Professional Info

What is…?

What is a Recreational Therapist or Therapeutic Recreation Specialist?

A recreational therapist (RT) sometimes referred to as a therapeutic recreation specialist (TRS), works with individuals who have mental, physical, emotional and/or developmental disabilities.  Activity modalities or recreation mediums are used to treat or maintain the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of consumers served.  Interventions are selected that will assist to remediate the effects of illness or disability and/or enable an individual to increase personal independence. For example, a recreational therapist may use a knitting activity to help a consumer increase fine motor dexterity. Or the recreational therapist may train a consumer to use an adapted fishing reel to enable the consumer to continue motivation for activity involvement in a lifetime passion. Similarly, a recreational therapist may lead an anger management group to teach aggressive consumers alternative coping skills, lead a reminiscent group to aid aging adults to cope with memory changes or teach consumers to overcome environmental barriers (stairs, curbs) in order access their community confidently and independently.

In North Carolina, “recreational therapist” and the initials, “LRT,” also designate individuals who have been granted alicense from the North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure. Only individuals who received this license may use these credentials and practice in North Carolina.  Individuals who use the credentials, “LRT/CTRS,” are licensed by the North Carolina Board of RT Licensure and certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Minimum requirements to become licensed include: a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation or a Recreation degree with an emphasis in Recreational Therapy/Therapeutic Recreation, an internship under a licensed LRT (or CTRS if outside North Carolina) and a satisfactory score on a certification exam.

What is a Recreational Therapy Assistant?

A recreational therapy assistant sometimes referred to as a therapeutic recreation assistant, works with individuals who have mental, physical, emotional and/or developmental disabilities. Under the clinical supervision of a licensed recreational therapist (LRT), the assistant plans and implements activity modalities or recreation mediums that are used to treat or maintain the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of consumers served.  Interventions are implemented that will assist to remediate the effects of illness or disability and/or enable an individual to increase personal independence.

In North Carolina, “recreational therapy assistant” and the initials, LRTA, designate individuals who have been granted a license from the North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure.  Only individuals who received this license may use the LRTA credentials. Minimum requirements to become licensed as an LRTA include:  an associate’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation or a Recreation degree with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation, an approved field placement, and a satisfactory review by the licensure board.

What is Recreation Therapy?

The term, “recreation therapy,” refers specifically to treatment services provided by qualified therapeutic recreation professionals. The North Carolina Recreational Therapy  Association defines recreation therapyas:

…the provision of planned treatment or therapy (i.e. health restoration, remediation, habilitation, rehabilitation), which uses recreation and activities as the primary medium of treatment for persons who are limited in theirs functional abilities due to illness, disability, maladaptation, or other conditions (NCRTA, 1992).

Sometimes therapeutic recreation specialists or therapeutic recreation assistants who providerecreation therapy are called recreation or recreational therapists and recreation or recreational therapy assistants.

What is Therapeutic Recreation?

The term, “therapeutic recreation,” refers to a continuum of services provided by qualified therapeutic recreation professionals. Recreation therapy is often included as a component of therapeutic recreation. The American Therapeutic Recreation Association defines therapeutic recreation as:

…the provision of treatment services and the provision of recreation services to persons with illness or disabling conditions. The primary purpose of treatment services, which are often referred to as recreational therapy, is to restore, remediate, or rehabilitate in order to improve functioning and independence as well as reduce or eliminate the effects of illness or disability. The primary purpose of recreation services is to provide recreation resources and opportunities in order to improve health and well-being. Therapeutic recreation is provided by professionals who are trained, certified, registered, or licensed to provide therapeutic recreation (ATRA, 1988).
Similarly, the National Therapeutic Recreation Society defines therapeutic recreation as:

Practiced in clinical, residential, and community settings, the profession of therapeutic recreation uses treatment, education, and recreation services to help people with illnesses, disabilities, and other conditions to develop and use their leisure in ways that enhance their health, independence and well-being (NTRS, 1994).

Licensure

Salary information for recreational therapy

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) completed a national salary study of certified therapeutic recreation specialists in January 2004 and reported an average annual salary of $38,956.  For complete study results, visit the ‘CTRS Profile Study‘  in the Recent News section of theNCTRC’s website.  Visit the American Therapeutic Recreation Association website for a summary of the NCTRC report and for past survey results.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual earnings of recreational therapists were $32,900 in May 2004.

