On Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

On Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Therapeutic recreation or recreation therapy is known to providing treatment and recreation services to people who have illness and are disabled including those who are mentally challenged or sick. The main goal of recreation therapy is to “restore, remediate or rehabilitate” (Gold, no date) to gain improvement in functioning and independence and also the reduction or elimination of the disability while recreation services for health and being improvement. Therapeutic recreation is done by well-trained, certified and registered people.

To become a qualified recreation therapist, a degree in Therapeutic Recreation is required. Jobs in hospitals or community mental health facilities are where degree holders are considered. Most employers are hiring individuals who have gone through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS), as mentioned by Gold, often focus on two areas which are leisure education and stress management. The former concentrates on how people perceive leisure that may be attitude or state of mind, activity and time. Leisure as a state of mind dwells with people having no control on different situations and ends up giving up on what they wanted. While leisure as an activity focuses more on the freedom to choose what a person wants or what interests him. Leisure as equated to time to the moments left for something to b achieved. Stress management including yoga, tai-chi, etc. are activities helping people to cope with every day stressors. Through these activities, people learn to identify the things that bring stress and independently manage the stress.

A person who wants to avail of therapeutic recreation treatment and services must be assessed by checking medical record from medical staff and the family members. Once the people is admitted for therapeutic recreation services due to mental, physical or emotional illnesses, the specialist assigned to the person will plan and select activities that the patient will undergo into according to the patient’s needs, interests and abilities. The activities chosen will help the patient achieve personal independence and improved physical and emotional well-being.

To be able to treat patients with disabilities, therapeutic recreation specialists will have to plan programs that will meet the patients’ needs. Gold (no date) mentioned programs guiding specialists. Some of the programs are: current events discussion, cooking, photography and creative writing, exercise, competitive sports and animal assisted therapy. These programs are made not only for the patients to enjoy but for them to learn from the activities. Some values also lie in every activity that the patient might learn and further develop. Like for example, in current events discussion groups, the patient will be helped to develop concentration and attention span. While organization, decision making and detailed attention are the objectives of the cooking group. Creativity and expression are being nurtured in photography and creative writing program while competitive sports focus more on control and tolerance development. Exercise is said to affect mood while building muscles and energy. While having animals as parts of the activity decreases the feeling of withdrawal and isolation. In the end, recreation therapists are expected to assess each client, formulate treatment and report on progress achieved by the client.

The ethic of care, according to O’Keefe, is a “therapeutic process within a broader context that always sees the client as a growing person rather than a diagnostic label hung on a disease.” It must be noted that clients who go through therapeutic recreation services are also people. They might be different but they are still people who need something more than clinical treatment, they also need love, compassion and respect. Most of problems present on those people are illnesses mentally and emotionally. So specialists must be aware that they should not only offer treatment to these sick people but also show them care, because at times when they experience suffering or the illness, care is something that may push them to work harder. Assuming that what these disabled people are experiencing might also happen with professionals treating them is a simple way of caring.

Toronto (1993) as cited by O’Keefe differentiates caring about and caring for, which can help a lot of recreation therapists. According to him, caring about is recognizing what someone needs and wants and being able to choose between those things what is applicable for the person while caring for is assuming responsibility for every need of the person to be met. These two caring phases follow each other. Phase 1 is caring about while phase 2 is caring for. Once the need is recognized the responsibility to be able to meet the need follows.

The therapeutic recreation specialist must not only treat the client as a clinical responsibility, the treatment should be more relational. O’Keefe mentioned that people come to see therapists not necessarily for diagnosis or treatment but for the services offered to make them well and whole, to be brought back to the persons they were once before and even develop them to a fresh person. They avail recreation to establish self-independence, to know themselves more, forget the sickness they have had and blossom into changed or improved persons. They want to experience something that can push them to gain more self-confidence and self-meaning. And as therapeutic recreation specialists, the responsibility and care for these people should be taken into account not only the financial aspect should be considered. Remember, clients pay money for the best services with best results. Recreational therapists do not only have clinical responsibilities to their clients but also social responsibility because interaction is present between the patient and the specialist. How the specialist treats the patient teaches the patient how to treat other people. It is really heart-warming to know that you have helped a person recover from the illness and in making him a better person. Seeing someone change is rewarding.


Gold, M. The lowdown on recreation therapy: effective use of leisure time. New York City

Voices. Retrieved November 15, 2008, from


O’ Keefe, C. Grounded the therapeutic recreation process in an ethic of care. Retrived

November 15, 2008 from            http://www.recreation.com/articles/okeefeGroundingtheTherapeuticRecreation.pdf

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