If you have gone through physical therapy yourself or if your child is currently participating in physical therapy you may have heard the terms physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA), but what exactly do those two terms mean and what’s the difference? We’re here to answer that for you!


What is a PTA?
A PTA is a physical therapist assistant. A physical therapist assistant is a licensed practitioner that has graduated from a two year accredited PTA program in which they complete course work in anatomy and physiology, therapeutic exercise, pathology, and more as well as completing multiple clinical rotations in a range of settings, and has passed the National Physical Therapy Examination for PTA’s.


What is the difference between a PT and PTA?

The largest difference in a PT and PTA is the fact that PTA’s are unable to complete initial evaluations and re-evaluations. What does this mean? Essentially whenever your child comes into the clinic, they will initially see a physical therapist. The PT will assess your child’s gross motor development, administer standardized testing, and develop a plan of care.  Either a PT or PTA will carry out their weekly treatment visits according to the pre-established plan of care. If a PTA is the main provider seeing your child it is their job to accomplish the goals the evaluating therapist laid out for them in the plan of care through a variety of treatment strategies, and to keep the PT updated on your kiddo’s progress.  A physical therapist will check in every couple of months to assess progress and to update the plan of care when necessary.


What do PTA’s do?

It is the PTA’s job to help your child reach the goals his or her PT established for them in the initial evaluation through a wide variety of treatment strategies and interventions. PTA’s are licensed and qualified to carry out the same treatment strategies as PT’s, such as gait training, therapeutic exercise, manual therapy and more! PTA’s are an extra set of eyes, ears, and helping hands on your child’s therapy team that is designed to help your child reach their full potential!


Everyone on your child’s therapy team is here to make sure your kiddo gets the best possible care from PT’s and PTA’s to OT’s and COTA’s to SLP’s and SLPA’s! Our goal is to help your child thrive and reach their full potential, and the use of a variety of practitioners is just one way we do that!

-Written By Kendall Mobley, PTA

Physical Therapy Assistants and What They Do For Your Child