT School Personal Statement Examples: a Quick Guide

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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  • Grad School
  • Sample Essays
  • The Public Health Student

What if people lived healthier lives, practiced preventive medicine, and took precautions against illness and disease? My days in the physical therapy department often made me think about the prevention of injuries as well as the injuries themselves. I was already doubting my future career choice as a physical therapist. Although I loved the science of it and helping people, the lack of variety within the field and its limited options for growth bothered me. I needed a career that helped a large number of people, emphasized prevention and primary care rather than tertiary care, and would continually challenge and motivate me to improve. Knowing that I really did not want to pursue physical therapy as I had originally planned, my thoughts wandered to the area of public health, particularly health management.

My first true introduction to the public health arena came in a class offered through the Big U School of Public Health. As I listened to experts speak about contemporary health issues, I was intrigued. The world of "capitation," "rationing of care," and Medicaid fascinated me as I saw the range of problems that public health professionals were trying to solve in innovative ways. This one semester class provided me with a basic but thorough understanding of the issues faced in health care today. In the last two years I have continued to learn about public health both through coursework and work in the field.

Because field experience is such a valuable learning tool, I searched for a research assistant position that would allow me to view public health at a different level. I worked on a project at a county health clinic in Englewood, a low-income, minority community. The program attempted to increase treatment compliance rates for adolescents diagnosed with tuberculosis who must complete a six-month medical program. Working for the county exposed me to a different side of health care that I had previously seen. Service and organization were not assets of the county and yet its role in the public health "ecosystem" was and is critical. Its job of immunizing thousands and interacting with all members of the community is often forgotten, but is important for keeping an entire community healthy.

My work at the county health clinic as well as my knowledge of some areas of public health led me to accept an internship in Washington D.C. this past summer. The internship provided me with a greater understanding of a federal public health agency’s operations and allowed me to contribute in a variety of ways to the XYZ Department in which I worked. Most importantly I worked on "policy issues" which involved identifying and summarizing problems that were out of the ordinary as well as documenting resolved issues in order to establish protocols to increase the department’s efficiency. In addition I served on a scientific review panel which was responsible for editing a seventy-page proposed regulation before its submission.

Along with my duties at XYZ, I attended seminars and met with public health leaders at different functions and events. All these activities confirmed my growing interest in preventive medicine, outcomes and effectiveness, and quality of care, particularly within the private/managed care sector. These are my strongest interests because I believe they are fundamental to our nation’s health. We must achieve efficiency and access without sacrificing quality.

The University of ____ would help me achieve my goals of furthering my public health education through the specialized coursework offered as part of its health administration program. [The client provides specifics here about the program’s specific appeal and strengths]

Since rejecting physical therapy as a career possibility my interest in public health has only grown. I welcome the challenge of serving a large community and participating in such a dynamic and challenging field. What if an aspirin a day could prevent heart attacks? What if abandoning unnecessary procedures saved thousands of dollars, which then allowed a hospital to treat other patients needing care? What if every person was guaranteed care and that care was good? I would like to find answers for these questions during my career as a public health graduate student and professional.

Get your guide: 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Grad School Application Essays

Other Sample Essays

Sway Essay

How to write your physical therapy personal essay

by tkaprowy | Mar 22, 2021 | Uncategorized

how to write an essay about physical therapy

I’m a little bit in love with this year’s physical therapy personal essay prompt. I’ll admit it’s a strange thing to be in love with and, thinking on it, maybe I’m really just in love with the person who composed it. Either way, there is serious sass living between the lines of this thing.

If you haven’t already seen it, the prompt for the PTCAS 2020-21 cycle reads as follows:

“ Every person has a story that has led them to a career. Since there are a variety of health professions that “help” others, please go beyond your initial interaction or experience with physical therapy, and share the deeper story that has confirmed your decision to specifically pursue physical therapy as your career .”

What I love about this is someone has clearly gotten fed up. It’s likely physical therapy schools were receiving versions of the same personal statements again and again and … again. Ones in which applicants wrote about how they knew they wanted to be a physical therapist:

  • because they want to help people.
  • after they received physical therapy themselves.

And this person? The one who wrote this prompt? Was tired. Was unimpressed. And that’s understandable.


Why so? Well, first, saying you want to help people doesn’t really answer why you want to be a physical therapist . Physical therapists, after all, are not the only people who help. Everyone does in healthcare, a). And, b), helping isn’t unique to the healthcare field. Teachers help. Police officers and flight attendants do, too. So using that as the basis of your answer for why you want to be a physical therapist is like building the foundation of your house on publicly-owned land; it’s not yours to claim.

Second, you have to wonder how many times poor admissions officers have read about people discovering they want to be a physical therapist after they received P.T. for the first time and were wowed by their own progress. I think it’s safe to assume it’s as common as answering the question, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” by describing how you liked to “heal” your stuffed animals when you were a kid. Or saying you knew you wanted to be an engineer because you’ve always had an affinity for Legos.

Those stories have been so over-told that they have become cliché . It does not matter how well you write these stories, you will not make inroads with your reader because your reader will be asleep.

So. What does this physical therapy prompt want out of you? Happily, it’s very clear: you should be writing about a moment of confirmation.

how to write an essay about physical therapy


These are moments where everything, in a flash, comes together. Something happens, something changes, something begins. And you realize something important.

