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Do You Need a Referral for Physical Therapy?

Dec 17 | , ,

One of the most common misconceptions about physical therapy is that you need a referral to schedule an appointment. Some clinics are limited by state laws and can only work with patients who have been referred by their primary care physicians, however many of our clinics welcome patients whether they are referred or self-refer.

Not only is this a sign that you are taking control of your own care and acting as an advocate for your long-term health, but many patients are also already familiar with physical therapy and its benefits.

In some states, you may not be able to self-refer, but you can be your own advocate and contact your primary care physician for a referral or contact one of our clinics to find out if your state allows self-referrals.

We provide more detail about what to expect in a physical therapy visit in another blog, but you do need to know the process for scheduling an appointment without a referral.

How to Schedule Your PT Appointment Without a Referral

Scheduling an appointment without a referral is the same as scheduling with a referral. You simply call one of our conveniently located clinics or go online to request an appointment.

Make sure to have your insurance card handy when you call. It will speed up benefits verification and reduce registration time during your visit.

We accept many major health plans. It’s our pleasure to verify your health benefits before your first visit. We’ll let you know if there is a copay, deductible, or coinsurance for therapy services.

That’s all there is to it.

Why Should You Self-Refer to Physical Therapy?

There are a number of reasons to self-refer for physical therapy. For starters, research has shown that patients who self-refer get better faster in fewer sessions.


What we find is our patients who self-refer are particularly motivated to get better.

Think about it.

When your doctor – or anyone, for that matter – says you have to pursue ongoing treatment, you may push back and be slow to dive in. However, when you actively choose a treatment – when you’re motivated to get better – you’ve already fought half the battle.

Patients who self-refer tend to be their own health care advocates, which is a significant indicator for long-term overall health.

Let’s look into this idea of being your own health care advocate.

How to Be Your Own Health Care Advocate

Being your own health care advocate has numerous benefits to you as a patient as well as your physical therapist. You’ll have a greater sense of control over your health, confidence in your decisions, and a better understanding of how medicine works.

Not only that, when you take on your own health and partner with your provider, your care can be accelerated and your outcomes can improve significantly.

Here are some of the most important aspects of health care self-advocacy:

Ask Questions

Just because physical therapists are trained medical professionals doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask questions about your care. You need to understand your treatment plan, why it’s important, and how each element will help you heal.

If you’re not sure if you are performing exercises correctly, ask your PT to show you again. Performing them the wrong way can do more harm than good.

Make sure you are being honest about your pain level, mobility, ability to commit to a home exercise program, any concerns or barriers, and goals. The more questions you ask and the more you share with your PT, the better prepared we are to help you heal.

We want you to take an active role in your health care. You can do this by:

  • Prepare a list of questions before your visit and provide them to your PT so you can review them together.
  • Ask for any articles, blogs, or other resources you can access to learn more about the care you’re receiving.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask about your PT’s training. They will be happy to tell you where they went to school and what they had to learn to become a physical therapist.

Keep Your Own Records

Of course, your physical therapist will have information about every treatment and visit on file, but it doesn’t hurt for you to also keep track of that information yourself

In fact, if your PT recommends stretching or exercises between visits, you may want to create a worksheet where you track how you feel after each visit.

  • Are your joints or muscles feeling better or worse?
  • Do you have more or less mobility?
  • How long is your recovery time after each visit?
  • Did you have to ice, heat, or take medication after each visit?

Not only does this help you track your improvement, but it also allows you to share the most accurate information with your PT and make sure your treatment plan is achieving its goals.

Understand Your Insurance Benefits

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you understand your health insurance benefits.

  • Do you know what services are covered?
  • What is your copay?
  • How many visits are allowed in a calendar year?
  • How much do you have to pay out-of-pocket before your benefits kick in?
  • If you have an HSA, can you use those funds toward physical therapy?

We work with patients to make sure they have the information they need to be fully empowered advocates for their own care.

Check with your local clinic to find out if self-referral is an option in your state.