Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Physical Therapist

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Physical Therapist

Is your charachet a physical therapist? Write their skills, personality traits, and values with authority.Overview: A Physical Therapist (PT) specializes in the recovery of patients who have had injuries, illnesses, or surgeries that impact their mobility and comfort. It can also be used to safely rebuild muscle tissue and flexibility if this has been lost (due to age, malnutrition, or other specific circumstances) or to prevent further degradation. Many physical therapists work with athletes, but this is also a common rehabilitation option for anyone who has suffered a work-, activity-, or home-related injury or is in recovery from a specific condition or illness. The most common types are Orthopedic, Geriatric, Neurological, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Women’s Health, and Pediatric.

PT professionals are trained to listen to the symptoms of a patient, ask further questions to help diagnose what the problem may be, and then create a plan to treat the injured site. Once a therapy plan is made, the PT practitioner will administer therapy using a variety of methods: massage and muscle manipulation, ultrasound, isokinetic bands and devices for tension stretching, ice and heat therapy, electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), exercise balls, exercise bikes, and other resistance pulley equipment to allow for low impact workouts and exercises.

The PT practitioner will also document and modify the therapy as needed, consulting with doctors or other healthcare professionals if it becomes necessary. They also provide a listening ear, encouragement, and empathetic support so the patent makes the best recovery possible and is more incentivized to continue with at-home exercise and build healthy habits that will prevent re-injury. Physical therapists need to be excellent at problem-solving and communicating.

Necessary Training: A PT practitioner will need a university degree that focuses in physical therapy or closely-related science-based courses. To practice, an individual must obtain a doctoral degree in physical therapy (DPT) which includes up to seven months of supervised experience in a clinic.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, basic first aid, charm, empathy, enhanced hearing, enhanced sense of smell, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, high pain tolerance, hospitality, making people laugh, multitasking, reading people, regeneration, strategic thinking, strong breath control, super strength

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, alert, analytical, appreciative,  calm, cautious, charming, confident, cooperative, courteous, curious, disciplined, discreet, easygoing, efficient, empathetic, friendly, industrious, nurturing, observant, optimistic, organized, patient, persistent, persuasive, proactive, professional

NEGATIVE: know-it-all, nosy, obsessive, perfectionist, workaholic

Sources of Friction: patients who are uncommunicative and so make the diagnosis more difficult, patients who lie about how they were injured (out of embarrassment), having too many patients, being overwhelmed by paperwork, difficulty navigating the different coverage thresholds for insurance providers, poorly maintained equipment, patients who don’t want to put in effort for their recovery, frustration at patients who have not taken care of themselves (the morbidly obese, those who have ignored medical advice, etc.), patients who are not vocal when something hurts or who have a low pain threshold, leading to accidental injury, trying to manage a practice while running the business, drama with co-workers, overhearing a patient in another room complain about a previous session that one did, patients who divulge too much personal information, people who expect to be seen without an appointment or without a referral, becoming injured during a session with a client, trying to manage a client load and keep up with new developments in treatment and therapy

People They Might Interact With: other physical therapists, clinic employees, doctors, nurse practitioners, patients, insurance agents, product reps

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: A character who dreams of consulting with high-profile athletes but is unable to work into such a position may not gain the same sort of fulfillment at working in a general clinic
  • Esteem and Recognition: If the character is unable to help a patient to the degree they believed they should have, or becomes embroiled in a malpractice lawsuit, it may cause them to question their own abilities, leading to lower self-worth, or disillusionment if they feel they are being unfairly sued for trying to help someone
  • Love and Belonging: The long hours and physicality of this type of work may leave the character with little energy for loved ones once the day is finished, which could lead to frustration and resentment from the other partner or one’s children
  • Safety and Security: If the character is working with a difficult client that requires a greater level of flexibility and strength than one has, the character could become injured and temporarily unable to practice, causing financial hardship

Common Work-Related Settings: hospital room, military base, nursing home, rec center, spa

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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7 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Physical Therapist

  1. Carol Baldwin says:

    My step-daughter is a PT and just was hospitalized for an intense MS flare-up. All her PT friends came to see her and I watched PT’s work with her. I was surrounded by compassionate, caring, knowledgable women! Skilled in human anatomy and how to strengthen bodies and encourage rehabilitation. I have a new appreciation for a PT’s skill. I just had to weigh in on this one since it’s so personal right now!

    • What a beautiful story! My cousin is a PT who saved the life of her neighbor’s little girl who fell in the pool. She did CPR until the ambulance arrived and they were able to resuscitate her.

  2. :Donna says:

    Someone I’ll be seeing next month to rehab my busted wrist, though, for wrists and hands, she’s an “Occupational” therapist. INVALUABLE! 😀

  3. stezton says:

    I’ve been wondering if you’re going to compile this into a book like you did with the traits & emotions ones.

    • Hi, there! I’m glad you’re liking this thesaurus. The short answer to you question is that we don’t know :). It all depends on writers’ responses to the thesaurus and whether or not we believe the content could support an entire book. This one is popular so it could be that it will be published in the future, but we already have a book slotted (to be announced eventually) in 2019, so it will be a while before we make a decision on the next book. If you’d like to stay informed about any new book information, you can sign up here for a very occasional newsletter containing information to that effect.

  4. Robin Mason says:

    As a matter of fact, I do have a PT in a future book. He makes an appearance in my current story, and will have his own story soon enough.
    BONUS – I just finished with PT and have a whole arsenal of personal reference peeps to call on.
    Angela, I love you guys’ blog, and the great info you provide!

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