Maybe it’s the moment you realize that you want to be a physical therapist. Maybe it’s the moment you realize you have what it takes to be a physical therapist. Or, perhaps it’s the moment where you realize, holy crap, I don’t want to be a rodeo clown at all, I want to be a physical therapist instead.

The great thing about these moments — and the reason why the writers of this prompt are probably asking to read about them — i s they may or may not have to do with P.T. It could be the moment when someone is panicking in the library before an exam and you suddenly know exactly what to say to help them. It could be the moment when you park on the side of the road so you can help a turtle get across it so it doesn’t get splooshed. It could be the moment when someone plays their turn at Scrabble after a 16,000-hour mull and you realize you’ve been silently rooting for them (and actually interested in what they’ll spell).

All you need to do is outline the moment when you realized, wow, this is it. This is where it’s been heading all along. I know this for the first time right now .


Whatever moment you choose, the prompt is asking you to get specific and dig deep by telling a story. This is actually great news for you. Telling a story is far, far more interesting than writing an essay. We’re also, in general, far, far more skilled at telling stories than we are at churning out boring essays.

That the word “specifically” is also in your prompt is also great news. Asking you to be specific is just another way of asking you to be detailed. And details are the funnest part about personal statements.

First, details help your moment/story come alive for your reader . To do so, you should address what was happening to every one of your senses at that time. So if you were on the side of the road with the turtle, what did you feel? See? Hear? Smell? Taste? Did you notice a cinnamon Trident gum pack in the ditch? Were you headed to karate practice? Did you consider not stopping for a second? Did you turn back? Was it spring? Were birds chirping? Were you afraid the turtle was going to bite you? Were you afraid it was going to be slimy? Or stinky?

Second, details show your reader how open and honest you’re being because you just can’t make them up . They help prove your story is true. That’s important for your reader to know in order to become invested.


After you’ve described your life-changing moment, you then get to explain specifically why this steered you toward physical therapy. Which means you get to explain what was going on in your head at that time. This generally invites paragraphs that start with, “This is the moment I realized …” And then you explain what you realized.

So, again with the turtle, what did you realize? That you feel compelled in every fiber of your being to assist reptiles (and people) make safe progress?

If you’re describing the kid freaking out in the library, did you realize you have the ability to break down tough things for people so they’re digestible?

If you’re describing the Scrabble game, did you realize you have an inordinate amount of patience?

All of these qualities are both yours and belong to the best physical therapists. So this is a big part of your answer. After all, you can convincingly answer why you want a specific career if you can prove to your reader that your personality is actually built for it .

how to write an essay about physical therapy


Because a moment of confirmation is when several pieces come together and click, you should feel free to weave in other parts of your life story in your essay after you’ve established your opening moment. So you should feel comfortable saying, “Standing beside this poor turtle, I realized I had felt this way when I …” Then you can fill in the blank. Was it when you shadowed a physical therapist? Or when coaching color guard? Or when you’ve been with your grandmother?

These examples shore up your answer and, although they might be more standard, together they all demonstrate (prove!) that you’re on the right career path. They also help you demonstrate other parts of your personality, background, education and/or goals.

I look forward to working with students to help answer this interesting prompt. If you’re looking for another example of how you can answer why you want a career in healthcare (without actually writing about healthcare), click here and skip down to the python runs into a poodle section. If you need any more guidance, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]

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Fall 2022 - Featured Articles - Perspectives

Implementing expressive writing in outpatient physical therapy clinics: connecting theoretical foundations with practical strategies.

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  • 14 November

By Eric Thomas Wanner, PT, DPT; Jennifer Lynne Bird, PhD; and Claudia Jayne Brahler, PhD

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Over the past several years, healthcare professionals have increased implementation of expressive writing as an outlet for feelings, anxieties, and frustrations to help patients manage the stress of an illness or injury. Writing professor Tom Romano describes expressive writing as “where we start when we pour forth first words, seeking to make meaning from fragmented, chaotic inner speech. Expressive writing is writing closest to our speaking voice, the seedbed from which all other writing grows.” 1( p189 ) The process of expressive writing helps writers meaningfully construct experiences and make sense of life. As Romano elaborates, when writers compose expressively without pressure, they remember more and know what they think about the importance of ideas, information, and experience. 2( p 138) And, as writer Allison Fallon states, “where we get unstuck in our writing, we get unstuck in our lives.” 3( p 34)

Once used only by high school and college English teachers in classrooms, expressive writing provides a pathway for emotional and physical healing, thus benefitting patients in various healthcare settings such as physical therapy clinics. In healthcare, expressive writing helps patients uncover emotions, fears, frustrations, and dimensions of their recovery. Expressive writing illuminates the human element of patient rehabilitation through an interdisciplinary design, which dovetails writing theory with physical therapy practice. Expressive writing helps clinicians identify challenges patients may face when trying to adhere to a physical therapy treatment program. Recognizing and addressing potential barriers can enhance patient success in adhering to treatment. Given the effectiveness of expressive writing in patient care, we argue that expressive writing can be used as part of best practice to help physical therapists formulate, apply, and gauge patients’ emotional responses to treatment. This article provides a theoretical foundation of expressive writing, describes the use of expressive writing in medical settings, and provides practical suggestions for how physical therapists can use expressive writing as an adjunct to a treatment plan for a patient.

