The role of psychological skills within physiotherapy: a narrative review of the profession and training

Jenny Alexanders, Caroline Douglas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The importance of treating the psychological well-being of patients is increasingly recognised as an integral part of physiotherapy provision and specified in the World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Institute for Health
    and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. However, the term psychology encompasses a huge variety of aspects including; communication skills, goal setting, imagery, personality theories and effective inter-disciplinary practices
    which need be trained. The purpose of this review is to explore the historical development of physiotherapy as a profession in the context of present standards requiring physiotherapists to manage psychological issues that
    impact rehabilitation.

    The review will focus specifically on how the role of psychology in practice has evolved and whether this is reflected in current physiotherapy training programmes.

    Electronic papers were identified through a rigorous search of CINAL, AMED, MEDLINE, PsychINFO and EMBASE. Due to the historical exploration of this
    review, no time limits were applied to the searches and articles were retrieved as far back as 1894.

    The history of the profession demonstrates a very ‘hands on’ approach to treatment with minimal psychology related practices. Whilst numerous studies exploring psychology training in physiotherapy have reported significant inconsistencies across UK undergraduate physiotherapy programmes.

    Due to shifts in the dynamics of healthcare, it is apparent that physiotherapy programmes would benefit from including psychology skills training, as a core module, to meet these ever changing demands. Future research should explore what psychological interventions physiotherapists currently utilise in daily practice, as well as practitioner feelings on the standard and relevance of the psychology content provided in their formal training.

    Keywords: Physiotherapy, Profession, Undergraduate training, Psychology
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages7
    JournalPhysical Therapy Reviews
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2017


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