Being a Recreational Therapist means finding more ways to communicate with and treat a patient. Recreational Therapists employ medically approved activities to treat or maintain the physical, mental, and emotional well being of patients. They help individuals build confidence, socialize effectively, and remediate the effects of illness or disability. In clinical settings, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers, recreational therapists treat and rehabilitate individuals with specific medical problems, usually in cooperation with physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists. In nursing homes, residential facilities, and community recreation departments, therapists use leisure activities, mostly group oriented, to improve general health and well being.
Individuals who wish to be considered for jobs in clinical settings, such as hospitals or community mental health facilities, must obtain a degree in therapeutic recreation. They also require a minimum of 360 hours of internship under the supervision of a certified therapeutic recreational specialist. An associate degree in recreational therapy; training in art, drama, or music therapy, or qualifying work experience may be sufficient for activity director positions in nursing homes. Applicants for licensure must pass a state exam after graduating from an accredited program. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification certifies therapeutic recreation specialists and therapeutic recreation assistants. Specialists must have a bachelor’s degree and pass a certification exam; assistants need an associate degree. Some employers require individuals to be certified; others prefer it.