Like many other healthcare professionals, physical therapists can specialize in one or several specific disciplines of their field. Because patients have different needs, physical therapists can specialize in different therapeutic areas to meet their needs.

Not only do different initials represent dramatically different titles and accomplishments, but they also span a wide array of professional relevance to the field of physical therapy.

Certifications are spoken like a second language from PT to PT, but what about the patient? What do the letters mean behind my PTs name?

Additional credentialing is a valuable tool in professional growth and standing out as a leader in a rapidly growing discipline, but not all initials are equal in education or training. Ask your local PT to clarify any questions that you may have as a physical therapy patient.

The initials “PT” stand for physical therapist. Every PT, regardless of degree, holds the designation of PT. Per the American Physical Therapy Association, the remaining order of titles or letter designations describe educational levels, other earned degrees, specialist certifications or other professional certifications that may or may not be related to the licensed practice of physical therapy.

Let’s take one of our local PTs as an example. Joel Kramer, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CSCS. That designates Joel as a licensed physical therapist with a doctoral level of education, an orthopedic clinical specialist, a certified Kinesio taping practitioner, and a certified strength and conditioning Specialist

OCS, NSC, SCS, PCS, WCS, ECS, GCS, and CCS are credentials administered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists, a division of American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The rest are governed by their own boards through other educational platforms.


Below is a list of certification abbreviations and their matching titles. The items in bold are more common in some of our outpatient physical therapy operations within Foothills Sports Medicine.

  • AET – Advanced Exercise Therapist
  • ART – Active Release Techniques
  • ATC – Athletic Trainer, Certified (multiple locations)
  • BSPT – Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy
  • CCI – Certified Clinical Instructor (all locations)
  • CCS – Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialist ***
  • CAFS – Certification in Applied Functional Science®
  • CAPP-OB – Certificate of Achievement in Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Therapy
  • CAPP-Pelvic – Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Physical Therapy
  • CCVT/CVT – Certified Clinical Vestibular Therapist/ Clinical Vestibular Therapist
  • CCTT – Certified Cervical & Temporomandibular Therapist (Old Town Scottsdale location)
  • CFC – Cranio-Mandibular Head, Neck, and Facial Pain
  • CEAS I, CEAS II – Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist
  • CEES – Certified Ergonomic Evaluator Specialist
  • CFCE – Certified Functional Capacity Evaluator (also FCE: Functional Capacity Evaluator)
  • CFMT – Certified Functional Manual Therapist
  • CHT – Certified Hand Therapist (multiple locations as well as some ProActive locations)
  • CKTP -Certified Kinesio Taping Practitioner (multiple locations)
  • CLT – Certified Lymphedema Therapist (Also known as CLT-LANA)
  • COMT – Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist (multiple locations)
  • CPT – Certified Personal Trainer and/or Certified Pilates Teacher
  • CREX – Certification in Rehabilitative Exercise
  • CSCS – Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (multiple locations)
  • CST – Craniosacral Therapist/Therapy, CST-D – Craniosacral Therapy Diplomate
  • CYI – Certified Yoga Instructor
  • CYT – Certified Yoga Therapist
  • CWCA™ – Certified Wound Care Associate
  • CWCE – Certified Work Capacity Evaluator
  • CWS® – Certified Wound Specialist
  • DMT – Doctor of Manual Therapy
  • DWC® – Diabetic Wound Certified
  • DPT – Doctor of Physical Therapy (all locations)
  • ECS – Clinical Electrophysiologic Certified Specialist ***
  • FAAOMPT – Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists
  • FAFS – Fellow of Applied Functional Science®
  • FCE – Functional Capacity Evaluator: see CFCE (Certified Functional Capacity Evaluator)
  • FOC – Functional Orthopedic Certification
  • GCFP – Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner
  • GCS – Geriatric Certified Specialist ***
  • HHP – Holistic Health Practitioner
  • JSCC – Jones Strain Counter-Strain Certified
  • LLE® – Lymphedema Lower Extremity Certified
  • LMT – Licensed Massage Therapist
  • MDT – Diploma in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy®
  • MLD – Manual Lymph Drainage
  • MPT/MSPT – Master of Physical Therapy (all locations)
  • MTC – Manual Therapy Certified (several locations)
  • NCS – Neurologic Certified Specialist ***
  • NDT – Neuro-Developmental Treatment Certified
  • OCS – Orthopedic Certified Specialist *** (several locations)
  • OT/OTR/OTReg/OTR/L – Occupational Therapist/Registered/Licensed (ProActive locations)
  • PAS – Postural Alignment Specialist (several locations)
  • PCS – Pediatric Certified Specialist ***
  • PRC/PRT – Postural Restoration Certified/Trained
  • SCS – Sports Certified Specialist ***
  • WCC® – Wound Care Certified
  • WCS – Women’s Certified Specialist ***

*** – Designates the certifications regulated by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

If you’re searching for a physical therapist in the Phoenix Valley, that has specialized certifications to help you, contact our Foothills Sports Medicine team.

Written by: Clint Borman, PT, DPT, MTC, CSCS, TUVWXYZ | Surprise

The Orthopedic Residency Program housed at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy was established in October 2014. The purpose of our residency program is to provide the physical therapist with an opportunity to develop advanced competencies in the specific area of practice that encompasses Orthopedic Physical Therapy through a planned course of clinical practice, didactic learning modules, and clinical mentoring.

Through a system of structured learning opportunities, the residency program strives to prepare the physical therapist for the successful completion of their requirements to sit for and pass their board examinations as clinical specialists in Orthopedic Physical Therapy (OCS) through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

The program involves a one-year experience in a dynamic Orthopedic Physical Therapy setting. Throughout the structured residency, the candidates routinely complete clinical practice assignments, live-patient examinations, didactic course modules, scholarly projects, in-service presentations, and lead journal clubs. They also participate in community presentations, surgical observations, laboratory sessions, as well as completion of the APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor Program. This gives insight to the management of day-to-day operations and practice administration— all in preparation to pass their board specialization in Orthopedic Physical Therapy Practice (OCS).

A week in the life of a resident is hectic. They are practicing with full schedules on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with half days on Tuesday and Thursday. In-addition to their clinical obligations as staff/resident therapists, they are completing 1:1 clinical mentoring every Tuesday with resident faculty from Foothills Clinics. Their clinical education modules are nothing short of extensive with hundreds of pages worth of weekly readings. They are viewing dozens of Medbridge online education videos. They are responsible for monthly Grand Rounds, reviewing evidence based practice on each and every patient on their active patient list.

During their clinical “downtime” on Thursday mornings, they are developing community lectures, observing surgeries with local providers, and catching up with readings and videos. A typical week consists of around 60-70 hours/week of educational and treatment dedication. The unique aspect of this particular program is that many of the online videos and clinical education are open to all professional staff within Foothills.

If you are interested in the Residency Program, a centralized application system (RF-PTCAS) is required for applicants to apply to our program. Additionally, we require applicants to provide a copy of applicant qualifications including graduation from a CAPTE accredited physical therapy program. Please submit your application by April 1. Interviews will be scheduled by May 1, 2015. You can also contact your facility owner/director and communicate your interest.

Check out our Residency Program page to view an in depth description about the program.