Recreational therapists work to make a positive difference in the lives of people with chronic illnesses, injuries and disabilities. They use art, dance, music, sports and other recreational activities to help improve the physical, emotion and social wellbeing of patients. Read on to find more about the work of recreational therapists and the qualifications you need to join the profession.
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1. What Do Recreational Therapists Do?
Their duties include:
- Observing patients to identify their strengths and weaknesses
- Reviewing patients’ medical records or treatment histories
- Developing therapeutic programs or interventions that can meet the needs of patients
- Engaging patients in therapeutic activities – this involves ensuring the safety of patients during the activities
- Evaluating the effectiveness of recreational therapy programs and making necessary adjustments
- Compiling patient progress reports.
2. Work Environment
Although many recreational therapists work fulltime, 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, others work on a part-time basis, which typically covers evenings and weekends.
Depending on the recreational activity, the therapists can spend their time indoors and outdoors working with patients.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, recreational therapists earn an average annual salary of $46,060.
4. Entry Requirements
A bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation is the minimum requirement for becoming a recreational therapist. The program provides training in topics such as:
- Leisure and recreation in society
- Human performance
- Healthcare ethics
- Recreational therapy techniques
- Program planning and evaluation
Some of the institutions offering the credential include:
- Nova Southeastern University, Florida
- University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi
- Temple University, Pennsylvania
Normally, you would need a professional certification to improve your competence and career advancement prospects. However, in cases where you don’t need any professional experience to get certified, it is advisable to earn the certification to become more attractive to employers. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, for example, awards the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist certification to new graduates. Obtain this credential before looking for a job.
5. Important Qualities
To become a competent recreational therapist you need:
- Excellent observation skills
- A keen attention to details
- Excellent analytical skills
- Strong practical skills
- Strong communication skills
- Strong skills in relationship building
- Strong critical thinking skills
- Compassion and empathy
- The patience to allow patients enough time to learn new skills
- An interest in quality healthcare
- A good level of creativity
- An interest in helping other people.
6. Career Advancement
With a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy and a professional certification, you already have what it takes to get hired and take your career to the next level. As you continue working, undertake continuing education programs offered by professional organizations such as the American Therapeutic Recreational Association.
There are also regional recreational therapy organizations which you can join to network with other professionals in your state.
Finally, pursue a master’s degree in recreational therapy to heighten your chances of advancing to the position of recreational therapy supervisor.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of recreational therapists include:
- Residential care facilities
- Nursing homes
- Local authorities that offer community recreation programs
- Mental health facilities
- Substance abuse rehabilitation centers
Finally, the BLS projects the employment opportunities for recreational therapists to increase by 13 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is greater than the 11 percent average for all jobs. This means jobs should not be difficult to come by.
So, if you enjoy helping people in difficult situations and you love to engage in recreational activities, then this is a career you could enjoy.