Yuma Sun

Recreation­al Therapy

Ready to help someone discover creative new methods of healing?


The exciting field of recreation­al therapy looks for new ways to treat patients by incorporat­ing non-traditiona­l elements like music, games or movement.

These methods have been useful across for broad range of patients, including those with physical disabiliti­es as well as emotional or mental issues. Sports, animal companions­hip and even small theater projects have also been incorporat­ed in order to help reduce anxiety or stress, address depression and recover some mental function and motor skills, experts say. Recreation­al therapists also connect their patients with critical community resources, which can expand their opportunit­ies to heal.


Potential recreation therapists begin by pursuing a degree in recreation and fitness, or through more specialize­d courses associated with therapeuti­c recreation. You’ll learn how to access patients and administer treatment, as well as interventi­on strategies and program planning. Classes in human anatomy are typically part of these degree programs, along with courses in psychiatri­c and medical terminolog­y, and the use of various assistive devices.


You’ll need to possess certain key skills to excel in this field, including compassion, the ability to listen, patience and being resourcefu­l. Each patient, and their needs, can be quite different – so they must be evaluated and treated on a case-bycase basis. What works for one might not work for another. A smart way to learn more is to pursue the standard credential­s afforded by the National Council for Therapeuti­c Recreation certificat­ion, which follows completion of a supervised 480-hour internship and written exam. Note that this certificat­ion is not always mandatory, but it could be useful either way.


As the U.S. population continues to age, recreation­al therapists will be needed to help with related illnesses, conditions or injuries including common situations like Alzheimer’s and mobility-reducing falls. Chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes are also on the rise, as are incidents or post-traumatic stress among military and non-military alike, and these caregivers will provide important alternativ­e care opportunit­ies along the way. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4% growth among recreation­al therapist positions through the decade ending in 2031, which is roughly average for all other occupation­s. Some 1,500 positions will open annually, with most the result of transfers or retirement.


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