Choosing Your Professional Path: What is the best degree path to pursue?
I received an interesting email that I have decided to rework into this blog post, with the sender's permission, of course! This individual had read a guest blog post I did for themanualtherapist.com a few years back related to my review of NeuroKinetic Therapy™ after taking the Level 2 course.
Yes, you read that correctly. I has been a few years since I wrote that piece, which makes me hopeful that someone out here is actually reading what I put together!
The following is our email exchange, with some modification to eliminate identity and provide a more concise framework. I decided to share this as a blog post because this topic of "Should I go through a DPT program" and "Which degree path do you think is the best if I want to do XYZ" are conversations that I have had at least a half dozen times over the past few months. I also liked the homework that was clearly done related to the asking of this individuals questions.
The Message Received:
"I'm a fitness trainer living/working in NYC. While doing a web search for NKT reviews, fortuitously, I just happened to find your review on Erson Religioso's blog. As I perused through your athletespt website, taking in your experiences in fitness, manual therapy, physical therapy and Pilates I felt compelled to send you an email. I know you're schedule is jammed packed but I'd love to get some feedback from you.
Ten months ago, at the age of 44, I was seriously considering going back to school for a DPT degree. I have been trying to "connect the dots” for some time now and like yourself. The 16 plus years I've been working as a fitness instructor has been a fantastic and rewarding experience. My wife and I started learning / teaching yoga...then I branched off into Strength training...then kettlebells..then sandbags...then bodyweight training...then..foundation training...Ido Portal…FMS...etc etc etc. My wife actually stuck mostly with yoga (though she is ACE certified and teaches fitness as well) and ironically will be starting her comprehensive Polestar Pilates Education here in NYC soon! Basically we both love learning about movement- something I'm sure you can identify with. I'm more of the life long learner...thank goodness because if we both had this mindset we'd go broke as all this education comes at a cost. UGH!!!
So....it seems we're both going our own path towards continuing education, she the Polestar route and for me...well...we thought we'd be better off putting our resources into a DPT degree. Driving this decision is that whole "security" issue. We've been freelancers all these years and it would be nice for one of us to have a secure job. This brought up a few concerns/thoughts:
(a) It's much less costly then pursuing a DPT degree...and quicker.
(b) I wouldn't have to deal with all the red tape and other issues with insurance companies. Which I
hear is a big pain in the @#$!.
(c) Would open up the door to all these specialized courses I currently cannot take as a trainer.
Here are some thoughts on the negatives:
(a) I have absolutely no interest in doing any sort of "swedish" or heavy "deep tissue" work that involves
over taxing my hands. I have quite of few trainer/massage therepist friends who got burned out after
4/5 years after massage school because it was simply too taxing on there hands.
(b) You don't have that "dpt" degree that ( for whatever reason ) speaks "security" to me. Not sure how
much weight a degree in massage has.(c) I can't think of a third one honestly.
The third possible route I'm considering is Nursing. Though this isn't your specialty I just thought I'd mention it anyway as it's up for consideration.
So...to recap...there's DPT, Massage or Nursing up for consideration. UGH!!!
Which ever route I begin to travel I definitely would like to educate myself further in the NKT (possibly PRI) methodology. You mentioned in your review that (overall) you’d recommend taking the the NKT workshops. This was back in 2013....having used this system now for a few years do you still give it two thumbs up?
Well...I think I've babbled on way too long. As you can imaging this is a HUGE decision for me. The point is- time has come for change and I'm just reaching out to those seasoned professionals whom I respect (especially those who seem to share the same passions as I do) to offer advice.
Thanks in advance for a few of your thoughts on DPT/ Massage/PRI and well….anything else that comes to mind."
I think there are a few interesting points that are identified here:
Here is My Response:
No worries, I appreciate you reaching out and it's always good to know that someone is actually reading what I put out now and then! My current goal is to try and be more consistent with writing & blogging, that is something that Erson does very well!
I'll go in reverse order -- Yes, I am originally from Buffalo, NY. Did my undergrad in Exercise Science/Athletic Training at U. Buffalo, then became Certified in Pilates through Polestar (I actually taught for Polestar years ago in Buffalo, NYC & Montreal!), went back for the DPT program at U. Buffalo, and then did a post-grad manual therapy Fellowship at Daemen college (and did my residency hours with Dr. Religioso)... much of which I am still paying for, so I get your concern about cost of education! I have been out here in Las Vegas for 6 years now, and in terms of professional career and experiences, it has been an interesting ride!
I find myself more and more moving away from the traditional 'Physical Therapist' title. As you stated so very well, the body is definitely an "integrated system of multiple systems." I tend to like movement, and working with athletes and the active populations. I find that there is a vast continuum we can work off of in terms of what our clients need, and what tools we have to offer to help facilitate achieving their goals. Pilates gave me the foundation to look at movement. Things like the FMS/SFMA have helped to guide how to tackle issues in a measurable and repeatable way. NKT and VIOLA: Structural Joint Balancing (which was just taught in LA for the first time) provide ways to hack the nervous system, and my background in manual therapy & dry needling provide a number of benefits from dealing with soft tissue & joint restrictions to softening the system when dealing with high threshold strategies.
