Therapist are a lot like doctors except there are fewer white coats and stethoscopes and more Rorschach tests, and talking. Some therapists heal patients through conversation and time while others, like recreational therapists, heal through motion and physical activity. At times the body calls for medicine to feel better, at times it needs a few hours in the chair discussing the more mental aspects, and other times the body just needs to do what it does best; move.
Recreational Therapy Job Responsibilities
Recreational therapists are also known as “therapeutic recreation specialists.” Their job is to put together recreational activities and treatment services for people with illnesses or disabilities. With the utilization of various techniques, including games, arts, sports, crafts, music, dance and movement, drama, and community outings, therapists assist with building and maintaining the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of their clients.
Recreation specialists also assist patients in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress; gain back basic motor functioning and deductive abilities; strengthen confidence; and socialize effectively in order that they may gain more independence and get rid of or decrease the effects of their disability or illness. In addition to that, specialists assist clients with disabilities to immerse themselves into society by instructing them on how to utilize community resources and recreational activities.
In certain healthcare settings like rehabilitation centers and hospitals, recreational therapists rehabilitate and care for patients with certain health conditions, normally paired together or in addition with psychologists, nurses, physicians, occupational and physical therapists, and social workers. In residential care and long-term care facilities, recreational therapists utilize leisure activities to help build and maintain their patients’ overall well-being and health. Therapists might also handle interventions to keep the patient from enduring more medical complications and problems.
Recreational therapists observe individuals using standardized assessments, observations, the medical staff, medical records, and family of the client as well as the clients themselves. They then produce and perform therapeutic interventions on par with the interests and needs of the client. This may include encouraging isolated clients to interact more with others, or instruct left-handed patients with left-sided paralysis how they can use their right side to swing a bat or toss a ball. Recreational specialists may teach clients relaxation techniques in order to release and reduce tension and stress, limbering and stretching exercises, energy conservation and pacing techniques, proper body mechanics for recreational activities, and team activities.
Recreational Therapy Training and Educational Requirements
Several beginning recreational therapists must have a bachelor’s degree in either therapeutic recreation, or in basic recreation with a focus applied to therapeutic recreation. Some may qualify with a certain combination of training, education, and experience that would equal what could be called competent in the field. Currently there are more than 100 academic programs that ready students for careers as recreational therapists. Recreational therapeutic programs include classes in program planning, intervention, assessment, evaluation, and intervention design. Students also take courses in abnormal psychology, human anatomy, psychiatric and medical terminology, physiology, characteristics of disabilities and illnesses, the use of assistive technology and devices, and professional ethics. Internships in the field are included in bachelor’s degree programs.
Recreational Therapy Salary and Wages
In May 2008 the median annual wages of recreational therapists were $38,370. The middle 50 percent made between $29,660 and $49,140. The lowest ten percent made less than $23,150, and the highest ten percent made more than $60,280. In May 2008 the median annual wages in businesses employing the largest amount of recreational therapists in surgical and general medical hospitals was $42,210, $40,310 in the State government, $40,150 in substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals, $33,920 in nursing homes, and $33,490 in community care centers for the elderly.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Recreational Therapy Certifications
A great deal of employers would rather hire therapeutic recreation specialists who are certified even though certification is strictly voluntary. Employment in clinical setting usually call for certification by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. The organization offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential to specialists who successfully complete a written exam and finish a supervised internship of at least 480 hours. For credentialing, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy is needed from a recognized institution, but a few may qualify with equal experience, training, and education. Therapists have to meet other requirements to keep up with their certification.
Recreational Therapy Professional Associations
The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) was founded in the District of Columbia in 1984 as a non-profit, grassroots association in regards to a mounting concern about the extreme changes in the healthcare industry. They are the largest national membership association catering to the needs and interests of recreational specialists. Specialists are providers of healthcare who utilize therapy interventions for enhanced functioning of clients with disabling conditions or illness.
ATRA’s vision is to be the first and foremost professional membership organization catering to the needs of recreational therapists, stakeholders, and consumers. Their mission is to be a member-lead association that works together to support the efforts of the recreational therapy profession.