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Recreational Therapist Careers

Learn how to become a recreational therapist.


Throughout its long evolution, recreational therapy (its practitioners are known as recreational therapists or therapeutic recreation specialists) has helped people across the globe who have become mentally or physically injured become active again.

Recreational therapists understand better than some other specialists how to use creative therapeutic methods to help their patients get over the stages of grief, build confidence again, and regain control of their lives.

Some therapies include:

  • Music
  • Sports
  • Games
  • Arts and crafts
  • Animals
  • Dance, movement and drama

Besides physical activity, recreational therapists also help individuals with illnesses and disabilities maintain physical, mental and emotional stability by assessing medical records, weighing observations from family members and medical staff. By using recreational activities, these therapists help patients reduce stress and anxiety, combat depression and recover motor skills and reasoning functionality. Recreational therapists also help patients with disabilities reenter the community by teaching them how to understand and use community resources and facilities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Employment Statistics, the median national annual salary for recreational therapists is $47,410, and the job growth is 8% through 2029, which is optimistic when compared to the average for all careers nationally (4%). Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Recreational Therapist Work Environment

The majority of recreational therapists are employed in nursing care facilities, but other institutions, such as hospitals, residential care facilities and state and government agencies, also provide employment opportunities. Recreational therapists may choose to maintain a private practice and these therapists will work with community programs, school special education programs or assisted living or substance abuse rehabilitation centers.

Training and Education

Psychology students interested in becoming a recreational therapist will need at least a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation. This recreational therapist degree program offers training in assessment, treatment, program planning and intervention.

Certification is not mandatory for recreational therapy jobs, but it is generally acknowledged that employers prefer candidates who have obtained certification from the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. This credential is awarded to recreational therapists who have passed a written exam and completed a supervised internship of at least 480 hours.

Now that you’ve learned about the benefits of recreational therapy, finding the right accredited psychology school will help you achieve your career goals and get on the path to becoming a recreational therapist.

Sources: Recreationtherapy.com