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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

  • $48,511

    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 Career Paths

Activity Therapist
Program Coordinator Program Director Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinician Nurse Manager Flight Commander
Chief Of Service
8 Yearsyrs
Art Therapy Specialist Therapist Clinical Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Therapist
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Music Therapist Director Of Music Clinician
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Utilization Review Nurse Staff Nurse
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Social Worker School Counselor
Counseling Director
5 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Clinical Supervisor Occupational Therapist
Director Of Correctional Therapy
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
Activities Director Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Occupational Therapist
Director Of Rehabilitation
8 Yearsyrs
Recreation Therapist Activities Director
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Program Director Service Director
Director Of Support Services
10 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Home Health Aid Activities Director
Director Of Therapeutic Recreation
5 Yearsyrs
Art Therapy Specialist Counselor/Art Therapist Clinical Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Program Director Home Health Aid Direct Support Professional
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Activities Director Director Of Social Services Therapist
Lead Therapist
5 Yearsyrs
Recreation Therapist Recreation Director Activities Director
Life Enrichment Director
7 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as an Activity Therapist?

Activity Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

74.2%

Male

24.5%

Unknown

1.3%
Ethnicity

White

63.9%

Black or African American

13.6%

Hispanic or Latino

12.2%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

58.3%

Mandarin

8.3%

Vietnamese

4.2%

Japanese

4.2%

Kinyarwanda

4.2%

Russian

4.2%

French

4.2%

Cantonese

4.2%

Thai

4.2%

Italian

4.2%
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Activity Therapist Education

Schools

New York University

10.7%

University of Phoenix

7.6%

Benedict College

6.9%

Capella University

6.9%

Florida State University

6.1%

Grand Valley State University

5.3%

Jackson State University

5.3%

Walden University

4.6%

Grand Canyon University

4.6%

Western Carolina University

3.8%

Illinois State University

3.8%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.8%

Georgia Southern University

3.8%

Temple University

3.8%

Marywood University

3.8%

Long Island University - C W Post Campus

3.8%

Liberty University

3.8%

Drexel University

3.8%

Troy University

3.8%

Central Michigan University

3.8%
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Majors

Rehabilitation Science

27.0%

Psychology

11.1%

Social Work

7.4%

Recreation Management

7.2%

School Counseling

6.8%

Mental Health Counseling

4.4%

Counseling Psychology

4.4%

Business

3.7%

Criminal Justice

3.5%

Kinesiology

2.8%

Education

2.8%

Health Education

2.6%

Elementary Education

2.2%

Family Therapy

2.2%

Clinical Psychology

2.2%

Special Education

2.2%

Nursing

2.0%

Educational Leadership

2.0%

Sociology

2.0%

Human Services

1.7%
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Degrees

Masters

39.8%

Bachelors

39.2%

Other

10.8%

Associate

5.3%

Certificate

2.3%

Doctorate

1.9%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.2%
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Top Skills for An Activity Therapist

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  1. Treatment Plans
  2. Assess Patients
  3. Mental Health
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Worked on an interdisciplinary team providing activity therapy structure to address individual treatment plans to address a variety of mental dysfunctions.
  • Assess patients and determined programs and intervention will best meet the needs of the clients.
  • Coordinated and directed recreational and daily activities for incarcerated individuals on the special needs mental health unit.
  • Worked with children with behavioral issues.
  • Hosted group therapy sessions with patients using individually-tailored treatment plans.

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Top Activity Therapist Employers

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Jobs From Top Activity Therapist Employers

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