Leap forward in WCPT's subgroups marks professional maturity

WCPT’s subgroups are multiplying –  five more joined the Confederation this year, bringing the total to 12. “It’s a mark of the profession’s maturity, and WCPT’s growing stature, that most of the major special interests are now represented under the WCPT umbrella,” says WCPT President Marilyn Moffat.

The leap forward came at WCPT’s General Meeting in Amsterdam in June, when international organisations representing physical therapists specialising in cardiorespiratory physical therapy, neurology, mental health, electrophysical agents and animal practice all became recognised as WCPT subgroups. 

But what are subgroups? Formally, they are international physical therapy organisations that have a specific area of interest and promote the advancement of physical therapy and the exchange of scientific knowledge in their field.

Shane Patman of the newly-admitted International Confederation of Cardiorespiratory Physical Therapists (ICCrPT) says that organisations like his own allow physical therapists working in the same area to “communicate, foster collaboration, assist with the development and maintenance of guidelines and standards, support education and research endeavours, and facilitate mentoring opportunities beyond their local jurisdictions”.

These international, specialist organisations have to have an independent existence in their own right. But many seek affiliation with WCPT because it brings real benefits. 

Mary Solomon of the International Neurological Physical Therapy Association, which also became a WCPT subgroup this year, says that being part of WCPT gives the organisation credibility and connections.

“By joining with other physical therapists through an international collaboration which is recognised as the voice of physical therapy, we achieve status,” she says. “Within WCPT we knew we would find assistance and enthusiasm to move our idea of a neurological association forward.”

But Brenda Myers, WCPT’s Secretary General, points out that strict criteria have to be fulfilled before an organisation can even be considered as a potential subgroup. “They have to be composed of at least ten national special interest groups recognised by WCPT member organisations, and/or WCPT member organisations. They also have to come from at least three WCPT regions,” she says. 

The very first organisation to become a subgroup of WCPT was the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT), and the move came because of the desire for a unified voice among physical therapists worldwide. Being affiliated with WCPT brings benefits to subgroups in terms of international recognition. There are many benefits for WCPT and its member organisations in turn, because subgroups are a useful resource of knowledge and expertise.

Now the priority for WCPT is not so much to add to the number of subgroups, but to ensure that it works as effectively as possible with those it has. “These organisations are there to enhance opportunities for the profession, and now we have so many we need to work together to ensure that they are all successful, and their activities are complementary.”

Tracy Bury, WCPT’s Director of Professional Policy, points out that recognition as a WCPT subgroup is the beginning of a process, rather than an end in itself. But when properly constituted and organised, these organisations are good news for physical therapists worldwide because they can both help spread expertise, and help ensure that WCPT is relevant. “With their emphasis on education and research, they work in line with our own objectives, but in a specialised area.”

Over the next four years, WCPT will be be exploring how best to support subgroups, and faciltating opportunities for subgroups to talk and work together. It will be working with subgroups to share news of their activities with all WCPT member organisations