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.
JOINING THE FIELD
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.