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According to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), recreational therapy or Therapeutic Recreation (TR) is a treatment service designed to restore, remediate, and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition. Recreational therapy may also be simply referred to as recreation therapy.
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.
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 mental or physical disabilities. 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). 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.
The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) and the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association (CTRA) are the largest national membership organizations representing the interests and needs of recreational therapists in the U. S. and Canada.
Certification: The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, 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. The median salary for recreational therapists in the United States was estimated $44,839 a year in 2011. 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). 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.
- What is TR? American Therapeutic Recreation Association
- NCTRC Certification Paths A and B
- American Therapeutic Recreation Association 
- National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
- CTRS Specialty Certification: The Purpose of Specialty Certification
- Average salary for recreational therapists - Salary.com
- Therapeutic Recreation Directory
- O*Net Online Summary Report for Recreational Therapists
- American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)
- National Therapeutic Recreation Society
- U.S. Bureau of Labor: Recreational Therapist
- I Am A Recreational Therapist (Your First Stop to all things Recreational Therapy)
- National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)
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