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A Qualitative and Quantitative Investigation of the Psychology Content of UK Physiotherapy Education Programs

Heaney, Caroline A., MSc; Green, Alison J.K., PhD; Rostron, Claire L., PhD; Walker, Natalie C., PhD

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: October 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 3 - p 48–56

Background and Purpose. A knowledge and understanding of psychology is recognized as being important to physiotherapy practice since psychological factors can impact upon physical recovery. However, little is known about the nature of psychology education within UK physiotherapy training programs. The purpose of the study was, therefore, to examine current psychology provision within physiotherapy programs in UK universities, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Subjects. The participants were self-selected representatives from 17 UK universities. These representatives were program directors, program leaders, or lecturers teaching on the physiotherapy program.

Methods. The participants were questioned regarding the nature and extent of psychology covered in their program, the delivery and assessment of any psychology content, the perceived importance of psychology in physiotherapy training, and factors influencing psychology provision in their physiotherapy programs.

Results. All of the universities claimed to include some degree of psychology content within their physiotherapy programs and largely agreed that psychology is an important component in the education and training of physiotherapists. However, there appears to be great diversity both within and between universities in the provision of psychology education, and an underlying inconsistency between the reported importance of psychology and the demonstrated importance of psychology through its visibility within physiotherapy programs.

Discussion and Conclusion. More needs to be done to standardize the psychology content of physiotherapy programs in order to ensure that students at all institutions receive a similar level of training in psychology, which can have a positive impact on their professional practice.

Caroline Heaneyis a lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Language Studies at The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK ( Please address all correspondence to Caroline Heaney.

Alison Greenis a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at The Open University, UK.

Claire Rostronis a lecturer in the Faculty of Science at The Open University, UK.

Natalie Walkeris a senior lecturer in the School of Health at the University of Northampton, UK.

Ethical approval for this study was provided by The Open University Human Participants and Materials Research Ethics Committee.

Received July 15, 2011, and accepted April 10, 2012.

Copyright2012 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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