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Guide to Physical Therapist Practice

Guide 3.0 - Available Now!

The latest version of APTA's Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, which has been available as a book and CD and is now an online subscription, is available now online only, as Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 3.0 (Guide 3.0). The online links to external and continually updated resources enable the Guide to meet the needs of today's physical therapist and physical therapist assistant educators, students, and clinicians in a way that a static printed book cannot.

Access Guide 3.0 at http://guidetoptpractice.apta.org — no software to buy, no disk to install, no updates to download.

Note that if you are a new APTA member or subscriber to the Guide you may need to wait up to 48 hours after your transaction before you are able to log in.




What is Guide 3.0, and who is it for?

Guide 3.0 is a description of practice. Originally, APTA developed the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice as a resource also for health care policy makers, administrators, managed care providers, third-party payers, and other professionals. Because these external stakeholders now have access to other key resources, and because the rapid evolution of health care policy requires more dynamic documents, Guide 3.0 was developed primarily for physical therapist and physical therapist assistant audiences. Listen to APTA's Podcast on the Top 5 Questions Asked About Guide 3.0.

Important to note:

The elements of the Patient/Client Management Model (examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, intervention, and outcomes) are unchanged. A more robust description of the process used when applying those components in practice is provided in Guide 3.0.

Within the physical therapist examination, review of systems (ROS) has been added to the history. The history, systems review, and tests and measures continue to be the 3 components of an examination.

The language in Guide 3.0 has been revised to be consistent with International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) language.

Other language changes were made to more accurately reflect current terminology in the field; for example, "sensory processing" has replaced "sensory integration."

Certain sections, such as Integumentary Repair and Protection, have been changed to more accurately reflect current practice.

There also are changes in the groupings of categories of tests and measures, and categories of interventions. For example, the test and measure category Gait, Locomotion and Balance from the Guide second edition is reorganized to more accurately reflect ICF language: Gait and Balance are now separate categories, and Locomotion is now Mobility (Including Locomotion). Some categories have been combined. For example, the old intervention categories Electrotherapeutic Modalities and Physical Agents and Mechanical Modalities are combined into Biophysical Agents.

The Preferred Physical Therapist Practice Patterns from previous editions have been deleted from Guide 3.0 and will be available on the APTA website later this year for educational purposes only. The practice pattern groupings or titles, which often were used as diagnostic classifications, have not been validated. The descriptions of management for individuals who might be classified in practice pattern groupings have not been formally reviewed since the creation of the patterns.

The House of Delegates position DIAGNOSIS BY PHYSICAL THERAPISTS HOD P06-12-10-09 states: “A diagnosis is a label encompassing a cluster of signs and symptoms commonly associated with a disorder or syndrome or category of impairments in body structures and function, activity limitations, or participation restrictions.” With the adoption of APTA’s new vision statement that inextricably links our professional identity to the movement system, the diagnostic process used by physical therapists defines which elements of the movement system contribute to deficits in capacity or performance that become the focus of the plan of care. The clinical practice guidelines being developed by APTA sections and external entities also will guide decision making.

Educators both in academia and in the clinic may wish to use the practice patterns as a teaching tool—for example, for students to apply to “paper patients” or hypothetical cases to help them understand the elements of patient/client management—but the patterns are not intended to be used to guide clinical practice in the management of actual patients or clients. The ICD-9 coding and the range of visits also have been deleted.

The Catalog of Tests and Measures, specific tests and measures available only on the CD version of the Guide 2nd edition, has been retired, as the information is outdated. Instead, APTA activities have focused on determining selected tests and measures through initiatives such as the Evaluation Database to Guide Effectiveness (EDGE) task forces and PTNow.

The Guide website URL is and will continue to be http://guidetoptpractice.apta.org. If you are an APTA member or a paid subscriber, access Guide 3.0 using the same URL and login that you used to access the online Guide second edition.

How to Cite Guide 3.0

To cite the entire Guide, please use the following format:
Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 3.0. Alexandria, VA: American Physical Therapy Association; 2014. Available at: http://guidetoptpractice.apta.org/. Accessed [date accessed].

To cite a specific chapter of the Guide, please use the following format:
[Chapter name, such as Introduction to the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice]. Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 3.0. Alexandria, VA: American Physical Therapy Association; 2014. Available at: [Chapter URL, such as http://guidetoptpractice.apta.org/content/1/SEC1.body]. Accessed [date accessed].

Print Edition

The printed edition of the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 2nd Edition has been discontinued.

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Guide to PT Practice