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North Carolina Recreational Therapy Association

Benefits of Recreational Therapy

Summarized from:   Coyle, C.P., Kinney, W.B. Riley, B., & Shank, J.W. (Eds.) (1991). Benefits of Therapeutic Recreation: A Consensus View, Ravensdale: Idyll Arbor, Inc.

persons with physical disabilities
persons with developmental disabilities
persons with psychiatric disabilities
older adults
children
on an IEP
persons with addictions
Plus COST Benefits!!

Benefits for persons with physical disabilities

money symbolIncreasing activity level and involvement in community life reduces medical complications and costly secondary disabilities after onset of a physical disability.  Interestingly, research does not show a similar correlation when simply improving physical abilities.   See more cost saving facts.

Therapeutic recreation specialists work with individuals with diverse diagnoses, including but not limited to spinal cord injury; stroke; traumatic brain injury; cardiovascular disease; diabetes; chronic pain; visual and hearing impairment; multiple sclerosis; post-polio syndrome; amputation; burns; asthma; cystic fibrosis; cancer; and HIV/AIDS.  Documented and research supported outcomes of therapeutic recreation specialists' interventions include:

Psychosocial and Physical Benefits of Recreational Therapy
Pyschosocial Outcomes Physical Outcomes
  • Enhance body image perceptions.
  • Change attitudes toward disability.
  • Improve sense of self.
  • Achieve control over stress.
  • Enhance self-efficacy.
  • Develop sense of mastery.
  • Increase immune system activity.
  • Reduce pain.
  • Increase muscular strength.
  • Improve flexibility and balance.
  • Improve cardiovascular functioning.
  • Develop consistent activity routine for diabetes maintenance.
  • Reduce of decubiti and urinary tract complications.
  • Increase endurance.

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    Cognitive and Community Reintegration Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Cognitive Outcomes Community Reintegration
  • Increase mental alertness.
  • Increase attention span.
  • Enhance memory skills.
  • Improve organizational skills.
  • Improve problem-solving.
  • Prevent social isolation.
  • Develop/maintain social skills.
  • Develop self-adovacy skills.
  • Build skills to minimize disability stigma.
  • Master skills for managing environmental barriers (i.e. stairs).
  • Increase knowledge of community resources.
  • Increase overall activity level.

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    Benefits for persons with developmental disabilities

    money symbolIncreasing social skills, expanding social networks, and improving community living skills reduces dependence on  health and human service programs and decreases the need for other costlier residential and behavioral supports. See more cost saving facts.

    Therapeutic Recreation Specialists work with individuals with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including but mot limited to state residential institutions, Area Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse programs, supported employment programs, community residential agencies, schools, and other community inclusion programs.  Documented and research supported outcomes of therapeutic recreation specialists' interventions include:

    Physical and Cognitive Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Physical Outcomes Cognitive Outcomes
    • Improve gross and fine motor skills
    • Improve athletic skills.
    • Improve agility and balance.
    • Increase attention span.
    • Improve decision making.
    • Increase independence for making choices

    Communication and Behavior Reintegration Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Communication/Social Skill Outcomes Behavior Reintegration
    • Improve cooperation skills.
    • Increase self assertiveness.
    • Increase skills in conversation
    • Decrease self-stimulating and self-abusive behaviors.
    • Increase participation in age-appropriate activities.
    • Increase age-appropriate behaviors.

    Community Integration/Friendship Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Community Integration/Friendships
    • Increase friendships with peers with and without disabilities.
    • Increase participation in community.
    • Increase peer acceptance.
    • Develop transferable skills for employment and independent living.

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    Benefits for persons with psychiatric disabilities

    money symbolIn many situations, therapeutic recreation specialists provide services in a group treatment versus a 1:1 treatment format thus,  more treatment services can be delivered at the same salary expense.  see more cost saving facts.

    Therapeutic Recreation Specialists work with individuals with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including but mot limited to state and private psychiatric hospitals ( inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs), Veterans Administration hospitals, Area Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse programs, supported employment programs, community residential agencies, residential treatment schools and wilderness treatment programs, behavioral programs within public school systems, and correctional programs.  Documented and research supported outcomes of therapeutic recreation specialists' interventions include:

    Symptom Reduction and Social Skills Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Symptom reduction Social skills
    • Reduction in depression.
    • Reduction in anxiety.
    • Reduction in tension.
    • Reduction in sleep disturbances.
    • Reduction in negative thinking.
    • Reduction in hallucinatory speech and behavior.
    • Reduction in inappropriate laughter.
    • Decreased social anxiety.
    • Improved social skill competence and retention of skills.
    • Increased socialization.
    • Improved cooperation.
    • Improved communication skills.
    Community Skills and Self Management Skills Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Community skills Self management skills
    • Increased tolerance for change.
    • Increased trust and cooperation.
    • Reduction of problem or delinquent behavior.
    • Increased parenting skills.
    • Improved family relations.
    • Increased activity skill competency.
    • Reduction of recidivism rate.
    • Improved coping skills for anxiety.
    • Increased sense of personal responsibility.
    • Increased self mastery.
    • Increased self concept and self confidence.
    • Increased quality of discretionary time use.