The Theory of Narrative and the Practice of Expressive Writing

Psychologist James Pennebaker explains that writing related to health needs to “explore both the objective experience (ie, what happened) and your feelings about it. Really let go and write about your very deepest emotions.” 4(pp40-41) Thus, expressive writing is a type of narrative writing that involves sharing a story while simultaneously expressing emotions about it. Before discussing the existing evidence demonstrating the value of expressive writing in improving both physical and emotional health, we review the theoretical research foundation of narratives and present an in-depth description of the practice of expressive writing.

Theoretical Foundations

Narrative inquiry, a qualitative interpretive research field introduced into the academic community by Clandinin and Connelly, focuses on stories lived and told. 5( p 20) Specifically, Clandinin and Connelly define narrative as the study of how people make meaning of experience by telling stories about themselves that both reexamine past experiences and create future purpose. 6( p 24) Clandinin and Connelly tell narrative inquirers to find narrative threads, also known as intersections or patterns of stories. 7( p 78) For example, in a classroom, a teacher might use narrative inquiry when asking students to share their feedback of a lesson by each speaking individually to the teacher or writing individual responses. An insightful teacher looks for patterns in the narratives to determine changes needed during future lessons. As English teacher Gruwell discovered with her high school students, known as The Freedom Writers, teenagers used writing in their journals to create a classroom community, strong identities, and an outlet for expression. 8( p 275) The relationship between a teacher and students in some ways resembles the relationship between a physical therapist and patients. In a similar manner that student narratives provide teachers with insights, listening to or reading a patient’s narrative can provide a clinician with insights into the daily experiences of a patient’s suffering from injury or disease, the pattern of activities that cause pain, the emotions involved in that experience, and the patient’s goals, expectations, and fears. A patient’s recollection and interpretation of experiences can lead the physical therapist to a more accurate assessment of the patient’s symptoms within the context of personal and environmental factors. This approach can theoretically lead to a more successful patient specific treatment intervention.

Patient Narratives

Patient narratives broaden the perspectives of healthcare providers regarding patients’ conditions within the context of personal and environmental factors. Notwithstanding their busy schedules seeing patients in a clinic, physical therapists benefit from learning their patients’ narratives. Some patients may have environmental factors preventing them from healing. For example, if patients don’t have access to a gym to do their advanced home program, they might not be able to keep up with the program if that’s not factored into the treatment plan. Or if patients aren’t motivated to do their home program, and write about their lack of motivation, the physical therapist can try to find ways to motivate them, such as explaining the benefits of reducing their pain with movement. Physical therapist Bezner believes a primary focus on a patient’s disease or injury limits the ability of a physical therapist to act holistically. 9( p 1442) Acting holistically means looking at other factors that could be contributing to the patient’s symptoms, such as anxiety, stress, or diet, and then working with other specialists to provide the patient the best opportunity for a full and quick recovery. Bezner and colleagues share that efficient and effective support for patient behavior change revolves around patient-provider communication and by using holistic methods such as health coaching. 10 According to Linda Smith and her colleagues from Duke Integrative Medicine, health coaching builds motivation for behavior change. 11( p 69) Caldwell and colleagues elaborate on how the health coaching process offers control and self-efficacy for patients by breaking down seemingly unmanageable goals into smaller, manageable, measurable, and attainable goals. 12( p 56) Both health coaching and narrative medicine encourage patients to reflect on their personal narratives.

Rita Charon, a medical doctor and literary scholar, developed the discipline of narrative medicine. She is the executive director of Columbia Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, where she teaches medical students and residents the skills of narrative writing as part of standard practice to explore the human dimensions of suffering and care. Charon defines narrative medicine as using narrative skills, such as following the narrative thread of a patient’s story, to interpret the story and take action. 13( p 2) Psychologist Jerome Bruner shares, “there may be something more than the subtlety of narrative structure that keeps us from making the leap from intuition to explicit understanding, something more than narrative is murky, hard to pin down.” 14( p 5) People may implicitly possess intuition about the narratives they tell themselves; to make the leap, writing provides a method for explicitly processing words to enhance understanding. Romano explains narrative thinking, such as in Bruner’s work, provides a foundation for multigenre writing. 15( p 18) This form of expressive writing, which arises from experience, imagination, narrative, and perhaps is even presented in the form of a poem, is “implicitly emphatic.” 16( p 184) Romano clarifies, “expressive writing ought to be the rule for multigenre writers. 17( p 138)

While Romano discusses the use of a creative form of expressive writing used by teachers with their students, the theoretical foundation of transforming narratives from a person’s thoughts into words on a page also applies to the medical field, as elaborated with the following examples from medicine. Whether a student in an English class writes a life narrative in the form of a poem, or a patient in a physical therapy clinic writes a pain narrative of symptoms, expressive writing builds a bridge for communication. Physical therapy professors Greenfield and Jensen, with their colleagues Delany, Mostrom, Knab, and Jampel, explain that narrative enables clinicians to reflect on a case from multiple perspectives and can connect the subjective human experience to objective measures of practice. 18( p 925) Goldberg, a nurse, argues why sharing stories provides the reminder that a patient is a person and increases the likelihood the patient will receive patient-centered care. 19( p 119) She advises patients, especially ones who have chronic pain or illness, to construct a narrative so providers understand the impact of pain or illness on quality of life. 20( p 168) A written document of symptoms helps the provider see pain from a patient’s perspective and helps the patient remember to share important information.

