Recreational therapy

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Recreational Therapy
ICD-9-CM 93.81
MeSH D057173

According to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), recreational therapy or therapeutic recreation (TR) is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being.[1] Recreational therapy may also be simply referred to as recreation therapy.[2]

Recreational therapists work with clients to restore motor, social and cognitive functioning, build confidence, develop coping skills, and integrate skills learned in treatment settings into community settings. Intervention areas vary widely and are based upon client interests. Examples of intervention modalities include creative arts (e.g., crafts, music, dance, drama, among others), sports, adventure programming, dance/movement, and leisure education.

Educational programs[edit]

A bachelor's degree in recreational therapy is required for most entry-level positions. These programs typically cover areas such as treatment and program planning, human anatomy, physiology, and professional ethics. Some programs offer the opportunity to specialize in the treatment of those that are mentally or physically challenged. Most employers prefer to hire candidates who are Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS). Therapists become certified through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) or through a provincial regulatory body such as, Therapeutic Recreation Ontario (TRO). To qualify for certification under the Academic Path, applicants must have a bachelor's degree in TR, complete an internship under the supervision of a CTRS, and pass a written exam. There is also an Equivalency Path A and B for certification. The requirements are slightly different and include a bachelor's degree outside of TR, paid work experience, and successful completion of the written exam.[3]

Continuing Education[edit]

Recreation Therapists with the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential are required to complete 50 clock hours (5.0 CEUs) of continuing education within a 5 year span as part of the overall requirements to renew national certification through NCTRC.

NCTRC has outlined several ways a CTRS can earn continuing education Continuing Education.

These include:

a.) Academic Courses

b.) Teleconferences/Audio Seminars like ATRA's webinar series.

c.) Internet Course Programs: Some online programs are identified at Charlie Dixon's Therapeutic Recreation Directory: CEU Opportunities.

In ''Perspectives on Recreational Therapy, Dr. David Austin (2017)[4] points out that: “Recreational therapist Danny Pettry offers another means to achieve CEUs. He maintains online selfstudy courses for recreational therapists.”

Smart CEUs Hub offers courses developed by instructors that allow recreation therapists to earn continuing education credit.

d.) Conferences: American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) and state branches of ATRA. Recreation therapists can attend conferences provided by related professional organizations and earn CEUs (pending the session meets Therapeutic Recreation (TR) knowledge areas required by NCTRC.

e.) Internship Supervision

Professional organizations[edit]

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)[5] and the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association (CTRA)[6] are the largest national membership organizations representing the interests and needs of recreational therapists in the U. S. and Canada.[7]


Certification: The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification,[8] a charter member of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA), also provides a certification that expires after 5 years. Those who are certified must apply for re-certification at the end of the expiration period. Specialty certification is now available in 5 areas. Health and human service professionals who acquire a higher level of knowledge and more advanced skills provide the consumer with a greater depth of service compared to individuals who practice at less advanced levels. Specialization is well recognized within professional practice and has become the norm within the health and human service delivery system today.[9] The median salary for recreational therapists in the United States was estimated $44,839 a year in 2011.[10] This number may vary slightly based on specific geographic region, years of experience, and type of employing agency.

Licensure: There are currently four states with Recreational Therapy licensure (Utah, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma)[11]. To practice Recreational Therapy in these states, professionals must possess a current, valid state license. In addition to the four currently licensed states, numerous other states are currently moving toward developing licensure. Through the Joint Task Force on Recreational Therapy Licensure sponsored by the American Therapeutic Recreation Association and the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, significant progress is being made in the licensure arena. Licensure is being pursued by the profession as a further means of protecting the public from potential harm.


Further reading[edit]

  • Robertson, T. & Long, T. (Eds.) (2007). Foundations of Therapeutic Recreation. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  • Stumbo, N. J.& Peterson, C. A.(2009). Therapeutic recreation program design: Principles and procedures. Toronto, ON: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
  • Dattilo, J. & McKenney, A. (2011). Facilitation Techniques in Therapeutic Recreation (2ndEd). State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
  • Carter, M., Van Andel, G., & Robb, G. (2003). Therapeutic Recreation A Practical Approach. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.
  • Austin, D. R., Crawford, M.E., McCormick, B.P. & Van Puymbroeck, M. (2015). Recreational Therapy: An Introduction (4thed). Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing.
  • Kunstler, R., & Stavola Daly, F. (2010). Therapeutic recreation leadership and programming. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

External links[edit]