How Do You Become a Recreational Therapist?

If you’re looking to become a recreational therapist, you’ll have a great career outlook and strong job growth. Recreational therapists plan and implement treatment programs for people with disabilities, illnesses and injuries. They may also help people manage depression and anxiety and help them to develop social skills. Depending on a patient’s interests and needs, recreational therapists may plan and participate in activities involving sports, arts and crafts, games, music and aquatics. They ensure that their patients are safe during these activities, and they carefully note each patient’s progress on a daily basis. Recreational therapists may also specialize in helping a specific group of people such as the elderly or children.

How to Become a Recreational Therapist

Recreational therapists need, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree for most positions, but you might be able to find a position with less education if you can show proof of experience in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs available in recreational therapy, or you could opt for a recreation degree with a concentration in therapy. These degree programs are typically very hands-on, allowing students to gain experience through internships and volunteering. Most accredited degree programs include courses such as psychology, ethics, assistive devices, program planning and evaluation, assessment, medical terminology, physiology and anatomy. Advancement generally comes with further education and experience.

What Certification is Required?

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) provides voluntary certification for those wishing to be certified. Although the majority of states don’t have license or certification requirements for recreational therapists, you may be able to find a program that meets the NCTRC’s requirements, which typically focus on clinical experience. In order to obtain certification, you’ll need a minimum of 480 hours of supervised internship work in recreational therapy, which must occur at least 20 hours per week for 12 weeks. Once you meet these qualifications, you must pass an exam to be certified and continue education credits to maintain your certification.

What Skills Do You Need?

If you’re thinking about becoming a recreational therapist, you’ll need to be compassionate by nature and have a strong desire to help people. You should be well-organized, dependable, accurate and have good interpersonal skills. You need to be creative when developing and implementing activities for others, and you need to effectively communicate with medical staff and patients. Physical strength is also important since you may be lifting and carrying equipment on a regular basis, including sports equipment and various assistive devices. You may also need to help patients stand, walk or participate in other activities.

Related Resource: What is a Mental Health Counselor?

Recreational therapy has helped people worldwide who may have become physically or mentally injured to become active again. Recreational therapists understand exactly how to use creative therapeutic methods to help their patients tackle the stages of grief, build confidence and regain control of their daily lives. Not only do recreational therapists help with physical activities, but they also help with mental and emotional hurdles as well. By using specialized activities, recreational therapists help patients reduce anxiety and stress, combat depression and recover reasoning and motor skill functionality. If you’re wondering whether you should become a recreational therapist, first consider the education requirements and personality traits that would allow you to be most successful in this field.