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What is Recreational Therapy?

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Recreational therapy uses a variety of activities to meet the emotional and physical needs of patients with a disability or illness. Through these activities, people can develop the skills they need for daily living. In this way, recreation therapy improves the quality of a person’s life. Furthermore, this type of treatment promotes leisure and play to help individuals recover psychologically as well as physically, and therefore encourage health and wellbeing. Thus, the goal of recreational therapy is to help patients rediscover their enjoyment for life after experiencing an injury or illness. While physical therapy helps individuals with mobility issues and occupational therapy helps with daily living, recreational therapy helps individuals get back to being themselves again. The activities associated with this type of treatment may include:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Music, drama, or dance
  • Sports and games, such as hiking, bowling, or team sports
  • Community participation and outings
  • Aquatics, or aquatic sports, such as swimming
  • Outdoor activities, such as horseback riding


Thus, recreation therapy seeks to restore, remedy, and rehabilitate the functional capabilities for individuals with disabling conditions, chronic illnesses, and other injuries. The philosophy behind this therapy is the promotion of health and the prevention of disease. From there, the goal is to create individuals who feel determined, self-sufficient, and fully independent. Then, these individuals are free to participate in whatever activities or hobbies they choose. Recreational therapists meet with patients and develop an individualized treatment plan by evaluating their disabilities and abilities along with their interests. They may ask questions such as, “What do you like to do? What makes you, you?” Thus, recreation therapy helps to:

  • Reduce anxiety and stress
  • Lessen dysfunctional behaviors
  • Build up confidence
  • Improve basic motor skills
  • Recover reasoning abilities
  • Develop strategies to master life skills needed for reentering the community


What Types of Issues Do Recreational Therapists Treat?

Therapeutic services in this area assess and treat individual deficits by applying evidential research and clinical judgment. This research and analysis take into account each individual’s goals, values, and preferences. Therefore, recreational therapists treat:

  • Physical issues
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Emotional problems
  • Psychosocial disturbances
  • Leisure deficits


Who Do Recreational Therapists Treat?

Recreational therapists work with a wide range of individuals, ranging from those with physical problems to emotional issues, from very young children to ailing older individuals. Medical and mental health issues addressed by the use of recreational therapy include, but are not limited to:

  • Polytrauma, which occurs when someone experiences multiple organ or body part injuries, typically the result of blast impacts such as explosions. This condition frequently occurs with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) along with other disabling conditions, such as burns, amputations, hearing or visual damage, Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other medical issues.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) typically happens as a result of a violent jolt or blow to the head or body, or an object penetrating the brain tissue such as a bullet or other object. TBI may be mild or severe, ranging from temporary symptoms to long-term bruising, bleeding, or damage to the brain leading to life-long complications or even death.
  • Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is damage to any area of the spinal cord or the nerves of the spinal canal. This damage causes permanent changes in sensation, strength, and other bodily functions located below the injury site. An SCI may affect someone not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and socially.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is triggered by witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. It is a mental health condition characterized by severe anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and uncontrollable thoughts of the event itself. Some people with PTSD may experience difficulty adjusting or coping for temporary periods, or symptoms may last for months or years, which interferes with daily functioning.
  • Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) are defined by the consistent use of drugs regardless of the consequences to one’s health, relationships, work, or school life. SUDs involve an assortment of physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms. Common SUDs include alcohol or drugs, including hallucinogens, opioids, cannabis, etc.
  • Serious Mental Illness (SMI) is a behavioral, mental, or emotional disorder that leads to severe functional impairment and then significantly limits or interferes with major life activities. SMI’s include disorders with accompanying psychotic symptoms, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder. This category can even include severe forms of bipolar disorder and major depression.
  • Hospice Care focuses on the seriously, chronically, or terminally ill, attending to their emotional needs as well as their pain and symptoms. Hospice care encompasses palliative care, which aims to make symptoms or the disease itself less severe without removing the disease itself.


Where Is Recreational Therapy Performed? 

Recreation therapists provide services in a variety of settings, and practice in combination with other treatment teams, including but not limited to:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Inpatient settings
  • Tele-rehabilitation, or delivery of therapeutic services over the internet such as over a phone or computer
  • CBOC’s, or community-based outpatient clinics
  • School systems
  • Hospitals


Looking to Get Back to Yourself?

         Recreation therapy may help a multitude of people in a variety of mental, psychological, physical, or behavioral states. Addressing mental health and psychological issues, as well as accompanying physical problems, involves multidimensional treatment plans. What works for one person does not indicate it will work for another, since everyone is different. As such, everyone’s paths to recovery also vary. If you or someone you know is looking for help, call us today at 1(844)947-4673.

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