What is a Recreational Therapist?

Recreational therapists fulfill a vital role in the healthcare community. Utilizing a wide array of media and techniques, they promote the healing process for many different individuals. For those interested in the role art and physical play fulfill in therapy, this is a fruitful field to explore. In the article below, we’ll delve into what these therapists do, with whom they work, and how their focus impacts the overall well-being of their patients.

As Whole Beings

Recreational therapists work with their clients to improve all aspects of their lives. They espouse a philosophy that healing and maintaining a firm sense of well-being involves all aspects of the human experience, from group interaction and physical activity to the creative arts, according to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. The stated purpose of RT is the promotion of a systemic view of health. This therapeutic field emphasizes recreation or play as a primary means by which the cognitive, psychological, emotional, and physical health of individuals is maintained.

Also, they seek to reduce depression, limitations of physical or cognitive disorders, and act as an additional means of physical and emotional therapy to those recovering from injuries. They provide recreational activities such as group outings, arts and musical experiences, and contextualized physical therapies, such as game play or outdoor excursions.

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Therapists that focus on the use of recreational activities are nonetheless highly qualified to assess patient needs and create detailed treatment plans. They work on an individual basis, identifying the particular social, cognitive, and physical needs of their client. Then, they plan activities focused on these areas of need. That can include art therapy, which offers a variety of benefits ranging from emotional expression to exercise of fine motor skills.

Differing Patient Needs

Adult communities that serve those with cognitive, physical or developmental disabilities also employ the services of these therapeutic professionals. Because social stimulation is an important part of enhancing their quality of life, group outings and cultural experiences are often the main focus of their work in these communities. RTs are specially trained to meet the physical and psychological needs of these individuals, ensuring a safe and healthy experience for all.

RTs also work with people who have suffered a serious injury. Their disability may be either temporary or lifelong, a factor that the therapist takes into account when designing a treatment plan. In either case, beyond the structured appointments of physical therapy, the RT provides an avenue of release. Their activities may overlap those of the physical therapist or the psychologist as they guide their client through applied exercise in the form of games or offer an outlet for emotional stressors that accompany injury recovery.

According to current statistics, more than 27,000 RTs are working in the United States. Of those, more than 15,000 hold the highest level of accreditation and work as certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS). While the activities they select for their clients may appear similar to simple, fun activities, they are directed and specifically chosen for therapeutic value.

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Related Resource: What is a Mental Health Counselor?

With a high level of professional training and an understanding that therapy must incorporate all aspects of the human experience, these individuals are uniquely qualified to assist in the healing process. The aging of the general population and our enhanced understanding of a variety of cognitive or physical disabilities provide an avenue for individuals interested in exploring the role of a recreational therapist as well as a need for their unique skills.