Physical Therapy Board of California
Contact the Board at:
California Toll Free Line:
1 (800) 832-2251
A physical therapist is a licensed health care professional who evaluates a patient's physical status, establishes a plan of care and goals, then administers treatments to promote optimal health. Physical therapists seek to relieve pain, improve the body's movement and function, maintain cardiopulmonary function, and limit disabilities resulting from injury or disease.
A physical therapist assistant is licensed and provides physical therapy care under the supervision of a physical therapist.
A physical therapy aide is an unlicensed person who assists a physical therapist and is under the direct and immediate supervision of a physical therapist. The physical therapy aide can only provide direct care to the patient if the supervising physical therapist is within audible reach.
Online verification is available on the PTBC's website.
A California licensed physical therapist has completed an accredited four-to-six-year college program. If educated in a foreign country, proof of an equivalent professional degree to that issued by a United States accredited physical education program that entitles them to practice as a physical therapist in the country where the diploma was issued is required. The educational requirements in physical therapy, including studies in biology, basic medical sciences, and clinical experience as required in a US accredited program. Studies focus on the evaluation and treatment of the heart, lungs, muscles, bones, and the nervous system. In addition, California physical therapists have passed the national physical therapy examination and an examination on the laws and regulations governing the practice of physical therapy in California.
A California physical therapist assistant has completed an accredited two-year college program or has met the equivalency requirements, which include studies in anatomy and physiology. Clinical experience is also required for both avenues. In addition, California physical therapist assistants have passed the national physical therapist assistant examination and an examination on the laws and regulations governing the practice of physical therapy in California.
A physical therapy aide is not licensed and is not required to meet any education requirements and has no formal training. Training is received on-site and under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.
Physical therapists, as part of the evaluation, will among other things, take your health history, observe your posture and movement or any limitations you may have, and use their hands to palpate and evaluate problem areas. From this evaluation, the physical therapist then establishes a plan of care (treatment) with goals and an estimated time to expect these goals to be achieved. The physical therapist should solicit your participation in establishing the treatment plan and goals.
Treatment may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- therapeutic use of hands
- exercise programs
- application of therapeutic modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation
- training in daily living activities
- patient education
Physical therapist assistants under the supervision of a physical therapist also work to assist in reaching your treatment goals.
Most important, if you have questions regarding your physical therapy treatment plan and goals, direct your questions to the physical therapist.
Physical therapists practice in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, private practices, home care, schools, and in industry.
Physical therapist assistants may assist in the provision of physical therapy treatment without the physical therapist being in the same facility, as long as the physical therapist assistant is supervised pursuant to Section 1398.44 of Title 16 California Code of Regulations. A physical therapist assistant is only permitted to provide physical therapy treatment as directed by the supervising physical therapist. A physical therapist assistant is not allowed to perform the initial evaluation, re-evaluations, change a treatment plan, supervise another physical therapist assistant and/or physical therapy aide or conduct a discharge and discharge summary.
Physical therapy aides may only provide physical therapy treatment in the same facility as the supervising physical therapist and is required to have direct and immediate supervision pursuant to Section 1399 of Title 16 California Code of Regulation. Treatment by a physical therapy aide must also include treatment by the supervising physical therapist on that same day.
Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants shall disclose, while working, his/her name and practitioner's license status, as granted by this state, on a name tag in at least 18-point type. A physical therapist or physical therapist assistant in a practice or an office, whose license is prominently displayed in that office, may opt not to wear a name tag.
Each supervising licensed physical therapist shall require all physical therapy aides, applicants, students and interns performing patient related tasks under his or her supervision to display while working his or her name and working title on a name tag in at least 18-point type.
For more information on the license status of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant, please visit DCA License Search.
- Is the location of where you are obtaining physical therapy services physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.)?
- Is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and disability parking available?
- Does the practitioner makes house calls?
Your file contains a record that reflects your evaluation, treatment plan, and actual treatment notes. Patient records shall be maintained for a period of no less than seven years following the discharge of the patient, except that the records of unemancipated minors shall be maintained at least one year after the minor has reached the age of 18 years, and not in any case less than seven years.
Generally, patient records are confidential unless you authorize release of your records. Ask your health care professional about exceptions to this. If you want a copy of your records, provide your physical therapist with a written request. The facility or physical therapist may charge a reasonable fee to offset the cost of providing copies.
In evaluating the quality of the care given to you, you should be able to answer "Yes" to each statement below:
- A physical therapist performed my evaluation.
- The physical therapist explained my treatment plan and goals.
- The physical therapist addressed my concerns regarding my treatment plan and goals.
- The physical therapist wore an identification badge showing name and title or the license was posted in a place that was visible.
- My privacy was maintained.
For information on your rights to request a copy of your own medical record, click on Medical Records.
Physical therapy never includes sex. It also never includes verbal sexual advances or any other kind of sexual contact or behavior. Sexual contact of any kind in the course of a physical therapy treatment is illegal and unethical. Harm may arise from the exploitation of the patient by the physical therapy provider to fulfill his/her own needs or desires, as well as from the physical therapy provider's loss of objectivity necessary for effective physical therapy. All physical therapy providers are trained and educated to know that this kind of behavior is inappropriate and can result in license revocation.
By the nature of their profession, physical therapy providers are trusted and respected, and it is normal for patients to feel attracted to someone who is attentive, kind and caring. However, a physical therapy provider who accepts or encourages these normal feelings in a sexual way, is using the trusted physical therapy relationship to take advantage of the patient.
