Recreational Therapist Careers

Do you enjoy life? What if you got paid to help people heal by teaching them to have fun? That’s what recreational therapists do.

Recreational therapists, or therapeutic recreation specialists, help people with illnesses and disabilities improve their quality of life by promoting leisure time activities and group programs that educate and rehabilitate.

Recreational therapy use fun to focus on developing social skills, improving emotional and cognitive well being, recovering mobility, and overcoming life altering events.

Recreational Therapist Helping Disable Boy Enjoy a Sunset at the Coast

According to the US Department of Commerce, 1 in 5 Americans are disabled in some way. Disabilities are frustrating and can often leave people feeling down mentally or physically.

Recreational therapy explores art, music, dance, sports, games, crafts, or drama to help people find joy in their lives. Therapists work with mental health patients, addicts, elderly, visually or hearing impaired, and even with our wounded veterans. They plan activities that take place in a variety of locations – from nursing home to the slopes of a ski hill.

Recreational therapy helps people realize that disabilities don’t shut doors, but open new ones. It helps channel frustrations and anger into enjoyment and excitement. Recreational therapists encourage people to live life to the fullest, but they also provide a health benefit to clients. Their work may help patients recover lost confidence, improve motor skills, or gain social skills. Every patient and task is unique and that’s what makes this health care job exciting.

There is no typical day for a recreational therapist. The job requires creativity and compassion to create positive and lasting impacts on disabled individuals. Recreational therapists work with doctors to create activities that aid medical treatments and goals. To achieve this they may work solo or as a team to change the way their clients see the world. It may require traveling or working on weekends and holidays. Breakthroughs may occur on the slopes of a mountain or with the stroke of a paintbrush.

It is important for aspiring recreational therapists to learn all they can about disabilities and illnesses. This allows them to be experts on how a patient feels, so they can develop a plan to fix it. Armed with knowledge, a recreational therapist can help a paraplegic learn to sit ski, a blind man to feel the ocean waves tickle his toes, a stroke patient to learn to use his right arm, or a baby boomer to improve flexibility. Through documenting and monitoring the progress, a recreational therapist can fine tune treatments.

There are about 100 university level recreational therapy programs in the United States. After completing a bachelor degree in recreational therapy, an aspiring recreational therapist must complete a 480-hour formal internship, and then pass a national exam given by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. After earning the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists certification, a recreational therapist can practice. Some states also require state licensure.

Recreational therapy is a fast growing career. There are about 24,000 recreational therapist jobs in the United States. Most of these are jobs in nursing homes, but opportunities are also available with private organizations, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, community centers, and government agencies.

Recreational therapy requires a positive attitude, an original way of thinking, and a helping, caring personality. Recreational therapists make $10 to $25 per hour or $35,000 to $55,000 per year. Most recreational therapists work 40-hours per week.

If you like helping people and making them smile, consider a career as a recreational therapist. You get paid to teach people to enjoy life. How awesome is that?

Quick Facts About Recreational Therapist Jobs

Job Title: Recreational therapists, Therapeutic Recreation Specialists
Office: Doing fun things with clients
Description: Help improve people with illnesses and disabilities improve their quality of life
Certifications/Education: Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Certification through NCTRC
Necessary Skills: Creativity, Compassion, Understanding of illnesses and disabilities
Potential Employers: Nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, government agencies
Pay: $10 to $25 per hour or $35,000 to $55,000 per year

Helpful Recreational Therapist Employment Links:

Search Recreational Therapist and Other Therapist Jobs on JobMonkey
National Recreation and Park Association
American Therapeutic Recreation Association
National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
National Organization on Disability


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