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Alberta Occupational Profile

(from Alberta Advanced Education and Career Development)

Recreation therapists encourage and promote independent leisure lifestyles for individuals with special needs in community and institutional settings.

Recreation therapists design programs for individuals with physical, mental, emotional and social limitations. The goal of recreation therapists is to help their clients develop leisure independence and remove the barriers that prevent them from participating in desired leisure activities. Their planned programs foster positive attitudes and self-confidence, support attainment of new skills, and promote motivation which enables individuals to remain active given their special needs or circumstances.

Recreation therapists assist people in establishing healthy and rewarding leisure activities, such as sports, games, arts and crafts, gardening, exercising, dancing, nature study, parties, and many other kinds of activities. Appropriate activities help in the healing process and in dealing with anger and frustration.

Some recreation therapists work as part of a health care team which may include doctors, nurses, nutritionists, wellness consultants, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, and other professionals.

Work Routine The recreation therapists' work routine may include:

  • assessment of individuals' skills, needs, interests, and values towards recreation and leisure activity,    
  • adapting activities to individuals' special needs, abilities or circumstances, ensuring a safe place and appropriate transportation, equipment and materials for participation in activities,    
  • encouraging clients to make decisions about participating in leisure activities and to set personal goals for participation,    
  • charting the progress or difficulties of each client and reporting to the treatment team,    
  • teaching clients about the physical, mental, social and emotional benefits of recreation participation,    
  • working with clients to identify personal leisure barriers and design interventions which address these barriers and    
  • attending rehabilitation team meetings and professional development events.

The work of recreation therapists takes place in a variety of settings: out-of-doors in areas such as parks, campgrounds, or playgrounds; or indoors in community centres, private homes, swimming pools, gymnasiums, crafts rooms, games rooms, art rooms or other spaces.

Recreation therapy can involve fairly strenuous physical activity. It can be discouraging and stressful work because it may take several days or weeks for some individuals to choose to participate in leisure activities. Their involvement is often influenced by their general physical, emotional and mental health. However, recreation therapy is crucial to individual rehabilitation and is therefore a very rewarding profession.

Qualifications Recreation therapists must have sound knowledge in leisure theory and in dealing with individuals with special needs. They must have skill in conducting assessments, designing treatment plans, working on a team and carrying out treatment and leisure education programs. Group process and facilitation skills are also necessary.

Recreation therapists value their contribution toward providing individuals with a better quality of life. They must enjoy working closely with a variety of people, and be able to work independently.

Employment

Recreation therapists are employed in a variety of settings including:

  • Hospitals
  • Continuing Care Centers
  • Prisons & Correctional Centers
  • Private Recreation Centers
  • Government Recreation Departments
  • Home Care Agencies
  • Community Programs
  • Wellness Programs
  • Mental Health Centers
  • Long-Term & Residential Care Facilities
  • Group Homes
  • Private Community-Based Agencies