Recreational therapy, otherwise known as therapeutic recreation or TR, offers a way to medically treat a patient through recreation or leisure. It is a technique used with people who are physically, socially, emotionally, or physiologically challenged. Many people with disabilities participate in recreational therapy to increase their quality of life.
Recreational therapists typically have a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or parks and recreation with a therapeutic emphasis. Courses in this program focus on anatomy and physiology, biology, and medical terminology. Recreational therapists must pass the national certification exam, at which time he can use the “CTRS” credentials after his name.
A recreational therapist differs from a physical, occupational, or speech therapist. A physical therapist assists clients in rehabilitating their bodies back to their normal state. An occupational therapist helps with physical treatments, and a speech therapist helps people learn how to speak. Conversely, a recreational therapist helps a client increase their social interaction skills, increase their physical endurance, increase their gross and fine motor skills, increase their range of motion, and reduce impulsive behavior and depression. Some ancillary benefits to recreational therapy include enhanced time and money management skills, increased awareness of safety skills, and awareness of resources or adaptive equipment.
Forms of treatment may incorporate animals, dance, arts and crafts, sports, games, music, or trips. Recreational therapists should not be confused with recreation workers whose job includes purely sports-related activities for enjoyment. Through formalized assessments, observations, interviews, and medical records, the therapist will design a treatment plan with the proper exercise and recreational techniques. The therapist will then monitor the patient’s progress and participation.
Unfortunately, the expected growth for this occupation is a bit slower than most. This is partially due to the lack of funding and budgets at hospitals and nursing homes, which tend to be two of the largest employers. Many of these jobs have shifted to outpatient services such as assisted living, psychiatric, rehabilitation, or services for people with disabilities. Some therapists are self-employed and contract with long-term facilities and agencies. At these locations, the therapist will be responsible for designing, developing, and overseeing a program. They may supervise others, teach, or conduct research.
A recreational therapist works in conjunction with other professionals, such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical and occupation therapists in the rehabilitation of an individual. This collaboration takes place in larger acute health care settings, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers. They may also provide interventions to prevent further medical problems or illnesses related to a disability. Often, a recreational therapist conducts structured group activities to help improve health and spiritual well-being.
A recreational therapist uses exercise, mental stimulation, creativity, and fun to help achieve clients’ goals. Many therapists work within community centers or special education programs within schools. The earning potential in this field ranges from $17,000 to $43,000, with the highest salaries found in hospitals and nursing facilities.
A great way to stay in touch with new trends and techniques, requirements and networking abilities is to become a member of one of the professional organizations. Organizations, such as the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), http://www.atra-online.com/, the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS), http://www.nrpa.org/default.aspx, and the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), http://www.nctrc.org/, will help you liaise with other professionals in regard to standards of practice, provide information on the latest research and development, and keep you informed on the standards for certification and disciplinary process. These sites also provide information on job opportunities, continuing education credits, public policy, and advocacy opportunities, and other helpful resources to assist you in the profession.