Therapeutic Recreation (Recreation Therapy) – What’s That?

By Southwest Behavioral Services Recreational Therapist Dana Groom, CTRS

Recreation’s purpose is not to kill time but to make time live. Not to keep a person occupied but to keep them refreshed. Not to offer an escape from life but to provide a discovery of life.

The value of leisure and recreation is often misplaced in our society. However, as long as humans have been on this earth, people have being using leisure and recreation to relax, improve their mood, and enhance their life.

Therapeutic Recreation…What’s That?

If you are like many people, you may have heard the terms “Therapeutic Recreation” and “Recreation Therapy” and thought, what is that? Or you many have never heard the terms at all. Therapeutic recreation (TR) uses treatment, education and recreation services to help people with disabilities.

The professionals who practice TR are known as CTRSs (Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists). CTRSs typically have a Bachelor’s Degree of Science and Health, often in Therapeutic Recreation. They also must be certified through the NCTRC, a nationally accredited organization.

Yes, therapeutic recreation is all about fun and games, yet it is also an evidenced based practice that uses special techniques and practices to improve lives.

CTRSs use the APIE treatment model (assess, plan, implement, evaluate). They assess their client’s strengths and weaknesses and create individualized treatment plans and goals based on the individual needs and interests. They then, plan and implement therapeutic activities to help their clients achieve their goals and improve functioning. CTRSs evaluate their client’s progress as well as the effectiveness of their therapeutic interventions.

Where Do CTRSs Work?

CTRSs work with a variety of populations in a variety of fields, including these:

  • Behavioral Health
  • Children and Adolescents
  • Community Based Services
  • Management of Recreational Therapy
  • Older Adults
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • School Systems
  • Military Service Members and Veterans

What Do Therapeutic Activities and Interventions Consist Of?

CTRSs are trained to implement several different leisure and activity modalities. These include therapeutic arts and crafts, therapeutic music and dance, games, exercise, relaxation techniques, biblio-therapy, aroma therapy, horticulture, adventure and reminisce; animal assisted therapy, and the list goes on.

Therapeutic Recreation practices inclusion and uses adaptive tools and interventions to allow clients to participate in activities they may have in the past not been able to do. CTRSs encourage their clients to explore new and old areas of interests in order to find what fulfills their needs and their passions.

Therapeutic Recreation at Southwest Health

Therapeutic Recreation is practiced at Southwest Health at the geriatric inpatient psychiatric unit, Southwest Behavioral Services (SBS). The recreation therapist, as well as the other activity staff, work together to develop and facilitate therapeutic activities that work towards the patient’s treatment goals.

As the Activity Coordinator at SBS, I provide recreation therapy to their geriatric inpatients. I’ve held this position for five years and have experience working with children, adolescents and geriatric patients, helping promote their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health through leisure education, functional intervention, and recreation participation.

Type of therapeutic activities we do at SBS range from trivia, arts and crafts, therapeutic music, cognitive stimulation, animal assisted therapy, and relaxation techniques and of course games. The program consists of five to seven structured groups daily and are all geared towards our patient’s needs and interests.

The main goal of the recreation therapy program at Southwest Health is to improve the quality of life of our patients and to put smiles on their faces.

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