National Therapeutic Recreation Certification

Established in 1981, the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) grants certification credentials of “Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist” and “CTRS” and “Certified Therapeutic Recreation Assistant,” and “CTRA.” to qualified applicants meeting certification requirements.  Each of these credentials are trademarks owned by NCTRC and unauthorized use is prohibited.  While national certification is not mandatory, the credential has been identified by health care accrediting organizations and governmental regulatory groups to designate “qualified” professionals.  For more information and certification materials/applications, please contact:

NCTRC
7 Elmwood Drive
New City, NY 10956
845-639-1439
www.nctrc.org

 

Recreational Therapy Licensure in North Carolina

During the 2005 legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly amended the Therapeutic Recreation Personnel Certification Act (Chapter 90-C). Effective October 5, 2005 North Carolina became the second state in the nation to license individuals to provide recreational therapy services. The purpose of the Recreational Therapy Licensure Act is “to safeguard the health and safety of the public and to protect the public from harm by unqualified persons by establishing a minimum level of education, experience, and competence to assure the highest degree of professional care and conduct on the part of licensed recreational therapists and licensed recreational therapy assistants”.

 

To comply with North Carolina law, persons providing recreational therapy services in the state must possess the North Carolina license. Individuals who are nationally certified as therapeutic recreation specialists must also possess the state license in order to practice in the state. Being nationally certified as a CTRS does not satisfy the North Carolina law.

 

For answers to FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about licensure, please click here.

For information about the law and application procedures contact:

North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure (NCBRTL)

P.O. Box 67

Saxapahaw, NC 27340

Phone: 336-212-1133

Email NC BRTL using the contact form.

Web site: www.ncbrtl.org

Salary Trends

Salary information for recreational therapy

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) completed a national salary study of certified therapeutic recreation specialists in January 2004 and reported an average annual salary of $38,956.  For complete study results, visit the ‘CTRS Profile Study‘  in the Recent News section of theNCTRC’s website.  Visit the American Therapeutic Recreation Association website for a summary of the NCTRC report and for past survey results.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual earnings of recreational therapists were $32,900 in May 2004.

Job Description

Minimum Education and Experience

  1. Completion of a two year associate degree program in TR that includes a supervised internship. Licensed by the North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure as a Recreational Therapy Assistant.
  2. Preference- Applicants who demonstrate possession of knowledge, skills and abilities gained through at least one year of experience performing tasks similar to those assigned to the position.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

  1. Ability to observe consumer behaviors and report observations to appropriate staff.
  2. Ability to relate to and work with members of other disciplines.
  3. Fundamental knowledge of RT/TR principles and practices and its effects on consumer functioning.
  4. Basic knowledge of terminology, diagnoses, issues and conditions related to consumer functioning.
  5. Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing.
  6. Ability to relate in a warm, caring, and professional manner to consumers with multiple needs.
  7. Ability to produce and maintain accurate records and reports.
  8. Ability to follow moderately complex instructions delivered both in writing and orally.
  9. Ability to function independently, once work tasks has been assigned.
  10. Ability to gather assessment information in accordance with appropriate guidelines/standards (i.e., American Therapeutic Recreation Association Standards of Practice/Guidelines for TR Assistants; National Therapeutic Recreation Society Standards of Practice)
  11. Ability to plan and lead a variety of TR/TR sessions.
  12. Ability to observe and document consumer progress.
  13. Knowledge of activity modification techniques, accessibility concepts and assistance techniques that enhance successful consumer participation in TR/RT activities.
  14. Knowledge of TR/RT policies and procedures.

