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What is Therapeutic Recreation?

For those who may have never heard the term therapeutic recreation, this type of therapy seeks to reduce the effects of disability or disease in order to allow a person to improve the function of their body and live as independently as possible. Other goals consist of enhancing physical, social, cognitive, emotional, and leisure development so that individuals can fully participate in activities and recreations of their choice.

A Unique Type of Therapy

This type of therapy differs from that of physical or occupational therapy in that it utilizes recreational modalities such as the following:

  • Aquatic therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Animal facilitated therapy
  • Therapeutic use of arts and music
  • Therapeutic play
  • Adaptive sports

Whatever sorts of activities the patient might be interested in is used in order to promote changes that will be beneficial for their overall health. For example, for patients who are animal lovers, a recreational therapist would most likely use animal facilitated therapy. If a patient loved horseback riding, the therapist might use hippotherapy, which is a type of therapy that involves horses. This is a type of therapy that is very individualized and does not usually look the same for any two types of patients. Recreational therapists work with a wide range of individuals needing a variety of types of health care including geriatric, mental health, addictions, physical rehabilitation, developmental disabilities, and those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, substance abuse centers, special education departments in schools, and parks and recreation departments.

Recreational Therapists

Those who work with patients and other individuals in this capacity are called recreational therapists. For those who might be interested in becoming this type of therapist the job outlook is very good. From 2014 to 2024, this occupation is expected to grow 12% which is faster than average. Recreational therapists can expect an average salary of $45,890 a year. Education requirements include attaining a bachelor’s degree that includes taking courses such as human anatomy, medical terminology, and assessment. Therapists can become certified through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). The NCTRC also offers certification in the following areas of practice:

  • Behavioral health
  • Community inclusion services
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Geriatrics
  • Physical medicine/rehabilitation

Important qualities for recreational therapists include having compassion for others, leadership, listening skills and speaking skills, and plenty of patience. Many recreational therapists find it advantageous to become a member of the ATRA which represents the interests and needs of such therapists.

As a type of therapy that helps individuals with a variety of diagnoses from the pediatric years to the golden years, it offers many rewards. For those who like to think outside of the box and help individuals in a very unique and challenging way, while having fun doing it, therapeutic recreation is a great career to consider.

Related: 30 Best Value Bachelor’s Degrees in Parks, Recreation, and Leisure

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