Patient-Centered Care and Finding Voice in Narratives

Linton and Shaw state that because patients show differences in their beliefs about pain and regulating emotions, clinicians should consider a patient-centered approach to care accounting for individual differences. 21( p 709) One aim of patient-centered care acknowledges the constantly changing circumstances of both patients and clinicians by incorporating shared decision-making, which customizes care to fit the preferences of each patient. 22 Sociologist Brown believes when people recognize and own their emotions, they can find a way through the pain. 23(p67) Brown encourages people to talk through their stories if they can find someone they trust who is willing to listen, but believes writing is more powerful. 24(pp86-87) She describes writing as “slowing the winds and calming the seas” of the thoughts in one’s head. 25(pp262-263) Brown believes writing possesses power because the writer can write about experiences while building the courage to talk to someone. 26(pp82-83) She advises each narrator to find someone who earned their trust and the right to hear their story. 27(p47) When hearing a story, the listener needs to practice what Brown calls “story stewardship,” also known as honoring the story. 28(pp264-265) A physical therapist should demonstrate this willingness to earn a patient’s trust by listening to or reading a patient’s narrative. Greenfield and Jensen encourage physical therapists to listen to patients use their own voices to tell their whole story; this helps clinicians see the patient as a person with a life story and more than the patient’s diagnosis. 29( p 1192) While a patient often chooses to share a story with a physical therapist using their speaking voice, we argue that using a writing voice may serve as another option for communication between patient and physical therapist. Writing professor Romano defines voice as the writer’s style, or presence on the page, in a piece of writing; similar to a speaking voice, a writing voice describes how each writer uses personality to uniquely put together words. 30(p p 5-6) Romano elaborates why expressive writing is the most personal writing because it is “an individual voice deliberately working to create meaning.” 31( p 23) English teachers understand their students’ voices through expressive writing; this means physical therapists can use similar writing methods to understand their patients’ voices.

Journaling Compared to Expressive Writing

English teachers often use the terms ‘journaling’ and ‘expressive writing’ interchangeably, although differences exist. A journal refers to the notebook writers keep As Germer explains, keeping a journal is a self-compassion exercise because the writer describes personal experiences in a private moment of contemplation. 32( p 242) When journaling, writers choose to focus on a specific topic, such as in the following examples.

Neff suggests keeping a gratitude journal of things that cause the writer to feel joy. 33(p p 278-279) Carroll recommends using bullet points to organize tasks, events, and notes. 34( p 5-6) Descriptive writing about topics such as a nature scene that inspires a grateful feeling or a daily task list to inspire productivity serve as good journaling; however, for journaling to transition into expressive writing, the writing needs to become a narrative. Romano explains that narrative thinking expresses learning and discovery through story. 35( p 11) He describes expressive writing as personal, exploratory, and focused on meaning as the writer thinks on the page and recreates experiences through words. 36(p p 137-138) Expressive writing works best when the writer does not overthink. Several writers and writing teachers concur on this writing process. Goldberg encourages writers to capture first thoughts not obstructed by social politeness or the internal censor. 37(p p 8-9) She explains writers accomplish contacting first thoughts by not thinking, keeping the hand moving across the page of a notebook, and figuring out what should be said during the act of writing instead of stopping to reflect. 38(p p 3-4) Goldberg also advises writers to use a computer if they choose, although pressing keys uses different parts of the brain than handwriting and can result in different ideas. 39( p 1) No matter which format writers choose, Goldberg tells writers to accept their minds without judging their thoughts. 40( p 21) Writers need to accept themselves because, to use Goldberg’s metaphor, “writing is an immediate mirror: it reports back to you. You can’t fool anyone, especially yourself.” 41( p 218) Lamott tells writers to start by getting something on paper, because anything works for a first draft and writers say what they have to say more accurately when they write first then edit later. 42( p 25) Additionally, Heard advises writers to write what they really think and tell the truth to themselves in writing. 43( p 29) Finally, Fallon shares that her favorite part of the expressive writing process exists in the transformation of the words on the page, because writers have the power to expose the truth in their lives. 44(p106)

Writers have the option of telling their stories only to themselves without sharing the writing with anyone. Cameron describes how writers find precise words to tell their stories when they are honest with themselves. 45( p 140) Writers may choose to share writing with a trusted audience, such as a friend, teacher, or medical professional, if they need additional help or support. Tindle, a medical doctor, believes envisioning positive outcomes influences behavior. She wanted to know the script inside the heads of the one percent of people who achieved ideal cardiac health, so she talked to her patients. 46( p 24) If a writer chooses to share, the reader also knows the thoughts inside the writer’s head, especially if the writer forgets to share information during a conversation. If a patient chooses to share writing with a physical therapist, it could encourage discussion that illuminates the pain source and gives the physical therapist more awareness of the patient’s symptoms before and after therapy sessions. The patient may report a low pain level during a physical therapy session but experience high pain levels outside of physical therapy. We argue that writing provides another method of medical practitioners’ learning a patient’s thoughts.

