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The purpose of the VHWDA is to facilitate the development of a statewide health professions pipeline that identifies, educates, recruits and retains a diverse, geographically distributed and culturally competent quality workforce for all Virginians.

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Home > Healthcare Careers > Therapy > Recreation Therapist and Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Discover a Career as a Recreation Therapist or Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

What do Recreation Therapists or Therapeutic Recreation Specialists do?

Recreation therapists/therapeutic recreation specialists assist people with disabilities or disabling conditions that interfere with their ability to participate independently in daily life activities, including recreation and leisure. They help individuals overcome physical, social, emotional, psychological and environmental barriers. Therapeutic recreation specialists may receive more specialized training in adaptive aquatics, adaptive or wheelchair sports, outdoor adventure activities, horticultural therapy or hippotherapy. They also may specialize in specific population groups, such as developmental disabilities, mobility impairments or mental illness.

Recreation therapists’ primary goals are to provide support for the individual to achieve leisure participation and an increased quality of life.

What might a Recreation Therapist or a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist do in a workday?

Therapeutic recreation specialists:

  • assess clients’ needs and functional abilities.
  • plan and implement goal-oriented programs.
  • document clients’ progress.
  • monitor and perform quality improvement activities.
  • facilitate interventions on skill development, improvement of functional skills, leisure awareness, community integration and resource identification.
  • participate in interdisciplinary teams in the provision of service and care.

Developing a Career as a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Therapeutic recreation specialists work in physical rehabilitation hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, mental health agencies, community recreation agencies, child and adolescent treatment centers, nursing homes and retirement communities, outpatient and day treatment programs, acute care hospitals, correctional facilities, and long-term care hospitals.

How much salary do Therapeutic Recreation Specialists make?

Average Salary Range
$20,000-$45,000

How do I become a Recreation Therapeutic Specialist?

Students interested in the field of therapeutic recreation should take the most challenging high school courses available in science, math, English and psychology. Experience in a variety of recreational activities, health care and community settings and in assisting persons with disabilities may be helpful.

Students must complete a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or recreation and leisure with an option in therapeutic recreation from an accredited college; apply for certification; and pass a national examination. Master’s and doctoral degrees also are available. Individuals should be innovative, flexible, organized and have strong interpersonal skills.

Where else can I learn about becoming a Therapeutic Recration Specialist?

Professional Associations:

Virginia Recreation and Park Society Therapeutic Recreation Resource Group
6372 Mechanicsville Turnpike
Suite 109
Mechanicsville, VA 23111
(804) 730-9447
www.vrps.com

American Therapeutic Recreation Association
629 N. Main Street
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
(601) 450-2872
www.atra-online.com

National Recreation and Park Association
22377 Belmont Ridge Road
Ashburn, VA 20148
(800) 626-6772
www.nrpa.org

National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
7 Elmwood Drive
New City, NY 10956
(845) 639-1439
www.nctrc.org

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