One of the more interesting jobs in the healthcare and rehabilitation professions is that of a recreational therapist.
Through directly working with a variety of patient types, these specialists help everyone lead a more active and satisfying life.
The job description is diverse, providing something new everyday and never a dull moment for compassionate individuals thinking of some sort of career where they are helping people.
Best of all, now is a great time to think about going to school to become a recreational therapist, since demand for qualified graduates and professionals is on the rise. With a positive job outlook, it could be the perfect career path for anyone who likes to really get involved with people, and make a positive impact on their lives.
What Recreational Therapists Do
Recreational therapy – also known as therapeutic recreation – is an important part of life for most people, providing important life skills, socialization and generally the things that enrich our lives and make them what they are.
Some groups of people – particularly those with disabilities, developmental delays, mental health issues and other challenges – can miss out on a lot of these important and enjoyable aspects of life without the assistance of the people around them. This is where recreational therapy steps in.
Depending on the type of facility where a therapists is employed, the job description can be quite diverse, and in others it is more concentrated on one area of therapy.
Art and music therapy are two of those more concentrated areas, although most therapists are trained to, and expected to be able to work with patients in many different ways.
Some more of the many activities that recreational therapists will do with their patients includes dance and drama, playtime and socialization, sports and outdoor activities, field trips and other activities designed to encourage interest, creativity, learning and socialization.
Where Recreational Therapists Work
Some of the many facilities that employ recreational therapists include regular hospitals and surgical facilities, skilled nursing facilities, geriatric nursing and extended care facilities, private, public and state run homes for the mentally challenged, substance abuse facilities, home health services and others.
Therapists are also employed by regular schools, special education schools, local parks and recreation departments, daycare centers, camps and other places where growth through education, activity and socialization is promoted. In these various employment environments, recreational therapy job description may vary widely depending on the patients and/or students a therapist will be working with.
How To Become a Recreational Therapist
In order to become qualified, students must graduate from an accredited or recognized, dedicated educational program for therapeutic recreation with at least a Bachelor’s degree.
This will ensure that graduates are eligible to sit for the national certification exam, in which certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS) are highly preferred over non-certified individuals.
Additionally, students who have either started a degree, or have completed a degree in a different but similar major may transition and earn the required Bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation by taking an additional curriculum of necessary class work.
When following this secondary path, it is also required that students already be employed in a therapeutic recreation position of some sort, and be working under the guidance of a certified therapist as well.
In this way, clinical experiences and other hands-on school requirements end up being waived since the student has already gained real world experience, and completing the theory classes is the main requirement. Once having done all of that, students are able to graduate with their degree in therapeutic recreation and are eligible for certification.
Additional Educational Requirements
While Associate’s, certificate and “diploma” programs exist, professional and certification organizations caution students that enrolling in these programs will leave students still in need of fulfilling additional educational requirements before they would be able to become certified at any time.
For more information about schools and certification, interested students can contact the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), which handles certification in both the US and Canada.
In the UK, students are required to complete approved courses in specific areas of therapy to gain recognition, and should contact the different therapeutic recreation associations to learn more about educational requirements and certification.
If the job description sounds like an interesting career choice, prospective students are recommended to contact their country’s therapeutic recreation professional organization to learn more. These organizations will be able to provide information on accredited schools and point interested individuals in the right direction.