Recreational Therapist

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Recreational Therapist


Go into a nursing home and take a look at the activities schedule board. You will be amazed at the different programs and activities a recreational therapist plans, such as bingo, nature walks, and arts and crafts. Recreational therapists encourage and promote independent leisure lifestyles for people with special needs. They seek to enhance a patient's mental, physical and emotional well being by implementing activities to enhance one's lifestyle.

Recreational therapists help individuals who have various physical and mental limitations to make healthy lifestyle choices and get involved in health-promoting and rewarding leisure activities like sports, games, arts and crafts, gardening, exercise, dancing, nature study, music and other special events. These various activities assist people in the healing process and in dealing with anger and frustration.

Besides physical disabilities, people with mental problems sometimes stop participating in leisure activities for a number of reasons. For a recreational therapist, stopping one's leisure lifestyle can be detrimental to one's health. Recreational therapists design programs to help clients remove barriers that prevent them from participating in desired leisure activities. In nursing homes, the role of the recreational therapist is to also help patients develop leisure activities and provide them with opportunities for exercise, mental stimulation, creativity and fun.

They also try and encourage positive attitudes and self-confidence in these struggling people, help their clients acquire or discover new skills, and encourage clients to remain active despite their special needs or circumstances. For example, a painting program may help a client discover a talent they never knew they had. Various art and recreational therapies are designed as a therapeutic alternative to conventional treatments.

Some recreation therapists work as part of a health care team which may include doctors, nurses, nutritionists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other professionals. Recreational therapy work can often be discouraging and stressful because it may take several days or weeks for some individuals to choose to participate in leisure activities. Their involvement is often influenced by their general physical, emotional and mental health. However, recreation therapy is crucial to individual rehabilitation and is therefore a very rewarding profession.
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Programs Offered:
  • Diploma - Physical Therapy Aide
  • Diploma - Sports Therapy



  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Recreational therapists need excellent interpersonal communication skills, and must exude enthusiasm and a positive, flexible attitude. They need good organizational skills for planning and co-rdinating events, and must be able to work independently and as part of a team. Successful recreation therapists enjoy working with people, developing and implementing innovative recreational and leisure programs, and helping people get back to their regular lifestyles.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Assess clients skills, needs, interests and values relevant to recreation and leisure activity
  • Adapt activities to clients' special needs, abilities and circumstances
  • Ensure a safe place and appropriate transportation, equipment and materials for participation in activities
  • Encourage clients to make decisions about participating in leisure activities and to set personal goals for participation
  • Chart the progress or difficulties of each client and report to the treatment team
  • Teach clients about the physical, mental, social and emotional benefits of participating in recreational activities
  • Work with clients to identify personal leisure barriers and design interventions which address these barriers
  • Attend rehabilitation team meetings and professional development events
  • Recreation therapists work both indoors and outdoors, often involved in fairly strenuous physical activity. Their hours will depend on where they work, however they tend to work standard 40-hour weeks. They may also be required to travel from place to place as they may be employed as therapists in various locations.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Recreational therapists work in hospitals, continuing care and residential care facilities, prisons and correctional centers, private and government recreation centers, community center programs, mental health centers, group homes, and private community-based agencies. Recreational therapists also work in nursing homes, where they use group leisure activities to improve mental and physical health. In these settings, they may be called activity directors or therapeutic recreation specialists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for recreational therapists? They can easily move into other areas of therapy such as massage therapy, althletic therapy or chiropractic work with additional education and training. They might also move into sports and leisure equipment design, kinesiology, or personal training. Recreational therapists with the proper education may also teach at the high school, college and university level.

  Educational Paths  
The minimum education requirement for becoming a recreational therapist is a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation. These university programs cover science, mathematics and human psychology courses. Once graduated from an accredited program, most therapists become certified as Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). To become certified, applicants must pass a written exam and complete an internship under the supervision of a certified therapeutic recreation specialist.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Fremont College
Fremont College is passionately committed to the success of our students. We want every student to realize their potential, tap into their talent, and become a trained professional ready to excel in the modern workforce.
Programs Offered:
  • Diploma - Physical Therapy Aide
  • Diploma - Sports Therapy

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