Physical therapy assistants need to be licensed and certified in order to work with patients in their respective home states. That’s after they complete their degree program. While that covers the academic side of the equation, what about the things you might not be taught in college? What sort of personality traits will help a person to excel as a physical therapy assistant?

In this post, we’ll explore some the most important skills and personality traits shared by the top physical therapy assistants.

Communication Skills

Patients are much more likely to stick to a course of treatment when they fully understand it. Being able to take what are sometimes complex medical explanations and break them down into “layman’s terms” for patients is critical. Transparency and communication go a long way toward building trust with patients.

Be Fit and Healthy!

Physical therapy assistants are aiding patients recovering from injury, or who need help with weight loss, mobility, flexibility or other issues. It speaks volumes about a therapy assistant’s credibility if they are themselves fit and healthy.

Being able to perform the exercises that you want your patients to do is critical. Patients are more at ease if their physical therapy assistant shows them how to do the various exercises and stretches required for recovery, as opposed to simply telling them. It’s important for you to set a good example for your patients.

Organization Skills

Physical therapy assistants work one-on-one with patients, but they are also part of a broader health care team. Many of your patients will be referred to you by another medical specialist. Working in a clinic with other people such as PTs, administrators and others means you need to have great organizational skills. Learning to use scheduling software for appointments and other non-physical skills is really important.

Outgoing and Approachable

Many of the physical therapy patients you will be working with are in pain. As a result, they may be irritable, depressed or even unpleasant to be around. You should strive to be the opposite. Professional physical therapy assistants should be outgoing and approachable.

You’ll also be working with an office filled with other medical professionals, and dealing with the family members or caretakers of patients. Be prepared to answer questions from those people as well, and to be as open and approachable as possible.


Patience with the patients! Many people will delay seeking the help of physical therapy for a long time. They don’t want to feel rushed once they finally “bite the bullet” and seek out your assistance. Regardless of anything else going on in your life, dedicate the time to your patients that they expect.


The best physical therapy assistants are extremely attentive to their patients when doing strength training, stretching and mobility exercises. Being able to spot problems early will help ensure a faster recovery time for your patients.

Also remember that every patient is unique. Two patients might be suffering from the exact same injury, but their individual courses of treatment may be very different based on other factors like age or weight. Individualized service for patients is only possible if the physical therapy assistant is attentive and observant at all times.


Physical therapy assistants are only human. Sometimes you might make a mistake in a course of treatment with a client. Sometimes a different medical professional will have a different opinion than yours. Being humble allows you to admit when you are wrong, and also to learn from others as you grow in experience. Humility allows you to become an even better physical therapy assistant.


Physical therapy assistants work with people and all of their messy feelings about their injury or physical condition. Your clients are often hurting, inside and out. Chronic injury or illness has a profound impact on their outlook in life. In order for you to be the best physical therapy assistant possible for your clients, you need to have a lot of empathy toward their situation.

When patients know that you care about them, you’re much more likely to have a positive outcome with them. They’re more likely to book follow-up appointments with you, because they know that you care about their situation, and you want to help.

Happy and Positive

Physical therapy can be painful and grueling for some of your clients. But they will still keep coming to their appointments and improving if their physical therapy assistant is pleasant to be around. Having a positive attitude about their improvement is encouraging to patients and your positivity is a boost to their morale. Plus, who doesn’t want to be around happy people?

Remember, these traits are helpful for working with clients and employers as PTAs work under the direction of a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Contact Casa Loma College about Our PTA Degree Program

If you think you have what it takes to become a successful physical therapy assistant, get in touch with Casa Loma College to learn more about our PTA degree program.