By the time we have the letters DPT after our name we will all have gone through four years of undergraduate education plus three years of graduate level education that is PT specific. That is 7 years of higher education but is that enough to be able to call ourselves Doctor? Especially when our undergraduate degree did not have to be in pre physical therapy, biomechanics or exersice science (Mine is in accounting and statistics!).

I want to discuss this as it was a side topic from last weeks chat in which people felt very strongly one way or the other.

Should only PhDs or MDs be able to be called Doctor? Will you introduce yourself as “Hi, I’m Dr. (insert name here), I’ll be your physical therapist” or will you leave out the word doctor all together? With many professions now offering entry level doctorate degrees, does the word doctor have less meaning?

Think about it and then let’s talk about it on January 30th at 9pm EST!

Remember, there are going to be many opinions on this so let’s agree to disagree respectfully!


Click here for analytics and transcript.


  1. My attitude on this topic is that there are plenty of entry level doctoral degrees out there that refer to themselves as doctors (ie podiatrists, dentists, chiropractors, etc), sometimes with less education. The difference between us and three examples above is that we spend more time with the patients, so the formal “doctor” title may be too formal. We know about Mildred’s grandchildren and the soccer games, dance recitals, etc. My approach is to indicate that I am a DPT at the initial evaluation, and say that its OK to just call me Eric…

  2. Great topic! I’m interested in hearing other people’s opinions. Hoping I will be able to join. I personally don’t think we should refer to ourselves as Doctors, but I also understand this is a multi-factorial issue.

  3. As a hard working PT student myself. I think that we definately should have the “Doctor” in our title. We have the formal education to back it up, and it shows that we have a wealth of clinical knowledge at our disposal for the benefits of our future patients. I do not think that PT’s should address patients with a “Hi Mrs. Smith, I am your doctor”. Most PT’s I know just use their first name and if they do choose to use the Doctor, they use it as “I am your Doctor of Physical Therapy”.

    Besides, doesn’t the term Doctor somewhere in your name give you that little bit of extra motivation to study, read current research, and do your absolute best at all times in effort to live up to such a high standard of care instead of a possible other scenario where it would be easy to shrug our shoulders, saying “i don’t know” and not going the extra mile because, hey, after all we aren’t a doctor.

    1. I hope that the term “Doctor” is not our inspiration to be the best we can be. I hope the understanding that we are a professional is enough to want to be the best we can be. I hope our profession wants to study, stay current on research, and go the extra mile because they are proud to be physical therapists. It should be our caring hearts and love for our patients that inspires us to never settle for anything but the best. Having a term in the front of our name should be of no factor in how good we want to treat our patients. Inspiration should come from the patient and helping them overcome their obstacles, not from self-pride of a term. I hope our professionals are proud to be called physical therapists and do not feel less successful if “doctor” is not apart of it. P.S. I’m a DPT and does feel that the term doctor defines me. I’m a physical therapist.

  4. I agree with Eric. I plan on introducing myself as A Dr. of PT and then telling the patient they can call me Zach. We deserve the title of Dr but for a lot of our interactions that may be a bit formal for me

    1. I agree with Eric and Zach, I feel part of the reason I am going for a DPT is because our setting is more relaxed, and dare I say “friendly”. I have observed some MDs who use “doctor” to give them an aura that they are better then their clients. This is not the case and therefore I will allow my patients to call me by my first name. I feel a first name basis allows for less guarded and more honest patient/client interactions.

  5. Congratulations to all of you undertaking this profession. This is a great field and will be for a long time, but no doubt we will face huge challenges from the healthcare industry and other professions. I graduated just prior to the DPT transitioning and have not yet felt the need to spend yet another year pursuing this degree when I am doing the same things you are likely now being trained to do. However, I believe in the new healthcare framework we will have an opportunity to be the first line of medical care for musculoskeletal conditions, and we are well suited to do so. With careful training in differential diagnosis, our profession is well within bounds to use the term “doctor”.

    1. I think it is awesome to see fellow professionals speak so highly of our profession. I am a DPT who graduated in 2007. I was in the first DPT class at my school so this was a strongly discussed topic. Most physical therapists, from my impression, go into our field to help people. This is what I strive to do everyday. Help people and be as good at it as I can. Remember, even the worst doctors still have the Dr. before his or her name. I want to say I agree with each of you in this discussion. However, the term doctor can’t improve our standing in the profession more than our skills can. As each of you graduate and enter this great profession, strive to be the best you can and our credibility as a whole will benefit. Dr. or not.

  6. I have a clinical doctorate in physical therapy. I do not introduce myself as Dr. ____. If someone introduced me as Dr I would not correct them. If someone asks about my education I let them know I have a doctorate in physical therapy. Patients do not need anymore confusion. We are not their doctor. We are not here to give them meds or provide surgical interventions. We are different than any other healthcare provider. You should not feel the need to validate yourself by calling yourself doctor. Validate yourself with your skills by providing excellent care. Relish the fact you are different and understand that your entry level education into physical therapy is just the start. We are physical therapists and I feel that is how we should introduce ourselves.

  7. “Doctor” comes from Latin, “to teach” and does not have any particular roots with the medical profession. So, Kyle, what you mean is, “We are not their physician.” Many folks in academia are “doctors” without any huff about the title. Making too big a deal over this. If you’ve earned an academic degree that is accredited and accepted by state authorities to the doctorate level, with all the rights and privileges associated with that degree, then what exactly is the argument? This is a preference, not a should/must thing. I, for one, am proud of the doctorate level of my education. You all should be. Let’s drop the professional insecurity and submissive behaviors. Be called doctor or not, it’s your call, but own up to the fact that you are one. And, completely agree with the fact that your true validity as a practitioner is your skills and ability to help patients achieve their goals regardless of title, but still…

Comments are closed.