Is a Doctor of Physical Therapy a Real Doctor: Myth About a DPT Doctor

One of the most frequently asked questions in the last couple of years was: “Is a Doctor of Physical Therapy a Real Doctor”. This question started several conversations surrounding the use of Doctor title in physical therapy. If you are looking for a Yes or No answer, I would like to tell you that there are many factors that one has to consider before using the title of “Doctor.” To understand the qualifications needed for adding the Dr title and to know more about physical therapists, read this detailed blog to get your answer.

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Physical therapists are the health workers that have a specialized degree in physical therapy. Now there are three levels of education that one can opt for pursuing their career as a physical therapist:

Bachelor of Physical Therapy (BPT): An undergrad course of three to four years.

Master of Physical Therapy ( MPT): A postgrad course of two years.

Doctorate of Physical Therapy ( DPT): A doctorate course of three to four years.

The therapists acquiring a bachelor’s degree have to undertake a four-year undergrad course at medical university after which they can start to practice in clinics or opt for a Master’s degree. Similarly, a therapist with MPT can practice therapy in clinics and help patients. But the therapists acquiring either or both of these degrees cannot use the title of Doctor. Although they have studied medicine for years and help patients with injuries, fractures, ligaments, tendons, or muscle-related conditions, they cannot be called doctors.

Is DPT a Doctor?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, the physical therapists holding a Doctor of Physical Therapy can use the title of Doctor along with indicating that they are physical therapists so that it doesn’t confuse patients. The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree was introduced in 1996, and since then, many people opt for this degree instead of opting for MPT. So by this, we can establish that physical therapists are doctors, but they are doctors of physical therapy.

Now there is one more doubt regarding the use of the doctor title as many people confuse it with the degree of MD or DO. It should be noted that Doctors having an MD degree is different from the therapist holding a DPT. There is a common perception among the people to only call the physicians or the people with MD degrees as doctors, which is not valid. There are many doctors such as Doctors of Ophthalmology, Doctor of Chiropractic and much more. All these doctors have the knowledge and skills about the particular field of medicine and hence can be addressed as a Doctor. You can’t go to a physician for a muscle sprain; similarly, you can’t go to a physical therapist for the flu.

There are different types of doctors and they all are specialized in one field or the other. One shouldn’t ask if they are real doctors just because they can’t prescribe medication or do surgeries. Right from dermatologists to physical therapists, the people pursuing a doctorate in any stream should be addressed as doctors. 

Similarly, people with a Ph.D. degree can use the title of Doctor but can’t operate or prescribe drugs. The title of Doctor is used to address a person who has invested years of study in a particular field. Each Doctor doesn’t need to be a physician or MD. A title of the Doctor is given to someone having a doctorate, MD, or Ph.D. degree.

Do You Call a Physical Therapist a Doctor?

Do You Call a Physical Therapist a Doctor

The answer is yes! You can address your physical therapist as a doctor if she/he has a doctorate of physical therapy. In some countries, the therapists with BPT and MPT also use the title of Dr. but with the specification that they are physical therapists. 

Is a Doctor of Physical Therapy a Real Doctor?

Any person having a doctorate degree can be addressed as a doctor and can use the title. However, it is better to be clear regarding the field you specialize in so that patients are not misled. Physical therapists put in a lot of years of studies and practical training to gain knowledge about treating people. They are one of the essential health workers as they can help with several physical health conditions. So if someone asks you next time if they are real doctors tell them yes, they are, but there are not physicians or surgeons. I hope this article gave you clarity regarding the confusion surrounding the physical therapists and the title of Doctor.

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