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Become A Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

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Working As A Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

  • 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

  • $77,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Therapeutic Recreation Specialist 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 Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

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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Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Career Paths

Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
Recreation Therapist Program Coordinator Therapist
Lead Therapist
5 Yearsyrs
Recreation Therapist Program Coordinator Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Recreation Therapist Program Coordinator Administrator
Registered Nurse Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Consultant General Manager
Chief Executive Officer
8 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Consultant Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Administrator Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Counselor Clinician Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Adjunct Professor Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Lead Teacher Assistant Director
Director Of Admissions
7 Yearsyrs
Special Education Teacher Lead Teacher Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Recreation Coordinator Service Coordinator Clinical Social Worker
Utilities Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Teacher Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Teacher Adjunct Faculty Registered Nurse Supervisor
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
Teacher Executive Assistant Assistant Property Manager
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Team Leader Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Clinician House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Social Worker Clinician Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Instructor Lead Teacher House Manager
Housing Program Manager
6 Yearsyrs
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Top Skills for A Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

  1. Treatment Plans
  2. Occupational Therapy Services
  3. Intake Assessments
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Drafted individualized treatment plans and recreation programs for client needs and incorporating client interests.
  • Conducted intake assessments, completed weekly progress notes and coordinated special events and workshops addressing physical, social and emotional needs.
  • Developed and coordinated recreational activities to facilitate treatment, leisure education and recreation participation in a clinical setting.
  • Planned and implemented patient care programs through selected therapeutic recreation procedures based on individual assessments.
  • Developed interdisciplinary care plans for residents to promote involvement in leisure activities.

Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Demographics

Gender

Female

70.6%

Male

17.0%

Unknown

12.4%
Ethnicity

White

65.9%

Hispanic or Latino

12.4%

Black or African American

12.2%

Asian

6.8%

Unknown

2.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

61.5%

German

7.7%

Swedish

3.8%

Portuguese

3.8%

Chinese

3.8%

Romanian

3.8%

Greek

3.8%

Polish

3.8%

Korean

3.8%

Italian

3.8%
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Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Education

Schools

Southern Connecticut State University

8.1%

University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

7.4%

Temple University

6.6%

Texas State University

6.2%

Grambling State University

5.8%

Grand Valley State University

5.8%

Southern University and A & M College

5.8%

Central Michigan University

5.4%

Brigham Young University

4.7%

Radford University

4.7%

State University of New York College at Cortland

4.7%

Old Dominion University

4.7%

Illinois State University

4.3%

State University of New York College at Brockport

4.3%

East Carolina University

3.9%

Springfield College

3.9%

Eastern Washington University

3.5%

Arizona State University

3.5%

University of Iowa

3.5%

University of Utah

3.5%
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Majors

Rehabilitation Science

44.5%

Recreation Management

18.6%

Education

4.3%

Business

3.7%

Psychology

3.1%

School Counseling

2.5%

Social Work

2.5%

Nursing

2.3%

Parks And Recreation Management

2.0%

Kinesiology

2.0%

Health Education

2.0%

Mental Health Counseling

1.8%

Human Services

1.7%

Special Education

1.6%

Health Care Administration

1.5%

Occupational Therapy

1.3%

Management

1.2%

Elementary Education

1.2%

Physical Therapy

1.2%

Natural Resources Management

1.1%
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Degrees

Bachelors

55.9%

Masters

29.8%

Other

8.6%

Associate

2.8%

Certificate

1.8%

Doctorate

0.8%

License

0.3%

Diploma

0.1%
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