International Organization of Physical Therapists in Mental Health (IOPTMH)

WCPT Subgroup
Date of subgroup recognition

Contact details

KU Leuven
Department of Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy


The International Organization of Physical Therapy in Mental Health (IOPTMH), is a WCPT subgroup, including 21 member countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK. The IOPTMH was accepted as a WCPT subgroup at the 17th WCPT General Meeting, in Amsterdam, 2011 and reconfirmed  in 2015 and 2019 

The subgroup was developed from an international network of physical therapists working in the field of psychiatry and mental health with the origin at Leuven University (Belgium). Several nations have organized subsections of physical therapy in mental health.

Mental health

Epidemiological studies show that depression, stress-related conditions, long lasting musculoskeletal disorders and anxiety affect millions of people worldwide often having negative consequences for their ability to work and quality of life (WHO 2010). Mental health disorders including psychiatry comprise a broad range of problems with different symptoms. People suffering from mental health problems often have somatic symptoms, representing a major group of patients seeking help from physical therapists over the globe.

Definition of physical therapy in mental health

Physiotherapy in mental health is a specialty within physiotherapy. It is implemented in different health and mental health settings, psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine. It is person-centered and provided for children, adolescents, adults and older people with mild, moderate and severe, acute and chronic mental health problems, in primary and community care, inpatients and outpatients. Physiotherapists in mental health provide health promotion, preventive health care, treatment and rehabilitation for individuals, groups and in group therapeutic settings. Physiotherapists in mental health create a therapeutic relationship to provide assessment and services specifically related to the complexity of mental health within a supportive environment applying a model including biological and psycho-social aspects. Physiotherapy in mental health aims to optimize wellbeing and empower the individual by promoting functional movement, movement awareness, physical activity and exercises, bringing together physical and mental aspects. Physiotherapists in mental health contribute to the multidisciplinary team and inter-professional care. Physiotherapy in mental health is based on the available scientific and best clinical evidence.

Probst, Skjaerven, Parker, Gyllensten, IJntema, Catalan Matamoros, (2016). Fisioterapia 38, 49.

IOPTMH objectives

The objectives according to the IOPTMHs' Constitution are to:

  1. Foster co-operation between physical therapists practicing in mental health throughout the world
  2. Encourage improved standards and consistency of practice in mental health care by physical therapists
  3. Advance practice by communication and exchange of information
  4. Encourage scientific research and promote opportunities for the spread of knowledge of new developments in the field of mental health
  5. Assist WCPT member organisations in the development of recognised sub-sections in mental health


In 2020, the eight International Conference of physiotherapy in psychiatry and mental health will be organised in Helsinki (Finland) from 12 - 14 May 2020. The conference is organized by the “Suomen Psykofyysisen Fysioterapian yhdistys ry, (PSYFY)” the under the auspices of the International Organisation of Physical Therapy in Mental Health (IOPTMH).

Network of interested colleagues

Within IOPTMH, there is a network of individual physical therapists, representing 59 nations from 6 continents. The network includes practitioners, educators and researchers.


To become a member (country) of IOPTMH, the National Physical Therapy Association must be member in WCPT. For further question, take contact with the president.

The Executive Committee, IOPTMH

Professor Michel Probst, PT, PhD, President, University of Leuven University, Belgium. ([email protected])

Professor Liv Helvik Skjærven, PT, MSc, Vice-President, Bergen University College, Norway. ([email protected] or [email protected])

Adjunct Associate Professor Jo Connaughton, PT, Ph.D, (DPhysioRes, BAppSc Physio, APAM), secretary, School of Physiotherapy, The University of Notre Dame Australia ([email protected])

Emanuel Brunner, PT, PhD, Treasurer, Kantonspital Winterthur. ([email protected])

Merja Sallinen, PT, PhD, Member, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Finland. ([email protected])