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Become A Recreation Therapist

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Working As A Recreation 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

  • $75,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Recreation 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 A Recreation 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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Recreation Therapist Career Paths

Recreation Therapist
Program Coordinator Consultant Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Team Leader Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Therapist Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Supervisor Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Consultant Manager Assistant Director
Director Of Admissions
7 Yearsyrs
Consultant Project Manager Program Manager
Director, Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Registered Nurse Supervisor Nursing Director
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Registered Nurse Supervisor Registered Nurse Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Team Leader Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Adjunct Professor Superintendent
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Utilities Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Lead Teacher House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Clinician House Manager
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Speech Language Pathologist Therapy Program Manager
Director Of Rehabilitation
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Clinical Coordinator Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Nurse Manager
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Art Therapy Specialist Clinician House Manager
Housing Program Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Program Lead Lead Instructor Division Chief
Chief Of Service
7 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Staff Therapist 4.9 years
Music Therapist 4.1 years
Movement Therapist 3.7 years
Drama Therapist 3.6 years
Activity Therapist 3.0 years
Therapist 2.7 years
Milieu Therapist 2.6 years
Top Careers Before Recreation Therapist
Internship 22.2%
Volunteer 8.3%
Teacher 3.2%
Counselor 2.9%
Server 2.2%
Top Careers After Recreation Therapist
Internship 5.3%
Teacher 5.2%
Therapist 4.2%
Volunteer 4.1%
Consultant 3.5%

Do you work as a Recreation Therapist?

Average Yearly Salary
$75,000
Show Salaries
$49,000
Min 10%
$75,000
Median 50%
$75,000
Median 50%
$75,000
Median 50%
$75,000
Median 50%
$75,000
Median 50%
$75,000
Median 50%
$75,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Kalispell Regional Healthcare
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
3.8 years
How much does a Recreation Therapist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Recreation Therapist in the United States is $75,359 per year or $36 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $50,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $113,000.

Real Recreation Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Recreation Therapist California Department of Corrections & Rehabil Stockton, CA Oct 01, 2014 $69,168 -
$81,420
Recreational Therapists Vacaville Psychiatric Program Vacaville, CA Jun 28, 2011 $68,148 -
$76,404
Recreational Therapists Seyong Choi Physical Therapy Los Angeles, CA Feb 12, 2013 $67,500
Recreational Therapists Seyong Choi Physical Therapy Los Angeles, CA Aug 16, 2013 $67,500
Recreational Therapist Coalinga State Hospital Coalinga, CA Nov 03, 2011 $64,896 -
$72,768
Recreational Therapists Patton State Hospital Patton Village, CA May 05, 2011 $64,896 -
$72,768
Recreational Therapist Coalinga State Hospital Coalinga, CA Jun 06, 2012 $64,896 -
$72,768
Recreational Therapists Coalinga State Hospital Coalinga, CA Jan 23, 2014 $64,896 -
$72,768
Recreational Therapist East Coast Assistance Dogs Torrington, CT Mar 16, 2016 $64,459
Recreational Therapist Coordinator Intergro Resources Inc. Inglewood, CA Nov 16, 2013 $62,610
Recreational Therapists California Neuro-Rehabilitation Institute, Inc. Los Angeles, CA Jun 28, 2011 $62,100
Recreational Therapists Il Creation of Maryland, Inc. Rockville, MD May 29, 2012 $59,904
Recreational Therapist Sutter East Bay Hospitals Berkeley, CA May 01, 2011 $58,853
Recreational Therapist Patricia P. Dudley San Anselmo, CA Mar 16, 2015 $57,184
Recreational Therapist Institute for Effective Behavioral Interventions, Inc. CA May 26, 2015 $51,064 -
$61,000
Recreational Therapist Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ Sep 25, 2012 $50,000
Recreational Therapist Body & Brain Yoga and Health Centers, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ Sep 25, 2015 $50,000
Recreational Therapist Body & Brain Yoga and Health Centers, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ Sep 16, 2015 $50,000
Recreational Therapists Yonsei Pain Clinic, Inc. Garden Grove, CA Feb 24, 2014 $50,000
Recreational Therapist Boro Park Operating Co LLC New York, NY Apr 28, 2011 $43,785
Recreational Therapist Boro Park Operating Co LLC New York, NY Feb 15, 2011 $43,785
Recreational Therapist Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. Cambridge, MA Sep 12, 2013 $43,000
Recreational Therapist Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. Hillsdale, NY Sep 12, 2014 $43,000
Recreational Therapist Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. Cambridge, MA Sep 12, 2014 $43,000
Recreational Therapist/Rehabilitation Coordinator C & K Healing Touch Physical Therapy, PC New York, NY Apr 01, 2011 $42,324
Recreational Therapists The Auditory Oral School of New York New York, NY Feb 11, 2011 $42,182

