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 20 member countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, 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 at the 18th WCPT General meeting in Singapore. [See also]

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

The IOPTMH Constitution directs its objectives towards Clinical Practice, Education and Research in the field.

International Conferences of Physical Therapy in Psychiatry and Mental Health (ICPPMH)

IOPTMH is in charge of the arrangement of International Research Conference every second year. Till now, these conferences have been at Leuven University, Belgium 2006, at Bergen University College, Norway 2008, at Lund University, Sweden 2010, in Edinburgh, UK, 2012, at University of Applied Science Utrecht, the Netherlands 2014, the sixth conference was held at University Carlos III of Madrid, Spain, 9th till 11th of March 2016. The seventh conference is planned in Reykjavik, Iceland from 10th to 12th of April 2018.

International Symposium

The International Symposium on movement quality and movement awareness within physiotherapy in mental health will take place in Bergen, Norway on 26-27 October 2017.  See the event website for further details.

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.

Specific interest groups in IOPTMH

Four interest groups are working within IOPTMH: 1) for persons suffering from Eating Disorders, 2) for persons suffering from Schizophrenia and for 3) persons suffering from long- lasting musculoskeletal problems, and for 4) physiotherapist implementing Movement Quality through Movement Awareness Learning.


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

The Executive Committee, IOPTMH

Professor Michel Probst, PT, PhD, President, University of Leuven University, Belgium. (

Professor Liv Helvik Skjærven, PT, MSc, Vice-President, Bergen University College, Norway. ( or

Rutger IJntema, PT, MBA, Secretary, University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht, the Netherlands. (

Anne Parker, PT, UK, Treasurer. (

Associate Professor Amanda Lundvik Gyllensten, PT, PhD, Member, Lund University, Sweden. (

Merja Sallinen, PT, PhD, Member, Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Finland. (