Embodied-enactive clinical reasoning in physical therapy

Physiother Theory Pract. 2015 May;31(4):244-52. doi: 10.3109/09593985.2014.1002873. Epub 2015 Jan 14.


Clinical reasoning is essential in physical therapy practice. Instrumental approaches and more recent narrative approaches to clinical reasoning guide physical therapists in their understanding of the patient's movement disturbances and help them to plan strategies to improve function. To the extent that instrumental and/or narrative models of clinical reasoning represent impairments as mere physical disturbances, we argue that such models remain incomplete. We draw on a phenomenologically inspired approach to embodied cognition (termed "enactivism") to suggest that the dynamics of lived bodily engagement between physical therapist and patient contribute to and help to constitute the clinical reasoning process. This article outlines the phenomenologically informed enactive perspective on clinical reasoning, with special reference to clinical work that addresses impairments as sequelae of neurological diseases.

Keywords: Clinical reasoning; embodiment; enactive intersubjectivity; physical therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Physical Therapy Specialty*
  • Thinking