Research On Using Writing in Medical Settings

The following research studies illustrate the healing benefits of expressive writing. Psychologist Pennebaker and colleagues performed the initial study researching the healing benefits of expressive writing; the study illustrated that college students who wrote about traumatic events for 15 minutes a day on 4 consecutive days had fewer visits to the campus health center than the control group 6 months after the research study, thus indicating the potential for writing to have both emotional and physical benefits for the writer. 47 Pennebaker conducted another research study where college student volunteers agreed to have their blood drawn before writing, after writing, and six weeks after writing to measure T-lymphocytes and other immune markers in the blood; the results showed people who wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding traumatic experiences evidenced heightened immune function compared with a control group who wrote about superficial topics. 48(p p 36-37) Pennebaker and Evans summarize that since the first study, at least 300 studies about the benefits of expressive writing have been published, and the scope of benefits has grown exponentially. 49( p 9) Pennebaker and Chung report later studies expanded the scope of writing topics and the amount of time spent writing. 50( p 15) Evans describes the growing amount of research that indicates the heart rate lowers and people fight infections easier when using writing to release their worries. 51( p 1) Writing helps patients with their physical and emotional healing process, but patients should use writing in conjunction with physical therapy exercises or other medical treatment, not instead of it.

While the early research studies focused on writing about traumatic events, subsequent studies illustrate writing about positive events can also result in fewer health center visits. 52 Prospective writing, a type of expressive writing that imagines the future instead of recounting the past, can lead to post-traumatic growth. 53 Enayati reports extreme stress can become self-fulfilling, and writing can help switch the focus of a narrative to post-traumatic growth. 54(p p 72-74) David discusses applying words to emotions helps with stress, anxiety, and loss. 55(p p 92-93) Connor explains writers who used words that demonstrated insight and reflection, such as “understand,” “realize,” or “know” experienced the greatest benefit. 56( p 69) Handler interprets this understanding as the writer starting to accept the events of the story. 57( p 225) Research illustrates writing helps chronic worriers with anxiety, because the writer transfers thoughts from the mind to the page. 58 Psychologist Pipher discusses how the calming act of writing can help eliminate anxiety. 59( p 79) Zimmermann advises seeking professional help if feelings of depression emerge during writing. 60( p 18) Just like writing cannot take the place of a patient doing physical therapy exercises, writing cannot take the place of a conversation with an empathetic therapist.

A meta-analysis of the expressive writing paradigm and its potential health benefits revealed that expressive writing has great potential as a therapeutic tool in diverse clinical settings and can serve as an adjunct to traditional therapies and standard treatment. 61 Smyth and colleagues conducted research and discovered healthy students asked to form a narrative with their writing reported less restriction due to illness than students who wrote in a fragmented format. 62 Pennebaker and Smyth discuss that good narratives organize overwhelming events, and writing allows the author to create a resolution of an event. 63( p 152) However, Sandberg and Grant caution that journaling immediately after an event can backfire for some people if the event is too raw to process, so it helps to let some time pass before writing and constructing a story that leads to insight. 64( p 63) Writers always have the option of starting writing and then stopping if the expressive writing process becomes too emotionally painful, or too physically painful (if the writer sits in an uncomfortable chair).

Although nearly 300 studies report the benefits of expressive writing on patient healing, none to date link the value of expressive writing to patient outcomes on standardized physical therapy metrics used to assess patient progress, and none specifically report on the value of expressive writing for physical therapy patients. While the purpose of this perspective article is not to provide a detailed accounting of original research conducted by the authors, we have unpublished data that documents that patients who used positive words in expressive writing activities during physical therapy treatment showed statistically significant greater improvement on existing outcome measurement surveys including the DASH (Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand); 65 LEFS (Lower Extremity Functional Scale); 66 NDI (Neck Disability Index); 67 or Modified Oswestry (for back pain). 68 (ET Wanner, JL Bird, CJ Brahler, unpublished data). Our study demonstrated a trend that subjects who clearly articulated their goals in writing and demonstrated a positive outlook when identifying obstacles that could prevent them from achieving their goals experienced greater healing. 69 We plan to complete more research to confirm the early findings that illustrate the potential benefits for physical therapy patients.

Discovering that a positive attitude makes a difference in healing aligned our study with existing literature. Seligman, who pioneered the field of positive psychology, argues that optimists take action to have healthier lifestyles, have more support with stronger social networks, and cope better with the stress that causes biological changes in the body, such as in a person’s immune system. 70(pp205-207) Research by Younger and colleagues assessed subjects’ amount of positive expectations prior to starting physical therapy by having subjects fill out the Stanford Expectation of Treatment Scale (SETS). 71 The SETS assessed patients’ degree of positive expectations prior to physical therapy, which demonstrated favorable results for those with higher expectations, (the more gains they objectively made); there was a statistically significant difference between the negative and positive expectations groups as far as recovery gains. 72 In the next section, we discuss how writing can help patients visualize a positive outcome for healing.

How to Use Expressive Writing in Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinics

This section presents a rationale for physical therapists using expressive writing with their patients followed by examples from patients, and a list of ideas for implementing writing in an outpatient physical therapy clinic. ( Table 1, Table 2 ) With the strategic use of expressive writing, physical therapists can obtain additional information about each patient, hold patients accountable for reaching their treatment goals, tailor each intervention specific to the patient, and help patients identify other factors that may be hindering versus helping their recovery. Due to the busy pace of working with patients at physical therapy clinics, physical therapists may feel they do not have time to read writing from patients. Physical therapists who do not want to use expressive writing in their clinics can still use other forms of writing. Suzuki describes an activity called body writing, where writers focus on how they feel physically to stay grounded in the moment. 73(p240) If a patient completes a chart that tracks symptoms or pain levels, the physical therapist may use the information to learn more about the patient’s concerns. Even though this is not expressive writing, it still serves as a visual to help patients remember questions to ask the physical therapist. If physical therapists want to encourage patients to use expressive writing, the writing needs to tell a narrative. Mindfulness expert Cameron explains to writers one way to start getting words on paper is through free-form, stream-of-consciousness writing that lets thoughts flow, while another method is by using prompts or thought-starters to begin with a specific idea. 74(p46)

