Healing comes in many forms. Often, taking a medication, undergoing a surgical procedure or going to physical therapy is sufficient to allow patients to fully recover. Yet, there are also many complementary therapies to consider, such as recreational therapy.
What does a recreational therapist do? A recreational therapist uses a range of creative therapeutic modalities to nurture a patient’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual wellness. Explore this rewarding career below as you consider your choices after graduation.
What Do Recreational Therapists Do for Clients?
This growing profession is dedicated to using a wide spectrum of therapeutic and recreational techniques that allow individuals to regain or maintain their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Recreational therapists use many techniques in order to help clients in each of these categories for their everyday well-being.
Recreational therapists help patients heal using a wide range of creative mediums, such as:
- Arts and crafts
- Dance and other movement arts
- Drama and theater
- Animal interactions
- Community outings
The recreational therapy field recognizes that well-being encompasses not only the absence of illness or injury, but also the fulfillment and enrichment of life. This broad, holistic approach empowers patients to enhance their quality of life and enjoy their chosen pursuits.
This creative form of therapy is fully individualized. Recreational therapists customize each program of therapy to suit each individual’s unique deficits, injuries or illness, interests and ability level. This therapy can even encourage the participation of the individual’s family as well as of others in the community.
Recreational therapy offers a range of benefits, including the following:
- Reduction of mental health symptoms and stress
- Improvement of basic motor functioning
- Enhancement of self-esteem and self-confidence
- Enrichment of one’s social well-being
- Restoration of independence and one’s ability to carry out daily activities of living
Which Types of Patients Do Recreational Therapists Work With?
Broad health-related knowledge is a must-have for these professionals, as they work with a wide range of patients. A recreational therapist may work with pediatric patients or older adults, as this form of therapy benefits individuals throughout the lifespan. Recreational therapy is particularly well-suited to the following types of individuals:
- People with developmental disabilities
- Individuals with brain injuries such as stroke or concussion
- Those with psychiatric disorders such as depression or anxiety
- At-risk youths, such as those with behavioral disorders
- Individuals with serious or chronic illnesses such as cancer
- People with serious or chronic injuries
- Those who are recovering from a substance use disorder
What Does a Recreational Therapist Do on a Daily Basis?
If you’re giving serious consideration to pursuing this career, you’ll want to know the answer to the question, “What do recreational therapists do each day?” Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer, as each day can look a little different for a recreational therapist. Because this form of therapy is customized to meet each patient’s unique needs, each recreational therapy program will be different from one individual to the next.
In general, however, a recreational therapist is likely to do the following tasks:
- Assess new patients through observation, discussions, tests, medical records reviews and discussions with patients’ family members and other healthcare providers
- Develop custom recreational therapy programs for each patient
- Implement therapeutic interventions by engaging clients in their recreational activities
- Use recreational activities to teach patients crucial social, emotional, physical and mental skills that support quality of life and independence
- Monitor and document each patient’s progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions, making adjustments as needed
Some recreational therapists choose to specialize in working with a particular patient population. For instance, some might specialize in children and teens with behavioral disorders. They might take at-risk youths on wilderness adventure trips to teach important social skills and emotional regulation.
Where Do Recreational Therapists Work?
Many recreational therapists work for hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Others work for governmental agencies, social assistance or outreach programs, nursing care facilities and ambulatory healthcare services.
Regardless of their employer, many recreational therapists do not spend all day in the same setting. They may work in an office setting sometimes, but also travel to meet patients and take patients on community outings. Recreational therapists can also work in the following settings:
- Sports programs
- Correctional facilities
- Community centers
- Substance use disorder treatment facilities
Because of these requirements, students who choose to major in sociology would be well-advised to consider double majoring in a health-related area, such as health sciences or exercise science. In short, although it is indeed possible to pursue a career as a recreational therapist with a sociology degree, graduates will also need health-specific competencies in order to be effective at their jobs. There are many people who can benefit from recreational therapy, and this career will enable you to make a difference in those people’s lives.
You can begin pursuing a meaningful career as a recreational therapist by applying for enrollment at Grand Canyon University. In addition to our Bachelor of Science in Sociology degree, we are pleased to offer numerous health science degrees, such as the Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with an Emphasis in Sports Performance degree. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more about joining the dynamic learning community at GCU.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.