What do you think of when we say therapy? Do you think of playing a video game, making crafts, or painting a picture? You might if you’ve ever experienced recreational therapy! The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) defines recreational therapy (RT), or therapeutic recreation, as “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.” ATRA goes on to describe RT as 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 therapists, according to ATRA, use “a wide range of activity- and community-based interventions and techniques to improve the physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure needs of their clients.” Recreational therapists help their clients to develop the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that they need for daily living and community involvement.
Why is RT important? It is important because its principal objective is to improve a person’s functioning and assist them in staying as active, healthy, and independent as possible in the life pursuits they have chosen. What makes RT unique is the use of recreational modalities as part of an individual’s intervention strategies. This approach is individualized to each person by their interests and lifestyle. By incorporating a person’s interests, their family and friends, and their community, recreational therapists make the therapy process more meaningful and relevant for the people they serve. Who is RT for? Recreational therapists work with a wide range of individuals that need their services, including children, adults, and older adults with physical, behavioral, cognitive, developmental, and intellectual disabilities.
To learn more about RT and the kinds of things that recreational therapists do, check out the following resources:
- Facilitation of therapeutic recreation services: an evidence-based and best practice approach to techniques and processes, edited by Norma J. Stumbo and Brad Wardlaw.
- Activity and Treatment Ideas for Recreation Therapy – Resources for recreation therapists from the Therapeutic Recreation Directory.
- RT Wise Owls from Temple University – a free database and information resource center that contains evidence-based research and resources relevant to RT practices.
We searched REHABDATA and found various articles from the NIDILRR community on recreation and recreation therapy. Here are just a few of them:
- Information/education page: Brain gaming: A user’s product guide for the clinician (J74425) from Walking and its Effect on Health and Function in Individuals with Cerebral Palsy as they Transition to Adulthood: A Health Outcomes Study.
- Adding recreation to your coping toolbox: An 8-week protocol (O20474).
- Consumer factsheet: Adaptive sports and recreation factsheet (O20339) from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center.