Table 1 : Pros and Cons of Writing at Home vs. in Clinic

We prefer using writing prompts with physical therapy patients to give patients a place to start writing and provide physical therapists with information about a patient’s current life story. One example we designed asks patients to respond to a writing prompt about goals (see example after the conclusion). Milkman believes obstacles require tailored solutions and people need tailored goals that acknowledge and match strengths and weaknesses. 75(p p 200-201) Patients may use expressive writing to set personal goals and describe feelings about the recovery process. Writing goals will give the patient something to strive for during the recovery process and may increase the patient’s motivation. Harding discusses the significant decrease in stress and inflammatory markers noted in people with high eudaimonic well-being, a term she uses to describe striving for meaningful purpose and pursuing goal-directed behavior. 76(pp74-75) Duckworth argues for most people, purpose is a powerful source of motivation. 77(p148)

Physical therapists can use information from the writing to learn the patient’s narrative and adjust the treatment plan as needed. Understanding physical and mental changes will be crucial in providing each patient with optimal care during the recovery process. Encouraging patients to also narrate their symptoms, feelings, and goals may lead to greater outcomes. It will make patients and their treating physical therapist more aware of symptoms throughout the day and present a clearer pattern of what makes them better or worse. Trespicio tells writers not to overthink prompts, start writing to see what surfaces, then reread the writing to discover patterns. 78(p176-177)

It may be easy for a person to see patterns in life experiences, but difficult to see a pattern of behavior that leads to pain. Therefore, the physical therapist can read the writing and notice patterns the patient may miss. The physical therapist might also see a pattern in the patient’s writing related to more of a psychological problem and want to refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist as well. This referral could be a missing link in getting some patients back to their prior level of function or mental health. Psychiatrist Boardman describes positive activities as emotional armor because positive everyday experiences strengthen resistance to everyday challenges, promote recovery when challenges occur, and become a source of vitality. 79(p65) Consequently, patients may benefit by focusing on moments of success in their writing to celebrate progress with their physical therapist.

Dalebout, a writer, explains prompts are tools that can be used repeatedly because the writer is different during each writing session. 80(p p 25-26) By having a patient fill out short answer prompts (see Appendix) it allows the patient to write freely yet with guidance that encourages setting goals, identifying barriers, and taking accountability. By filling out the short answer prompts it makes the patient more aware of other factors influencing recovery. The patient could then be asked to simply monitor the goals set in the survey and write down in a journal when feeling the best versus worst throughout the day along with activities completed at that time. This type of expressive writing will let the patient see a potential trend on the recovery. The patient can bring the journal when seeing the physical therapist so the physical therapist can see what may be helping or hindering the patient. Sometimes the treatment intervention could be perfect but what the patient is doing outside of therapy could be making symptoms worse. Short answer prompts can be used to see how often the patient is completing the required exercises for the home program, as well as potential obstacles that interfere with the completion of the exercises. Having this information will apprise physical therapists if the intervention needs to be modified for better outcomes or if the lack of adherence is related to psychosocial issues.

The potential for more immediate adjustments in the physical therapy sessions or outside of therapy could lead to a quicker recovery for the patient. Accountability is not just for the physical therapist but also for the patient and could capture the important component of incorporating narrative into the rehabilitation process. Using writing to track progress will also encourage self-accountability for the patient since the patient does not have to rely on memory to share moments of success or concern with the physical therapist.

We recommend that physical therapists have patients use expressive writing and adapt our ideas expressed herein to best fit the needs of their patients. Physical therapists can use expressive writing with patients regardless of an individual patient’s diagnosis as an adjunct to the patient’s current rehabilitation program. Expressive writing begins as a blank page the patient can fill out to increase self-awareness and accountability with the added potential to experience improved emotional and physical health. Patients only need a piece of paper and a writing utensil to begin writing. Notebooks work best because they allow the writer to keep all the writing in one place and track progress over time. Physical therapists should start telling patients to write freely about whatever comes to mind related to their pain outside of their physical therapy sessions. The beauty of writing exists in its adaptability to best fit the needs of each individual patient, physical therapist, and clinic. The field of using writing as an adjunct to healing constantly evolves, meaning opportunities exist for more research. Physical therapists can use writing as a resource to help patients write the next chapter in their healing stories.

Examples of Patient Writing

The first example we offer here is of a patient writing in response to a short answer prompt. The writing prompts were designed by the authors of this article. The patient gave permission for her writing to be included. The patient was a 33-year-old woman completing outpatient physical therapy and diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon as having increased cervical lordosis. The treating physical therapist was a student trained by one of the authors of this article.

Short Answer Writing Prompt : What potential obstacles do you anticipate that might prevent you from meeting your long-term goals (at four weeks of PT)?

Patient Response : Non-compliance with exercises due to my crazy schedule, a sick pet, poor posture, and lifestyle changes.

Short Answer Writing Prompt : What are some actions you plan to take so you could prevent/overcome obstacles that might hinder your progress?

Patient Response : Attempt to schedule exercises like appointments are scheduled.

