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Become An Activity Therapist

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Working As An Activity Therapist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $45,890

    Average Salary

What Does An Activity Therapist Do

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. These therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts; drama, music, and dance; sports and games; aquatics; and community outings to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Duties

Recreational therapists typically do the following:

  • Assess patients’ needs through observations, medical records, tests, and discussions with other healthcare professionals, patients’ families, and patients
  • Create treatment plans and programs that meet patients’ needs and interests
  • Plan and implement interventions to prevent harm to a patient
  • Engage patients in therapeutic activities, such as exercise, games, and community outings
  • Help patients learn social skills needed to become or remain independent
  • Teach patients about ways to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Record and analyze a patient’s progress
  • Evaluate interventions for effectiveness

Recreational therapists help people reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic physical and mental abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively.

They use activities, such as arts and crafts, dance, or sports, to help their patients. For example, a recreational therapist can help a patient who is paralyzed on one side of their body by teaching them to adapt activities, like casting a fishing rod or swinging a golf club, by using their functional side.

Therapists often treat specific groups of patients, such as children with cancer. Therapists may use activities such as kayaking or a ropes course to teach patients to stay active and to form social relationships.

Recreational therapists help people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to use community resources and recreational activities. For example, therapists may teach a patient who uses a wheelchair how to use public transportation.

Therapists may also provide interventions for patients who need help developing social and coping skills. For example, a therapist may use a therapy dog to help patients manage their depression or anxiety.

Therapists may work with physicians or surgeons, registered nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, teachers, or occupational therapists. Recreational therapists are different from recreation workers, who organize recreational activities primarily for enjoyment.

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How To Become An Activity Therapist

Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Many employers require therapists to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

Education

Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor’s degree, usually in recreational therapy or a related field such as recreation and leisure studies.

Recreational therapy programs include courses in assessment, human anatomy, medical and psychiatric terminology, characteristics of illnesses and disabilities, and the use of assistive devices and technology. Bachelor’s degree programs usually include an internship.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most employers, particularly those in hospitals and other clinical settings, prefer to hire certified recreational therapists. The NCTRC offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. Candidates may qualify for certification through one of two pathways. The first option requires a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, which includes the completion of a supervised internship of at least 560 hours, and passing an exam. The second option also requires passing an exam, but allows candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject to qualify with a combination of education and work experience. Therapists must take continuing education classes to maintain certification.

NCTRC also offers specialty certification in five areas of practice: behavioral health, community inclusion services, developmental disabilities, geriatrics, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. Therapists also may earn certificates from other organizations to show proficiency in specific therapy techniques, such as aquatic therapy or aromatherapy.

As of 2014, only New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah required recreational therapists to obtain a license. Requirements vary by state. For specific requirements, contact the state’s medical board.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Recreational therapists should be kind and empathetic when providing support to patients and their families. They may deal with patients who are in pain or under emotional stress.

Leadership skills. Recreational therapists must be able to plan, develop, and implement intervention programs in an effective manner. They must be engaging and able to motivate patients to participate in a variety of therapeutic activities.

Listening skills. Recreational therapists must listen carefully to a patient’s problems and concerns. They can then determine an appropriate course of treatment for that patient.

Patience. Recreational therapists may work with some patients who require more time and special attention than others.

Resourcefulness. Recreational therapists customize treatment plans for patients. They must be both creative and flexible when adapting activities or programs to each patient’s needs.

Speaking skills. Recreational therapists need to communicate well with their patients. They must give clear directions during activities or instructions on healthy coping techniques.

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Activity Therapist jobs

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Activity Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

73.8%

Male

24.9%

Unknown

1.3%
Ethnicity

White

83.5%

Hispanic or Latino

8.3%

Asian

6.2%

Unknown

1.4%

Black or African American

0.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

61.5%

Mandarin

7.7%

Vietnamese

3.8%

Japanese

3.8%

Kinyarwanda

3.8%

Russian

3.8%

French

3.8%

Cantonese

3.8%

Thai

3.8%

Italian

3.8%
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Activity Therapist Education

Schools

New York University

10.2%

University of Phoenix

8.0%

Florida State University

6.6%

Benedict College

6.6%

Capella University

6.6%

Grand Valley State University

5.1%

Kean University

4.4%

Walden University

4.4%

Western Carolina University

4.4%

Georgia Southern University

4.4%

Arkansas Tech University

4.4%

Grand Canyon University

4.4%

Emporia State University

4.4%

Jackson State University

4.4%

Southern Connecticut State University

3.6%

Illinois State University

3.6%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.6%

Troy University

3.6%

Old Dominion University

3.6%

Long Island University - C W Post Campus

3.6%
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Majors

Rehabilitation Science

26.7%

Psychology

11.9%

School Counseling

7.5%

Recreation Management

7.3%

Social Work

6.9%

Mental Health Counseling

4.6%

Counseling Psychology

4.2%

Business

3.5%

Criminal Justice

3.5%

Kinesiology

2.7%

Education

2.5%

Health Education

2.5%

Nursing

2.3%

Clinical Psychology

2.3%

Elementary Education

2.1%

Family Therapy

2.1%

Special Education

2.1%

Educational Leadership

1.9%

Human Services

1.9%

Occupational Therapy

1.7%
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Degrees

Bachelors

39.5%

Masters

38.9%

Other

11.0%

Associate

6.0%

Certificate

2.1%

Doctorate

1.8%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.2%
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Top Skills for An Activity Therapist

ActivityTherapyAssessmentsIndividualTreatmentPlansMentalHealthTherapeuticActivitiesCrisisInterventionRecreationalActivitiesActivityTherapyGroupsGroupTherapySessionsSocialSkillsLeisureActivitiesSubstanceAbuseAngerManagementSpecialEventsArtTherapyMentalIllnessCarePlanMeetingsTreatmentProgramsLifeSkillsDementiaActivityTherapyPrograms

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Top Activity Therapist Skills

  1. Activity Therapy Assessments
  2. Individual Treatment Plans
  3. Mental Health
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Assessed patient needs, capabilities, and interests by completing activity therapy assessments.
  • Worked on an interdisciplinary team providing activity therapy structure to address individual treatment plans to address a variety of mental dysfunctions.
  • Plan and facilitate treatment groups for patients with mental health issues Perform assessments to determine needs in treatment groups
  • Work one on one with each patient in an effort to use therapeutic activities to meet established goals.
  • Utilized therapeutic crisis intervention techniques.

Top Activity Therapist Employers