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Professional Action Plan: Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is more than just the mending of bodies; it is a holistic endeavour that encompasses the intricate interplay between the physical and psychological dimensions of healing. Drawing inspiration from sports psychology concepts of motivation, communication and interpersonal, as an aspiring physical therapist, I can harness their power to create an environment that not only facilitates physical recovery but also nurtures the psychological well-being of their patients.

Psychological Elements

As determined earlier, the intended career field under discussion for this paper is physical therapy. As a multidimensional field encompassing various psychological elements and dimensions, physical therapy plays a crucial role in the overall well-being and success of rehabilitation patients. With a particular interest in the field, I have understood that these psychological aspects are intertwined with the physical aspects of treatment and contribute significantly to the effectiveness of the therapy process. Therefore, I intend to further comprehend the unique demands of this anticipated career field by determining if these psychological elements are relevant and can be viable as targets for my action plan.

The most significant element of physical therapy is patient empowerment and engagement because physical therapists must work closely with patients to set goals, create treatment plans, and monitor progress. Therefore, empowering patients to participate in their recovery actively will foster a sense of control and involvement, leading to increased motivation and adherence to the prescribed exercises and interventions. When the empowerment seems to be slowly taking shape, there is a need to involve the physical and physiological aspects or experience, i.e., pain management and perception, such that the patients as clients understand the relationship between pain and movement. Caneiro, Bunzli and O’Sullivan (2021) explain that pain perception can reduce fear and anxiety associated with movement, which makes patients more receptive to therapy, perhaps a significant reason for the need for patient education on pain perception.

Motivation is also another element often accompanied by adherence because physical therapy requires that patients be motivated to commit to their treatment plans and adhere to exercise routines since it can be challenging. Physical therapists will employ motivational strategies like positive reinforcement and goal-setting techniques to enhance patients’ commitment and compliance with prescribed interventions to ultimately realize the set expectations (Bäck et al., 2020). While there can be emotional distress and frustration, physical therapy incorporates the coping and stress management element, where patients are advised to express their concerns and fears as they also get educated on stress management techniques and coping strategies. Significantly, the education should be accompanied by communication because it ensures the professional builds rapport while setting expectations and ensuring that patients understand their condition and the treatment options. In general, physical therapy builds upon motivation and adherence, coping and stress management, and communication and education elements.

Linking the Psychological Elements to Theoretical Knowledge on Sport Psychology

Patient empowerment relates to ensuring independence such that the main intent (facilitating long-term independence and sustainable function) is achieved with major recognition of the patient’s sense of powerlessness. While this empowerment can emulate the job’s specific requirements in using skills and knowledge to ensure the patient gains as much as possible, communication is important. Communication creates rapport and ensures patients comprehend their conditions, treatment plans, and expected outcomes to actively participate in rehabilitation and adhere to prescribed exercises and interventions. With communication components of empathy and understanding, the patient’s fear and anxiety are alleviated as the treatment approach is reinforced. As Ahlsen and Nilsen (2022) discuss, communication is the beginning of ensuring patient-centred care in physical therapy. Therefore, communication will not only establish the trust needed for effective therapy but also ensure the care is personalized through patient involvement in decision-making and communication of lifestyles, preferences and goals.

Interpersonal skills relate to motivation and adherence because patients need to be motivated to adhere to their prescribed exercises and interventions, which requires strong interpersonal skills. Therefore, physical therapists will build rapport and trust, creating a supportive environment where patients feel comfortable discussing challenges and setbacks that will, in turn, help in tailoring strategies to enhance adherence. At the same time, the professional will work towards providing emotional support and creating this safe space that allows for the free expression of emotional concerns for the development of effective coping strategies. Besides, changes in body image may trigger challenges in self-esteem, requiring that the professional provides encouragement, support, and positive reinforcement, fostering a sense of self-worth and self-esteem in patients as they progress through their therapy. In the end, patients will utilize the motivation propelled by physical therapists to embrace behavioural changes for the long-term benefits of adopting healthier habits.

Action Plan

In pursuing a career in physical therapy, it is significant to understand the psychological elements of the field because they are essential for achieving successful outcomes and building positive therapeutic relationships. This action plan will focus on skill building to match the expectations of the industry, i.e., strategic application of sport psychology concepts and optimization of the psychological experience for aspiring physical therapy students. This plan also intends to lay out motivation, communication, and interpersonal skills as the starting point for going into the physical therapy field.

I intend to work towards ensuring motivation in my job by setting both short-term and long-term goals starting from my academic and professional journey while utilizing intrinsic motivation based on personal meaning and enjoyment. Moreover, this process will factor in the self-determination theory that autonomy, competence and relatedness are core to professional development. I will be regularly assessing my strengths while seeking out opportunities for professional development and supportive networks within the physical therapy community. I also consider optimism as one of the practices individuals could use to actualize their projections for their future careers. Therefore, I look forward to practicing positive self-talk to counter self-doubt and boost confidence, together with a well-developed repertoire of affirmations to reinforce my abilities and resilience.

Considering that motivation is more of an intrinsic consideration, working towards motivating patients creates the second phase that there has to be an initial assessment, then following up with the setting of SMART goals. At the same time, ensuring motivation in physical therapy considers education and engagement with patients, which calls for progress tracking and drafting personal plans for patients. An individualized approach should also be considered since there is a need for adjustable intensity and variety, and novelty. Given that communication was considered the initial strategy, I intend to ensure the presence of open dialogue and recognition of emotional barriers.

In general, the plan is to work on personal traits and then strengthen interpersonal skills and professional requirements for physical therapy. Considering motivation, communication, and interpersonal skills comprised the main arguments linked to the psychological elements of physical therapy, implementing them requires diving into their constituents, like active listening and practicing cultural sensitivity. Thus, I will be looking to facilitate positive performance and experience outcomes for myself and my patients by ensuring personal growth and professional development through continuous learning and self-reflection. While at it, I intend to ensure effective patient-centred care with the proper application of the empathetic approach, patient education, individualized treatment and plans and motivation enhancement. As a field, physical therapy requires supportive workplace relationships with other professionals culminated through interdisciplinary collaboration and cultural competence, where I will be sure to observe ethical and professional conduct by adhering to ethical standards of the profession, ensuring integrity, honesty, and patient confidentiality in all interactions. Otherwise, with professionalism in my demeanour, attire and communication, I would have contributed to improved patient outcomes in my patient population.


Incorporating the principles of motivation, physical therapists can set off determination within patients because of the art of goal-setting, tailored interventions, and a deep understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations; therapists empower individuals to stride purposefully on their rehabilitation journey. Just as athletes draw strength from their aspirations, patients can channel their inner resolve to conquer challenges and exceed their own expectations. In the same way, communication and interpersonal skills can act as the heartbeat of the therapeutic relationship, mirroring the teamwork seen in sports and fortifying the emotional fortitude likened to the unwavering trust and friendship among teammates.


Ahlsen, B., & Nilsen, A. B. (2022). Getting in touch: Communication in physical therapy practice and the multiple functions of language. Frontiers in rehabilitation sciences3, 882099.

Bäck, M., Caldenius, V., Svensson, L., & Lundberg, M. (2020). Perceptions of kinesiophobia in relation to physical activity and exercise after myocardial infarction: a qualitative study. Physical therapy100(12), 2110-2119.

Caneiro, J. P., Bunzli, S., & O’Sullivan, P. (2021). Beliefs about the body and pain: the critical role in musculoskeletal pain management. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy25(1), 17-29.


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