Establishing a Professional Identity

When Jull and Moore published an editorial, titled Physiotherapy’s Identity, in manual Therapy last year it got me thinking….  The idea of having our profession identified by a term that reflects our core business is essential, and the “Movement System” works for me, that’s what we’re all about, movement!  I wondered why I hadn’t heard about this proposal before. Maybe I just don’t read enough? Maybe because I’m a UK based physiotherapist and it seems to originate in the USA?  Maybe my perspective on our profession isn’t international enough? I completely agree with Jull and Moore that there needs to be an “international discussion about such a proposal”, without this we may end up in a professional mess as we have with our name….

My work at Physiopedia finds me communicating with physiotherapists and physical therapists from all over the world on a daily basis.  In addition to this I write pieces for publication on the web (press releases, courses, Physiopedia pages, blog posts, etc) every day.  I know that this is a selfish perspective but, honestly, I am fed up of writing “physiotherapy and physical therapy” or “physiotherapists and physical therapists”!  I am fed up of finding ways to try to express that these are in fact one profession. Why can’t we have one name?  Surely this would be better for our professional identity.  I recently raised these thoughts in a letter to the editor of Physical Therapy….

I must congratulate the members of our profession who are getting involved in a movement to strengthen our profession’s identity.1 These days, when our profession may be challenged, it is so important for us to create a strong global identity. The term movement system is a great identifier, but as Jull and Moore state, “considerable work would have to be done towards the scientific definition and promotion [of this term].”1 I am looking forward to the ongoing discussion, the results of which I hope will be actioned without delay so that united as a profession we can work to promote our profession on a global scale.

However, I am reminded that our identity is weakened by the division of the profession by name. The fact that we use both the terms physiotherapy and physical therapy, not to mention other international differentiations, does not give us a strong global identity. If we are to define our profession by a system to strengthen our identity, then perhaps we should also decide on a name. Consideration of this proposal certainly presents many challenges, especially when both terms are rooted in their own history and geographical variation. However, we cannot ignore this issue, as the current situation threatens our profession, for example, by generating public confusion and at the extreme allowing training institutes to offer “physical therapy” qualifications after minimal training.2

Working in the global sphere, I am very supportive of presenting a united front with a strong professional identity. I wonder if there is anything that we can do about this? I look forward to future discourse.


1 Jull G, Moore A. Physiotherapy’s identity. Man Ther. 2013;18:447-448.

2 Confusion surrounding title “physical therapist” in Ireland. Available at: [Accessed 25 April 14].

I completely understand the complexities that arise in relation to the suggestion of agreeing on one name for our profession.  Changing a name is never easy.  The administration is unthinkable, there are a host of other names in English speaking countries to consider and worst of all we may lose public confidence.  But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Another reason for international discourse…..

See the full letter in Physical Therapy