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Recreation Therapy

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 restriction to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition

WHAT IS RECREATION THERAPY?

Recreation Therapy is defined 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 restriction to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition” (American Therapeutic Recreation Association [ATRA], 2009).  Recreation Therapy is a skilled therapy provided as active treatment (as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).  Recreation Therapy is recognized as an allied health discipline by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and encompasses trained professionals dedicated to providing outcome-based therapeutic recreation services to all citizens.

 

HOW DID RECREATION THERAPY DEVELOP?

The recreational therapy profession can be traced back to the 1850’s when Florence Nightingale proposed that recreation experiences could be drawn upon to improve the human condition.  In 1931 the American Red Cross began hiring recreation hospital workers.  The term “recreational therapy” was first coined by the Menninger brothers who were enthusiastic for the inclusion of recreational therapy as a treatment of persons with mental health disorders.  Since the 1940’s, recreational therapists have served as active members of the interdisciplinary treatment team addressing the psychosocial and physical rehabilitation needs of consumers. 

Recreation Therapists are professionally trained practitioners who:

  • Individually assess each patient/client
  • Design specific therapeutic goals
  • Plan intervention programs
  • Implement safe and effective evidence-based recreational therapy interventions
  • Document interventions provided/chart patient progress
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of intervention programs
  • Manage recreation therapy practice

 

HOW ARE RECREATION THERAPY SERVICES DIFFERENT FROM OTHER THERAPIES?

Recreation Therapy 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 the individual may participate fully and independently in chosen life pursuits.  The unique feature of recreation therapy that makes it different from other therapies is the use of recreational modalities in the designed intervention strategies.  Although many of the treatment goals that a recreation therapist may work towards are similar to other disciplines on the rehabilitation team, the way the recreation therapist achieves those goals is what distinguishes this unique service.  Incorporating the client’s interest and the client’s family and/or community makes the therapy process meaningful and relevant.  Recreation Therapy is extremely individualized to each person, their past, present and future interests and lifestyle.  The recreation therapist has a unique perspective regarding the social, cognitive, and physical and leisure needs of the client.  Recreation 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. 

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