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Top Skills for A Recreation Therapist

  1. Treatment Plans
  2. Leisure Education
  3. Patient Care
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provide assessment, program development, treatment plans and implement treatment appropriate for clients with severe cognitive/physical disabilities.
  • Identify the resident s recreation treatment services, leisure education services and opportunities for recreation participation.
  • Evaluated, planned and implemented patient care programs through utilization of selected therapeutic recreation procedures.
  • Planned recreational activities for adolescents with co-occurring and substance dependent disorders in a residential treatment environment.
  • Facilitated individual and group therapy sessions focused on helping clients work through critical behavioral and mental health disorders.

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Top 10 Best States for Recreation Therapists

  1. Minnesota
  2. District of Columbia
  3. Nevada
  4. New Jersey
  5. California
  6. Connecticut
  7. New York
  8. Alaska
  9. Washington
  10. North Carolina
  • (70 jobs)
  • (16 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (64 jobs)
  • (69 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (173 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (18 jobs)
  • (81 jobs)

Recreation Therapist Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 4,391 Recreation Therapist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Recreation Therapist Resume

View Resume Examples

Recreation Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

64.3%

Male

24.6%

Unknown

11.1%
Ethnicity

White

64.1%

Hispanic or Latino

13.7%

Black or African American

12.7%

Asian

6.2%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

59.8%

French

7.6%

Chinese

5.4%

Mandarin

3.3%

Swedish

2.2%

Vietnamese

2.2%

Portuguese

2.2%

Japanese

2.2%

Hebrew

2.2%

Polish

2.2%

Swahili

1.1%

Romanian

1.1%

Korean

1.1%

Hawaiian

1.1%

Ukrainian

1.1%

Bambara

1.1%

Russian

1.1%

Turkish

1.1%

Tagalog

1.1%

Italian

1.1%
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Recreation Therapist Education

Schools

Southern University and A & M College

9.4%

East Carolina University

8.8%

Temple University

6.5%

University of Phoenix

6.3%

Lehman College of the City University of New York

5.2%

Central Michigan University

5.2%

University of Toledo

5.0%

Grand Valley State University

5.0%

Brigham Young University

4.9%

University of Southern Mississippi

4.5%

Jackson State University

4.5%

New York University

4.2%

Indiana University Bloomington

4.1%

Kean University

3.9%

Eastern Michigan University

3.9%

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

3.7%

Saint Joseph's College, New York

3.7%

State University of New York College at Cortland

3.7%

Texas State University

3.7%

Grambling State University

3.7%
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Majors

Rehabilitation Science

37.9%

Recreation Management

14.5%

Psychology

6.1%

Business

4.4%

Social Work

3.9%

Health Education

3.7%

Nursing

3.5%

Education

3.5%

Kinesiology

3.2%

School Counseling

2.4%

Mental Health Counseling

2.1%

Health Care Administration

2.0%

Counseling Psychology

1.9%

Human Services

1.8%

Special Education

1.8%

Occupational Therapy

1.8%

Parks And Recreation Management

1.4%

Elementary Education

1.4%

Management

1.3%

Sociology

1.3%
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Degrees

Bachelors

49.9%

Masters

29.2%

Other

10.9%

Associate

5.2%

Certificate

3.1%

Doctorate

0.8%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.2%
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