Emancipatory physiotherapy practice

Franziska Trede

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    In physiotherapy, as with many other health-care practices, therapeutic interventions, based on scientific knowledge, may be at odds with patient experiences. Patients may understand what they need to do to improve their health condition, but feel that these requirements may be emotionally, socially, or culturally incompatible with their lifestyles, social behavior, or personal choices. To work in the best interest of their patients, physiotherapists need to engage with the tensions that exist between scientific reason and social reality to offer a meaningful and relevant service for their patients. The challenge for physiotherapists is to arrive at decisions and interventions together with their patients that enhance, for example, mobility, social function, and well-being. To achieve this, physiotherapists need to rethink their professional role and translate their technical knowledge and goals into the patient's 'lifeworld', and patients--for their part--need to engage with physiotherapy professional knowledge. Often, the most commonly used strategy for facilitating this reciprocal engagement is open dialogue between patients and therapists. Habermas, a prominent contemporary philosopher and critical theorist, has developed a communicative theory that may support physiotherapists in their efforts to arrive at more sustainable and shared decisions with their patients. In this paper, I examine what constitutes physiotherapists' practice knowledge and how Habermas's theory of knowledge, interest, and communication strengthens shared decision-making and can be used as a vehicle toward emancipatory practice. Drawing on data generated in an action research project, I examine how Habermas's ideas can be applied in emancipatory physiotherapy practice. The paper concludes that emancipatory practice is meaningful because it creates opportunities for reflection, evaluation, and choice for future physiotherapy practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)466-473
    Number of pages8
    JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


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