Some concerns or problems between a patient and a licensee are caused by a breakdown in communication. Some common misunderstandings are the scope of services available, the quality of professional services, and the timeliness of those services. Direct and open communication can be beneficial to both the patient and the professional in seeking an acceptable resolution.
If you cannot resolve a problem and you believe that the issue of concern is a violation of the Physical Therapy Practice Act, you may file a complaint with the PTBC by completing the Physical Therapy Board's Consumer Complaint Form or file your complaint through the DCA BreEZe Online Services.
Examples of other violations of law not mentioned in the Reasons for Discipline that should be brought to PTBC's attention include: conviction of a criminal offense related to the profession; mental illness; practicing outside the scope of the provider's license or below accepted community standards; and breach of confidentiality and deceptive advertising.
NO. PTBC does not provide referrals.
General Office Practice Protocols/FAQs
You should only be billed for services provided. If you feel there was double billing or you have concern that you were billed for services that were not provided, submit a complaint form or file your complaint through the DCA BreEZe Online Services and it will be reviewed. However, if you are being charged for services that are not covered by your insurance or for services that were beyond what is covered by your insurance, the PTBC does not have jurisdiction. It is ultimately the patient's responsibility to know what their insurance covers.
Physical therapists are responsible for the care provided by the physical therapist assistant and/or the physical therapy aide under their supervision. The supervising physical therapist delegates and should be monitoring and supervising the care provided to their patients by the physical therapist assistant and/or aide.
You should only be billed for services provided. If you feel there was double billing or you do have concern that you were billed for services that were not provided, submit a complaint form or file your complaint through the DCA BreEZe Online Services and it will be reviewed. However, if you are being charged for services that are not covered by your insurance or for services that were beyond your insurance coverage, PTBC does not have jurisdiction.
The physical therapist must initially evaluate each patient and formulate a treatment program goals and plan based on the evaluation prior to the physical therapist assistant or aide providing any treatment to the patient. The physical therapist must first evaluate your condition in order to delegate and to determine what elements of the treatment plan may be assigned to a physical therapist assistant or physical therapy aide.
When services are provided by a physical therapy aide, the supervising physical therapist shall at some point during the treatment day, provide direct service to the patient as treatment for the patient's condition, or to further evaluate and monitor the patient's progress, and shall correspondingly document the patient's record.
Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants must disclose, while working, his or her name and practitioner's license status, as granted by this state, on a name tag in at least an 18-point type. A physical therapist or physical therapist assistant in a practice or an office, whose license is prominently displayed in the office, may opt not to wear a name tag.
You can make a written request to either review or obtain a copy of your medical records pursuant to Health and Safety Code sections 123100 through 123149.5. The laws which authorize access to your records are available on the Internet and you might wish to review them for information about time lines and the fees he or she may charge to provide the records. You can view these laws at the following Web site: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
Yes, pursuant to Health & Safety Code section 123110, a doctor can charge 25 cents per page plus a reasonable clerical fee. For diagnostic films, such as an x-ray, MRI, CT and PET scans, you can be charged the actual cost of copying the films. This only applies if you have made a written request for a copy of your medical records to be provided to you.
As long as you requested your medical records in writing, to be sent directly to you (and not to anyone else), the physical therapist is required to send you a copy within specified time limits. If you are having difficulty getting your records, you can file a complaint with PTBC. PTBC will intervene on your behalf to determine why the records will not be provided to you.
The patient records must be maintained for at least seven years following the discharge, except the records of unemancipated minors must be maintained for at least one year after the minor reaches the age of 18.
If you made your request in writing for the records to be sent directly to you, the physical therapist must provide copies to you within 15 days. The physical therapist can charge a reasonable fee for the cost of making the copies. If the physical therapist's office advises you that a fee will be charged for the records, the medical records do not need to be provided until the fee is paid. If the physical therapist does not comply within the time frame you can file a written complaint with PTBC.
The patient can write an "Addendum" to be placed in his or her medical file. The original information will not be removed, but the new information, signed and dated by the patient, will be placed in the file. Health and Safety Code section 123111 states that an adult patient "shall have the right to provide to the health care provider a written addendum with respect to any item or statement in his or her records that the patient believes to be incomplete or incorrect. The addendum shall be limited to 250 words per alleged incomplete or incorrect item in the patient's record and shall clearly indicate in writing that the patient wishes the addendum to be made a part of his or her record. The health care provider shall attach the addendum to the patient's records and shall include that addendum whenever the health care provider makes a disclosure of the allegedly incomplete or incorrect portion of the patient's records to any third party."
No, they do not belong to the patient. Medical records are the property of the provider (or facility) that prepares them. This includes films and tracings from diagnostic imaging procedures such as x-ray, CT, PET, MRI, ultrasound, etc. The patient has a right to view the originals, and to obtain copies under Health and Safety Code sections 123100 - 123149.5.
There is no central "repository" for medical records. If a physical therapist moves, retires, or passes away, sometimes another physical therapist will either "buy out" or take over his/her practice. The "active" patients are usually notified by mail (as a courtesy), and told where to obtain their records. If you cannot locate the physical therapist, you may want to contact your local county medical society (which is part of the California Medical Association) to see if they have any information about the physical therapist practice (e.g., did someone else take over the practice?). For assistance, you may go to their Web site: www.ccapta.org/
If the physical therapist is deceased and did not transfer the practice to someone else, you might have to check your local Probate Court to see whether the physical therapist has an executor for his or her estate. You could then contact the executor to see if you can get a copy of the records. Depending on how much time has passed, whoever is appointed as the custodian of records can have the records destroyed.