Recreational Therapy


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 illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. Further, "Recreational Therapy” means a treatment service designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition.

Recreational therapy is not all fun and games. There is a purpose behind the activities that are specifically targeted to each patient.  When individuals are suffering from a physical injury or mental illness, they need help learning, not only how to live with their disability, but to enhance their quality of life by reducing the isolation that patients experience and helping them to participate in leisure activities.

Recreational therapists (RTs) seek to reduce depression, stress and anxiety in their clients and help them build confidence and socialize in their community.

Individuals who use our services become more informed and active partners in their own health care. Prescribed activity assists individuals in coping with the stress of illness and disability and prepares them for managing their illness and/or disability so they may achieve and maintain optimal levels of independence, productivity, well-being, and quality of life.

Recreational therapy improves quality of life and productivity for individuals with disabilities.


Recreational Therapy (RT) embraces a definition of "health" which includes not only the absence of "illness," but extends to enhancement of physical, cognitive, emotional, social and leisure development so individuals may participate fully and independently in chosen life pursuits. The unique feature of RT that makes it different from other therapies is the use of recreational modalities in the designed intervention strategies. RT is extremely individualized to each person by his or her past, present and future interests and lifestyle. The recreational therapist has a unique perspective regarding the social, cognitive, physical, and leisure needs of the patient. Incorporating client's interests, and the client's family and/or community makes the therapy process meaningful and relevant. Recreational therapists weave the concept of healthy living into treatment to ensure not only improved functioning, but also to enhance independence and successful involvement in all aspects of life.


Recreational therapy is provided by qualified professionals know as Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS). Requirements to be become a CTRS include a Bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university, a formal clinical internship and passing a national competency exam. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) oversees the credentialing process. Several states also require recreational therapists to be licensed within their states.


Recreational therapy is provided in a variety of settings where the therapeutic process is used. This process involves assessment of an individual's needs and functioning, planning of interventions, implementation of services, evaluation of interventions and client progress and documentation (APIED) of services provided.

Recreational therapists practice in settings such as inpatient and outpatient physical rehabilitation, inpatient and outpatient mental health, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living, adult day programs, park and recreation, adapted sports programs, acute care hospitals, pediatric hospitals and programs and school systems to name a few places.


Research indicates that recreational therapy provides a variety of positive health outcomes for individuals of all ages with physical disabilities, older adults, individuals with psychiatric disorders, pediatric patients, youth at risk and people with developmental disabilities or brain injuries.


Recreational Therapy is an integral part of a patient’s treatment, as well as a service benefiting consumers of community services. Recreational Therapy enhances participant outcomes and reduces healthcare costs by:

  • Providing active, outcome focused care which achieves results
  • Enabling the generalization of skill developed in treatment to their home and community environments
  • Reducing the effects of primary and secondary disabilities
  • Providing treatment through cost effective means such as in small and large group settings
  • Serving as a cost-effective means to enhance or replace other more costly services
  • Addressing the whole person with the focus on enhancing independent functioning within physical, social, cognitive and emotional domains
  • Training individuals to identify and utilize community resources that enable independent functioning
  • Focusing on skills that carry over to everyday life and can make a difference in a person’s quality of life
  • Providing a diversity of interventions which are cost effective, add value and have significant durability across an individual’s lifespan.


Many health care facilities have a therapy referral process in place and include RT/TR as part of their standard referral process for other ordered therapies and services. Once the referral for RT is made, usually by the physician or health care professional responsible for the client's care an assessment should be completed by the CTRS. On many inpatient program units a standard order is provided for each new resident "to evaluate for RT/TR services". Clients from outpatient, home health or community programs may also be appropriate for RT, and the referral is done on a case-by-case basis.

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