Recreational Therapist/Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Description of Specialty

Practicing recreational therapists are broadly trained allied health professionals who provide a variety of therapeutic recreation services which include assessment, program planning, program implementation and evaluation. Services are provided to individuals, families, groups, and organizations. Other work activities include practice management, clinical supervision, education and training, and management/administration.

Recreational therapists are highly skilled and professionally trained. They offer services as a member of the healthcare treatment team in concert with other healthcare professionals. The recreational therapist has acquired a specific body of knowledge that includes theoretical constructs, applied methodology, and practice that spans a wide ranging of age cohorts, disabling conditions and illnesses. The recreational therapist is trained to apply a critical set of competencies and skills to address the total person and the factors that may be associated with a specific disability or illness to significantly provide effective and efficacious person centered care and achieve positive service outcomes.

Recreational therapy also known as therapeutic recreation is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illness or disabling conditions as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well being.

The purpose of the recreational therapy process is to improve or maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s degree with certification as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) from the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) is considered as the industry wide standard for an entry level recreational therapist. The CTRS must complete a degree that meets specific academic content in therapeutic recreation; must complete a documented internship experience; and successfully complete the NCTRC Certification Exam. Certification is awarded for a five year period and in order to renew the CTRS certification an individual must demonstrate experience in professional practice, evidence of professional continuing education which is consistent with the NCTRC Job Knowledge Areas or must again take the NCTRC Exa,

Licensing Requirements

Requirements for licensure vary by State. Most states require that the individual has active status as a CTRS.

Specialty Credentials Related to Geriatrics

NCTRC has specialty certification in Geriatrics. This specialty area includes, but is not limited to, diseases, conditions, and impairments primarily associated with aging adults. These conditions often impact the physical, social, psychological, and cognitive functioning of older adults. TR/RT services are usually provided within hospitals, geriatric rehabilitative centers, community-based nursing facilities, and other areas of service.

Scope of Services in Long Term Care Settings

  1. System Integration: Recreational therapist are el prepared to act as a member of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. They bring expertise in evidence based practice, program development and evaluation, outcome measurement and group facilitation that can support and promote the integration of new, non-pharmacological interventions into the day to day care of residents. The combined skill sets of advanced communication skills, group facilitation expertise and data management directed at measuring outcomes affords the recreational therapist to serve as effective change leaders to support ‘culture change’ and quality improvement initiatives.

  2. Education/Leadership: Recreational therapists can help nursing home staff to develop the knowledge and skills to implement evidence-based non-pharmacological approaches to care for the unique needs of each resident. Their training in communication, interpersonal interactions, meaningful engagement and environmental factors that influence behaviors prepare the recreational therapists to (1) provide evidence-based staff training tailored to the skills, abilities, life routines, and interests of the older adult and (2) support facility leadership to develop new models of practice, team building, and staff training.

  3. Assessment: Assessment is one of the key elements of recreational therapy practice. Trained in the assessment of physical, social, cognitive, emotional and spiritual well being of persons served is fundamental to identifying the needs, interests , preferences and life routines of older adults. Recreational therapists bring a variety of tools and expertise to the process of assessing the behavioral, emotional and social dimension of dementia. The recreational therapist chooses reliable and valid measures to guide treatment planning and outcomes. The recreational therapist works with other members of the inter-professional team to synthesize results of assessment to develop a comprehensive plan of care.

  4. Clinical Decision Making: Recreational therapist can have a significant role in helping staff to implement an integrated approach for evaluating and responding to the needs, interest, preferences and routines of persons with dementia , and helping the team to communicate effectively in sharing perspectives on patient-centered care strategies.

  5. Non-pharmacological approaches: Evidence-based non-pharmacological practices for addressing needs of persons with dementia are grounded in therapeutic recreation theory and research. Person-centered care and engagement in meaningful activities are the foundation for reducing anti-psychotic medications, supporting positive behavioral responses and supporting social engagement. Recreational therapists facilitation techniques the seek support persons with dementia in living a life that is meaningful and with sense of purpose and well-being. Recreational therapists utilizes modalities such as music, movement, creative expression and other sensory approaches that are deeply rooted in the most robust research on the efficacy of : approaches in working with persons who have dementia.

Professional Organizations and Additional Resources on Recreational Therapy

Professional Credentialing Organizations