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Two Ways You May Access Physical Therapy in Washington:


1.) Referral by Physician, Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Surgeon, or other Healthcare Provider (see list below)

2.) Self Referral (Direct Access)


What is Direct Access?


  • ​Direct access allows the patient to be evaluated and treated by a Physical Therapist without being referred by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner for musculoskeletal issues. Sometimes direct access may be referred to as self-referral. 

  • Insurance coverage for your physical therapy benefits are plan-specific. Most insurance companies do not require a referral from your physician, but some do.  You should contact your insurance provider to see if they require a referral for PT. 

Is Direct Access Safe?

  • ​YES! Physical therapists are trained to recognize “red flags” that may signal the need for more invasive medical intervention. In those cases, referral to your physician or healthcare provider is made immediately by the PT. 

  • If you are suffering from a musculoskeletal condition that causes functional movement limitations, use your best judgment when deciding which healthcare practitioner to see. A visit to your local physical therapist is a safe place to start on the road to recovery. If you are unsure if physical therapy is right for you, a discussion with your doctor may be necessary to help you decide.


  • Direct Access FAQs from the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA):



Physician (M.D., D.O.)             

Physician Assistant (PAC)             

Nurse Practitioner  (NP, ANP, PNP, FNP, GNP)             

Naturopathic Physician (N.D.)             

Chiropractor (D.C.)             

Podiatrist (D.P.) (For Lower Extremity problems only)             

Dentist (DDS, DMD) (For craniomandibular disorders, i.e. TMD,"Temporomandibular Dysfunction")

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