Examples of Work Tasks

  1. Consults, as needed with supervisor concerning consumer referrals; collects assessment information; works with supervisor to complete assessments and to develop treatment plans.
  2. mplements 1:1 and group TR/RT activities with assigned consumers under supervision.
  3. Participates in discharge planning with assigned consumers under appropriate supervision; completes TR/RT discharge summaries.
  4. Documents consumer progress in TR/RT programs through progress notes completed according to facility standards.
  5. Adapts or modifies TR/RT activities to meet consumer needs.
  6. Provides consumers with TR/RT resources, supplies and equipment.
  7. Provides emotional support to consumers and families.
  8. Provides a positive, supportive atmosphere during TR/RT sessions.
  9.  Ensures consumer safety during TR/RT sessions; follows health and safety policies, anticipates hazards, and takes appropriate measures.
  10. Supervises volunteer involvement in TR/RT programs as assigned.
  11. Participates in team meetings (i.e., treatment team, habilitation team, etc.) as assigned.
  12. Communicates behavioral observations of consumers to other staff and team members.
  13. Encourages consumer involvement in recreation opportunities and provides necessary supports to facilitate involvement.
  14. Knows and adheres to agency’s policies and procedures regarding Health, Safety, Risk Management, Infection Control, etc.
  15. Documents consumer participation according to facility policies.
  16. Participates as assigned in quality improvement projects.
  17. Works to promote a positive, professional image of TR/RT within and outside the agency.
  18. Acquires and maintains a license with the North Carolina Board of Recreational Therapy Licensure as a Recreational Therapy Assistant.
  19. Communicates clearly and accurately the philosophy, goals, and purpose of TR/RT.
  20. Attends and participates in staff meetings and in-services as assigned.
  21. Develops and promotes positive working relationships within the agency.
  22. Performs related duties ass assigned.
  23. Participates in task forces and committees as assigned.

General Nature of Work

  1. Under the clinical supervision of an appropriate supervisor, plans and implements TR/RT programs to improve the functioning of consumers who have a wide variety of physical, cognitive, social, emotional, developmental or age-related needs.
  2. Provides TR/RT services according to appropriate accreditation, facility and departmental standards.
  3. Observes and documents consumer responses to TR/RT interventions.
  4. Participates in quality improvement activities in accordance with appropriate accreditation standards and within facility policies.
  5. Participates in staff meetings and projects as assigned.
  6. articipates in the supervision of volunteers as assigned.
  7. Performs work in accordance with the facility standards and policies regarding risk management, safety, infection control, etc.

Finding recreation resources in your community

Benefits for persons with addictions

Often, 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. 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

Improved cognitive functioning

  • 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.

Benefits for Children

Hospitalized 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.

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

  • Improved mobility.
  • Improved range of motion.
  • Increased rate of healing.
  • For asthmatic children, increased activity tolerance, endurance and reduced heart rate.

Reduction in medical complications and developmental delays

  • Improved strength.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Improved coordination.
  • Improved speech, hearing.
  • Improved locomotion.
  • Improved development.

Improved Emotional Coping Benefits of Recreational Therapy

Improved cognitive functioning

  • 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.

Benefits for older adults

Therapeutic recreation specialists positively impact the emotional recovery from illness or injury and, in turn, enhance compliance with medical treatment. See 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

  • Decreased blood pressure.
  • Increased mobility and muscular strength.
  • Decreased pain.

Reduction of health risks

  • 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

  • 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.

Benefits for persons with psychiatric disabilities

In 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

  • 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.

Social skills

  • 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

  • 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.

Self management skills

  • 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.

Benefits for persons with physical disabilities

Increasing 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

  • Enhance body image perceptions.
  • Change attitudes toward disability.
  • Improve sense of self.
  • Achieve control over stress.
  • Enhance self-efficacy.
  • Develop sense of mastery.

Physical Outcomes

  • 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.

Cognitive and Community Reintegration Benefits of Recreational Therapy

Cognitive Outcomes

  • Increase mental alertness.
  • Increase attention span.
  • Enhance memory skills.
  • Improve organizational skills.
  • Improve problem-solving.

Physical Outcomes

  • 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.

Benefits for persons with developmental disabilities

Increasing 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

  • Improve gross and fine motor skills.
  • Improve athletic skills.
  • Improve agility and balance.

Cognitive Outcomes

  • Increase attention span.
  • Improve decision making.
  • Increase independence for making choices

Communication and Behavior Reintegration Benefits of Recreational Therapy

Communication/Social Skill Outcomes

  • Improve cooperation skills.
  • Increase self assertiveness.
  • Increase skills in conversation

Behavior Reintegration

  • 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.