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    Benefits for older adults  

    money symbolTherapeutic recreation specialists positively impact the emotional recovery from illness or injury and, in turn, enhance compliance with medical treatment. More cost saving facts.

    Therapeutic recreation specialists are currently active in the continuum of health care settings, including acute care and rehabilitation, extended care and skilled nursing,  adult day care, community-based and home health care.
    Therapeutic recreation specialists work with older adults with such diagnosis as stroke, cardiac dysfunction, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and other degenerative cognitive disorders, and psychiatric disorders.  Similarly, therapeutic recreation specialists and assistants play a critical role in wellness and prevention programs.  Therapeutic recreation specialists and assistants are employed in retirement settings,  assisted living settings and senior centers.  Documented and research supported outcomes of therapeutic recreation specialists' interventions include:

    Improved Physical Health and Reduction of Health Risks Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Improved physical health Reduction of health risks
    • Decreased blood pressure.
    • Increased mobility and muscular strength.
    • Decreased pain
    • Increased cardiovascular fitness.
    • Increased bone strength.
    • Decreased body weight and body fat.
    • Increased flexibility, range of motion.
    • Increased relaxation.
    • Reduced depression.
    • Increased ability to manage stress.

    Improved Cognitive Functioning and Improved Social Support Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Improved cognitive functioning Improved social supports
    • Reduced confusion.
    • Improved memory.
    • Increased attention span.
    • Increased awareness and alertness.
    • Reduced reliance on medication
    • Decreased loneliness.
    • Increased verbal interaction and socialization.
    • Improved life satisfaction.
    • Enhanced sense of personal control.


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    Benefits for Children

    money symbolHospitalized children who participated in structured games demonstrated improved mobility and range of motion, decreased loss of function, and increased rates of healing.   Further, children recovering form surgery receiving play interventions demonstrated increased rates of healing, as well as improved appetite and strength. See more cost saving facts.

    Therapeutic recreation specialists play a critical role in the rehabilitation of children undergoing medical treatment for acute, chronic, or rehabilitative needs. Working primarily in hospital settings, these therapeutic recreation specialists address symptoms in terms of restoration or maintenance of functioning.   Furthermore, therapeutic recreation specialists working in pediatric departments provide critical assistance for children and families regarding psychosocial concerns related to anxiety, and coping with medical and surgical procedures.

    Therapeutic recreation specialists also provide essential services to children in exceptional children's programs in school systems and similar intervention programs.  To learn more about these outcomes, see Quick List of Benefits of Recreation as a Related Service and the Therapeutic Recreation in Public Schools (Project Trips) web site.

    Documented and research supported outcomes of therapeutic recreation specialists' interventions include:

    Improved Physical Functioning and Reduction in Medical Complication Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Improved physical functioning Reduction in medical complications and developmental delays
    • Improved mobility.
    • Improved range of motion.
    • Increased rate of healing.
    • For asthmatic children, increased activity tolerance, endurance and reduced heart rate.
    • Improved strength.
    • Increased appetite.
    • Improved coordination.
    • Improved speech, hearing.
    • Improved locomotion.
    • Improved development.

    Improved Emotional Coping Benefits of Recreational Therapy
    Improved emotional coping
    • Reduced fear, anxiety for upcoming medical procedures.
    • Improved coping with medications.
    • Improved coping with side effects of surgery.
    • Reduced anxiety and impatience for parents and family members of hospitalized children.


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    Benefits for persons with addictions

    money symbolOften, therapeutic recreation specialists provide services in a group treatment versus a 1:1 treatment format thus,  more treatment services can be delivered at the same salary expense.  See more cost saving facts.

    Therapeutic recreation specialists work with persons with addictions in hospital, residential, or outpatient settings.  They typically concentrate their efforts on strengthening those skills which will enhance the process of recovery and prevent relapse.  Desired substance-abuse treatment outcomes that  therapeutic recreation specialists have shown a documented impact include:

    Benefits of Recreation Therapy for Persons with Addictions
    • Improving social functioning.
    • Developing effective problem-solving skills.
    • Improving use of free time and leisure planning.
    • Improving self-esteem, self-actualization.
    • Developing exercise and relaxation skills.
    • Increasing ability to have fun while sober.
    • Decreasing loneliness
    • Increasing ability to choose non chemical alternatives for achieving goals.
    • Increasing involvement in active vs. passive activities.
    • Increasing ability to cope with stress without chemical use.
    • Reducing boredom.
    • Increasing skills for socializing drug-free.


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