Short Answer Writing Prompt : How often did you do your home exercises?

Patient Response : Not daily. I admit to not being consistent. Sometimes I feel I need more of certain exercises but I am not the expert so I don’t say anything.

Short Answer Writing Prompt : Please write anything that helped you most in Physical Therapy.

Patient Response : The manipulations of my neck, spine, shoulders, ribs have helped the most.

Analysis of writing : The physical therapist noticed from the writing that the patient did not always ask about exercises during the physical therapy session. An adjustment was made to the treatment plan to focus more on the manipulations/mobilizations that helped the patient. The physical therapist also discussed the patient’s schedule to help the patient find time for more specific exercises. Even though the patient did not write lengthy responses, the writing is still expressive writing because the patient is both describing events that happened and emotions about them (using phrases such as “my crazy schedule” and “sometimes I feel I need”).

The second example is of a patient freewriting, which is writing whatever comes to mind without responding to a prompt. This patient, one of the authors of the article, wrote a reaction to experiencing neck pain and shared it with the treating physical therapist.

Patient Response : After cardio (3-mile hike) and second set of exercises for the day, sat on couch, looked down at phone while feeling stressed about work. Looking down + Emotional stress = perfect storm for neck pain. At least I know this now. Until this goes away my neck can be my guide to making decisions in life. Neck hurts = don’t do something!! Have to keep my sense of humor about this.

Analysis of writing : The writing gave the physical therapist insight into the patient’s lifestyle, as well as the information that the patient’s neck hurt worse when looking down. This writing is a lengthier response and shows expressive writing with a stronger use of voice in the description of events and emotions related to the events (“feeling stressed about work” and “my neck can be my guide”).

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Sample Short Answer Prompts from the Wanner Bird Healing Survey for Pain Recovery 81

This survey, designed by the authors of this article for physical therapy patients, contains both written subjective questions (short-answer writing prompts) and numerical subjective questions.

  • What would you like to return to doing in two weeks that you have difficulty with now?
  • How likely do you feel that you will be able to meet your short-term goals?

Not at all likely      1        2       3       4       5       Extremely likely

  • What would you like to return to doing in four weeks that you have difficulty with now? Give specific examples of things that you would like to do again by the conclusion of physical therapy.
  • How likely do you feel that you will be able to meet your long-term goals?
  • Please indicate the degree that the following potential obstacles could hinder your progress.

Current stress level in your life

A large amount      1        2       3       4       5       A small amount

Amount of time to complete exercises at home

A small amount      1        2       3       4       5       A large amount

Motivation to complete exercises

A small amount      1        2       3       4       5       A large amount

  • In looking at your responses to the previous question, how can you make the situation better? (Make time for home exercises by putting them into your agenda, spend more time in less stressful situations, do exercises with friends or a family member, etc.)
  • Are there any other obstacles that could hinder your progress? Please explain.
  • How close are you to reaching your short-term goals?

Not close     1        2       3       4       5       Achieved goals

  • Have your goals changed since the beginning of the physical therapy? Why or why not?
  • What potential obstacles do you anticipate that might prevent you from meeting your long-term goals (at four weeks of physical therapy)?
  • What are some actions you plan to take so you could prevent/overcome obstacles that might hinder your progress?
  • Did you feel you accomplished your goals for physical therapy? Why or why not?
  • How happy are you with your progress since day one?

Not at all happy     1        2       3       4       5       Extremely happy

  • How pleased were you with the treatment sessions by the physical therapist? (scale 1-5)

Not at all pleased  1        2       3       4       5       Extremely pleased

  • How often did you do your home exercises?
  • How likely are you to continue with your home exercises after physical therapy? (scale 1-5)
  • Please write anything that helped you most in Physical Therapy.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

About the Author(s)

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how to write an essay about physical therapy

Eric Thomas Wanner, PT, DPT

Eric Thomas Wanner, PT, DPT is a Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists and is the Physical Therapy Director of Palm Beach Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. He received his BS in Exercise Science from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and his DPT from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. He enjoys thinking outside of the box for the physical therapy profession and finding new ways to enhance patients’ recoveries and lifestyles.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Jennifer Lynne Bird, PhD

Jennifer Lynne Bird, PhD is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and an English teacher at Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida. She received her BSEd in English Education, MEd in Education, and PhD all from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and her health coach certification from Duke University Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. She loves teaching writing to help people heal from life’s fragile moments.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

Claudia Jayne Brahler, PhD

Claudia Jayne Brahler, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and Health Sciences: Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She received her BS in Education from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, and both her MS in Exercise Science and her PhD from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. She enjoys research that connects science, education, and health.


  • Call for Submissions: Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation Physical Therapy Student Essay Contest
  • Ease in Motion: Rehabilitation Inspired by Science, Guided by Art
  • “Finding Balance: The Hidden Gift of Being Thrown Off-Course”
  • Profiles in Professionalism With Bruce Greenfield

By Bruce Greenfield, PT, PhD, FNAP and Melissa McCune, PT, DPT, MPH


The Profiles in Professionalism series featured in the Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation seeks to explore the elusive yet crucial concept of professionalism and its role in the field of rehabilitation medicine. Providing insight through the words of visionary leaders, we seek to reflect on what it means to be a professional in the current healthcare environment, and how the past can help to inform the future of our growing field.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

In this installment of the Profiles in Professionalism series, we interview Professor of Ethics at Emory University School of Medicine and one of the founding editors of the Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation , Bruce Greenfield, PT, PhD, FNAP. Dr. Greenfield is an accomplished researcher, scholar, and educator in the field of ethics in physical therapy practice, with an appointment on the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Ethics and Judicial Committee and as a member of the Emory University Hospital Ethics Committee. His scholarship focuses on strategies to improve patient-centered care through development of an ethics of care based on phenomenology and the use of reflective narratives.

