How To Become a Pelvic Floor Therapist
There are many opportunities for physical therapists to specialize in treating certain types of patients or performing a particular method of physical therapy. One option for specialization that physical therapists can pursue is in pelvic floor therapy. You might decide to specialize in pelvic floor therapy if you're interested in helping women, as many pelvic floor therapists guide women through strengthening their pelvic floor after medical conditions or childbirth. In this article, we explore what a career as a pelvic floor therapist can be like and consider some steps for becoming a pelvic floor therapist.
What is a pelvic floor therapist?
A pelvic floor therapist is a physical therapist who specializes in helping patients strengthen their pelvic floors. The pelvic floor includes all of the muscles that surround the reproductive organs and urinary tract. Common patients for pelvic floor therapists can include women who experience childbirth, men who are recovering from prostate cancer and general patients who want to pay more attention to their pelvic health.
Pelvic floor therapists can work at physical therapy practices, clinics and rehabilitation centers that offer physical therapy. However, many pelvic floor therapists start their own clinics and take on clients who they find through networking, databases and outreach.
What does a pelvic floor therapist do?
A pelvic floor therapist can engage in several duties that involve supporting their patients and improving their pelvic health. For example, most pelvic floor therapists perform internal and external pelvic exams when they take on new patients to learn about their current pelvic health and discuss each patient's goals for therapy. When administering pelvic floor therapy, pelvic floor therapists can guide their patients through exercises designed to strengthen the muscles in a pelvic floor and the ligaments and tissues surrounding it. Pelvic floor therapists also use breathing exercises to help their patients remain relaxed and focused during therapy.
How to become a pelvic floor therapist
Here are some steps you can use to start your career as a pelvic floor therapist:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is typically the first step toward becoming a pelvic floor therapist, as most physical therapists pursue a bachelor's degree to prepare for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program they have to complete in the future. Many aspiring pelvic floor therapists major in a subject like biology or anatomy to learn about the human body and the basics of how it can function. However, you can also choose a closely related major like physiology, psychology or physics and take additional courses in anatomy to receive very similar training.
2. Complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy program
Any physical therapist, including pelvic floor therapists, who wants to practice in the United States needs to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. This is because a DPT program can prepare aspiring physical therapists to succeed in the field by providing them with education in advanced concepts and practices in physical therapy and allowing them to practice through practical application. Most DPT programs last for three years and cover a wide array of subjects, like exercise physiology, kinesiology and behavioral sciences. Here are a few more subjects that you might encounter during a DPT program:
Cardiovascular and pulmonary
Related: What Is Physical Therapist Training?
3. Get licensed as a physical therapist
Once you graduate from a DPT program, you can apply for licensure as a physical therapist. The specific licensing requirements for physical therapists can vary depending on the state where you live and want to work, so it can be helpful to research your state's regulations before applying for a license. Some aspiring pelvic floor therapists choose to become licensed as occupational therapists instead, which can involve many of the same qualifications and training.
To earn a license as a physical therapist, you can send an application to your state board and then take a competency exam once your application is approved.
4. Take courses in pelvic floor therapy
There are several professional courses available that offer in-depth education and training in concepts that pelvic floor therapists might need to succeed in the field. This can be highly beneficial to new physical therapists who need to gain experience in administering pelvic floor therapy and identifying symptoms and conditions. Most training courses for pelvic floor therapists involve lectures and classroom learning activities that can provide candidates with extensive information regarding the work they might perform. Here are a few courses you might consider to prepare for work as a new pelvic floor therapist:
Pelvic Health Physical Therapy
Fundamental Topics of Obstetric Physical Therapy
Postpartum Physical Therapy
5. Gain experience practicing pelvic floor therapy
Once you're ready to start taking patients, you can begin practicing as a pelvic floor therapist. Building professional experience can be especially important for pelvic floor therapists who own and run their own clinics, as it can help them to establish a reputation in the community and connect with new potential patients. You can also find work as a pelvic floor therapist at physical therapy practices, rehabilitation centers, and clinics to get experience in clinical settings.
Skills for a pelvic floor therapist
A career as a pelvic floor therapist can require several technical and soft skills. For example, pelvic floor therapists need extensive knowledge of the pelvic floor and the ability to identify which therapeutic exercises can most effectively benefit each patient they treat. Pelvic floor therapists should also have excellent interpersonal and communication skills in order to maintain communication with patients throughout their therapy appointments and make sure they're comfortable. Another skill that can be important for pelvic floor therapists is manual dexterity, as they often help their patients through massaging or adjusting their position while sitting or stretching.
Here are a few more skills that can benefit a pelvic floor therapist:
Attention to detail
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