Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • July 2017
Written by 

What to look for in an aquatic therapy program

If you are looking for a supplement to land-based physical or occupational therapy, dipping your toes into an aquatic therapy program might be something to consider. Aquatic therapy refers to exercises that are completed in the water and are generally designed to help improve balance, strength and mobility.

Many find this form of therapy beneficial as the buoyancy of the water makes it easier to perform movements that, for some, may be too difficult to complete on land. Water also provides the right amount of resistance so that you feel challenged without the risk of injury.

Finding the right aquatic therapy program takes a bit of research, as not all programs or facilities are alike. It’s important for you to know the facts and weigh the options so you can begin a program that will help you meet your goals. Here are a few questions to ask to get you started:

Is the staff qualified?

Be sure that staff members are certified to lead instruction in the water. Many physical and occupational therapists require additional training in order to help clients benefit from an aquatic therapy program, so don’t be shy to ask about certifications and experience.

What does the staff do?

One thing to ask is if the staff actually gets in the water with you. It may seem like an odd question to inquire about, but some aquatic therapy programs involve the client being in the water while a staff member provides instruction on land. To maximize the benefits of aquatic therapy, look for a program where the staff is right next to you in the water, working with you on each exercise.

Another factor to take into consideration is a care plan. Look for staff that takes the time to discuss your options and works with you to build a customized plan of care based on your specific needs. If they want you working in the water without taking the time for an initial consultation, you may not be happy with the results.

Is the program diverse?

No one health concern is the same, so your treatment possibilities shouldn’t be either. Look for an aquatic therapy program that offers several avenues of care in addition to aquatic physical therapy. For example, therapeutic exercise targets more general health and age related concerns like joint stiffness and core strength by focusing on range of motion, balance and endurance exercises. Specialized exercise classes tend to focus on a specific medical condition such as orthopedic issues, joint replacement and stroke recovery. Classes are often held in a group setting to promote camaraderie as well.

Another consideration is alternative aquatic therapy. This type of therapy is more one-on-one and includes a personalized exercise plan designed to help improve functional independence. Once the exercises are mastered, many clients can complete them on their own.

Other tips on what to ask:

  • Is there a program your doctor would recommend?
  • Are there program reviews or client testimonials you can read?
  • Does the facility provide a clean and safe environment?

Aquatic therapy can be a beneficial supplement to current therapy and help maintain your health by keeping you active. Asking the right questions and assessing the results will go a long way in finding an aquatic therapy program that is right for you. 


Traci Ombrello

Traci Ombrello is the manager of CP’s Aquatic Center located in Green Bay. For more information, please visit or call 920-337-1122.

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