In this interview, Dr. Greenfield discusses the intimate connections between professionalism and ethics and how he works with students to better understand their own core values alongside the core values of the profession.

Describing Professionalism Through Stories

Interviewer: Hi, Dr. Greenfield. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It seems like you have a good handle on “professionalism” through your research and teaching experience. For students who are just beginning their education in the rehabilitation field, going out onto their first clinical rotations, or just beginning their work as clinicians, how would you describe what it means to be a “professional”?

Bruce: Let me try to describe my thoughts about professionalism with two stories, the first of which is a story my wife told me. She went to see an orthopedic surgeon about problems with her hips. While sitting in the exam room, after some delay, the surgeon entered and talked to her for a couple of minutes. According to my wife, the encounter was very cursory, and she could sense that he was very busy. After a brief interaction, he walked to the door. And as he placed his hand on the doorknob and was opening the door to exit, with one foot out in the hallway, almost as an afterthought, he turned toward my wife and asked her, “Do you have any questions you want to ask me?” It was clear to my wife that he didn’t want to hear any questions, but rather move to his next patient. He just wanted to leave the room. My wife and I call this the ‘doorknob doctor’—a metaphor of a detached and disengaged healthcare provider.

The second story is based on a conversation with my mentor who told me, “Bruce, I view professionalism as when you care for the last person you see on a Friday night, when you’re tired and want to go home, as you care and attend to the first patient you see on a Monday morning.” I interpreted this as keeping your focus on the patient, and despite your personal needs, you maintain that deep commitment and obligation to provide the best care that you can. Your commitment to do that each time, even when you’re tired or you may be frustrated and have other things on your mind, is the very essence of professionalism—a deeply-held obligation toward treating each patient with the care and attention they deserve. Reflecting on those two stories, I have concluded that as healthcare professionals we have a choice what our path will be, where we choose to work, what we are committed to do, what brings value to our own lives, how we choose to prioritize our time, and how we shape our sense of being and define ourselves as healthcare providers. I routinely tell these stories to my students and challenge them to decide what kind of professional they aspire to be.

Learning and Reflecting on Professionalism

Interviewer: It always feels like these topics are so deep and broad to discuss, and more so to understand. How do you go about teaching these concepts and ideas to students?

Bruce: I think it is important to distinguish between teaching the tenets of professionalism versus instilling the values and behaviors of professionalism. For the former is easier to accomplish; I describe and define the core values of the profession and the behaviors associated with those and discuss their importance.

I challenge students by asking them to list their own core values and compare those to the profession’s core values, focusing on differences and commonalities; and about the implications of embracing those core values and exhibiting certain behaviors in terms of patient care. Saying that, I think the key is, you must find some way to facilitate students to intrinsically embrace those core values. And that’s hard to do.

And I don’t know if you can do it in a three-credit course in ethics. I think you can introduce the concepts of professionalism and their importance, as I indicated, but I think ultimately students best develop their professional identity in the clinic.

What we do at Emory to facilitate professionalism is have students write reflective narratives during their clinical experiences, asking them to describe concrete experiences and link their feelings and thoughts during those experiences. We work with students to unbundle their narratives and try to make what is invisible, visible, and try to bring to the surface issues that influence professional formation and identity.

The Ethical Underpinnings of Professionalism

Interviewer: I understand ethics is a large part of professionalism. Can you describe their relationship and why it is important to understand both when caring for patients?

Bruce: I don’t think you can express professionalism if you’re not morally and ethically engaged as a physical therapist. Without ethical discernment, one may lack moral sensitivity, a sense of moral agency. I think those are all important components to becoming or expressing professional behavior and growing as a professional. And I think it results in one’s ability to recognize that you’re dealing with human beings—a statement in its obviousness that at first blush seems axiomatic, but nevertheless, as we get caught in the maelstrom of clinical care we sometimes need to remind ourselves of the human dimension of care. And if you’re caring for a human being you’re making a moral commitment to that person, to look out for that individual’s best interest. And you are going to do anything you can realistically do to do that.

So, I think ethics and professionalism are connected. Ethics is a necessary but maybe not a sufficient dimension of professionalism, meaning that there are other factors that contribute to professionalism, but ethics is integral. And of course, there are ethical issues that arise in care that you need to be able to navigate through.

Issues arise that may constrain your ability to appropriately and effectively care for an individual, that you need to be able to recognize. There are judgments you need to make all the time. And of course, part of professionalism is ethical reasoning. And that’s part of your ability to problem-solve and make judgments about what may be the most appropriate treatment based on your patient’s goals, expectations, and their values.

how to write an essay about physical therapy

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About the JHR

The Journal for the Humanities in Rehabilitation is a peer reviewed, multi-media journal using a collaborative model with rehabilitation professionals, patients and their families to gain a greater understanding of the human experience of disability through art, literature and narrative. The purpose of this interdisciplinary journal is to raise the consciousness and deepen the intellect of the humanistic relationship in the rehabilitation sciences.

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