AIM: To explore perceptions and preferences of children, parents, and physical therapists regarding the therapeutic alliance in pediatric physical therapy in a rehabilitation setting.
METHODS: Qualitative phenomenological analysis of interviews with children (n = 10), their parents (n = 10), and physical therapists (n = 10).
RESULTS: Three themes were identified: importance of trust in the physical therapist, transparency in sharing information, and negotiation concerning goals and tasks of treatment. Parents considered trust in the therapist's relational skills of greater importance to the therapeutic alliance than the therapist's technical skills. Although the physical therapists showed a strong willingness to meet the needs of children and parents, they seemed unaware of the emotional impact of positional inequality and the differences in roles and tasks of children, parents, and therapists during the treatment.
CONCLUSION: All participants emphasized the importance of the quality of the therapeutic alliance. Nevertheless, positional inequality and differences in roles and tasks appeared to influence negotiation about goals and tasks of treatment. Children and parents are in a dependent relationship with the physical therapist. Physical therapists are challenged to find the right balance between their professional position and input on the one hand, and the emotional needs of child and parents on the other hand.