So...as they say in Finding Nemo - "All drains lead to the ocean," that is, there are a lot of people having good success with clients that get there in totally different ways. (having 2 little girls tends to provide unusual Disney references!)
I don't like getting caught up in the particular tools or what's deemed sexy or most popular by our industries, and I don't limit myself to taking courses just within Physical Therapy & Athletic Training. I look for courses that are going to:
a) Allow me to more quickly identify the source of dysfunction or make change faster;
b) Fill in gaps that exist in my current knowledge base, and
c) Add depth to what I already know to maintain proficiency and allow me to do it better.
Regarding your current deliberation between degree programs, I would say it starts with answering a few questions:
I love my profession and certainly am a testament to the 'everything happens for a reason,' as I have gone the long way around in many respects, but I do not think that the public has the same understanding of & appreciation for the DPT or other degrees for that matter. Yes, you will have those clients who are impressed by the fact that you have a Doctorate and that you made the commitment to advancing your education. But many just want results. They will go to the person who can deliver, and who they have been recommended to. This where I am EXTREMELY biased, (but I am up front about it) -- If you can avoid the insurance game, do so. I left traditional private practice to start Athletes Physiotherapy because there were just too many insurance imposed restrictions on what we are allowed to do, what modalities are & are not covered, how many visits a person can be seen, etc.
I believe the future of healthcare will continue to be Wellness driven. You already have that. The DPT degree will allow you to tap into another realm of rehab, provide you with a broader scope of practice, and will teach you other skill sets. However, so will Massage School. Yes there are some limits to what you can do with a massage license, but if you are looking to bridge the gap and have the ability to evaluate clients more in depth and have a 'license to touch' and add soft tissue work into your programming, then that may not be a bad way to go.
I know many who have a Massage License with a Strength & Conditioning background, and some of them were part of my drive to get out on my own. If they can do what they do, working 1:1 with clients, on a cash basis, then why couldn't I do the same here as a physical therapist in Las Vegas given my background and experiences?
And here's where the liabilities come in. Many people feel that because you are a PT, and their insurance covers PT, that they should be able to use their insurance. Education on what you do and how insurance limitations preclude your ability to provide the same level of services will be important. And don't let that scare you. What ever you decide, know that the way healthcare is changing, more and more people are dealing with ever increasing deductibles and co-pays, and they are generally paying out of pocket for much more of their care even if they are able to use their insurance. What we can offer with how we work is quicker turn around (because we actually spend time with the patient) in fewer visits, and then the option for continued maintenance & wellness services.
Regarding other courses -- NKT, PRI ,etc. This is very much an individual thing (refer back to 'a, b, c' above). You will find many who say muscle testing is a waste of time. I guess it depends on their experience and how they use it. When you use a modality like NKT or VOILA and you see immediate change to issues that have been a long standing problem for the client, and they have previously had all the traditional treatment modalities thrown at it - massage, ART, exercise, chiropractic, etc; it becomes hard for me to argue against the usefulness and effectiveness of these approaches. PRI is interesting. Personally, my brain resonates more with DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization) from the Prague School of Rehabilitation, and that is probably my next major educational undertaking, as well as Andreo Spina's Courses.
I am also looking at going through Strong First training, as I have fallen in love with the Kettlebell and it seems like a win-win, as I want to get better at coaching it, while also working to improve my own physicality.
Being in NYC, you have a plethora of amazing resources at your disposal. Off the top of my head, Charlie Weingroff is there. Dr. Kathy Dooley is there. Dr. Eric Nelson is in New Jersey. These are people I personally would be studying with regularly if they were in close proximity. Like I said -- I'm moving farther away from "Physical Therapist" and looking more at "Performance Coach" with the ability to take an athlete day 1 post injury or surgery and take them all the way through to return to High Performance (which is why I tend to geek out on people like Gray Cook, Sue Falsone, Weingroff & Spina). That doesn't mean we wear all hats and are the '1 person doing all things.' What it means is you understand the landscape well enough to quarterback the process and put key people in place to meet each need, thus developing a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and athlete development. This is my ultimate dream for Athletes Physiotherapy.
Okay, that's a good start. I am more than happy to answer your questions and clarify anything if I can.
Feel free to pass on your questions as they come!
- Kristopher Bosch
So, took a while but I am grateful to the sender for putting me in a place where I can continue to reflect on my own journey, and hopefully help others with similar questions. My path is my path. But what I am also grateful for is finding my own voice, being able to acknowledge and stand for what I believe in, and work toward achieve the goals I have set out to reach.
Have Questions? Fire away in the Comments Section below!
Athletes Physiotherapy - Las Vegas, NV
Kristopher Bosch, PT, DPT, ATC, FAAOMPT is a practicing physical therapist and athletic trainer in Las Vegas, NV where he founded Athletes Physiotherapy. Located in Henderson, Athletes Physiotherapy specializes in Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy with a niche in High Performance.
Thank you for stopping by the Athletes Physiotherapy Blog! Kristopher Bosch founded Athletes Physiotherapy in Las Vegas, NV. He is a Father, physical therapist, athletic trainer, pilates teacher, & perpetual student!
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