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Legislation

In August 2010, recreation therapists in Alberta provided a written submission to Alberta Health and Wellness for the regulation of recreation therapy in Alberta under the Health Professions Act (HPA).

ATRA’s position statement on the regulation of recreation therapy in Alberta

Regulation of recreation therapy will work to heighten the awareness and expectations of the public, patients, health employers and other health professionals that recreation therapists follow established competencies and meet entry to practice and continuing education criteria in order to reduce harm and improve patient safety.

Since 1985, ATRA has represented the profession of recreation therapy throughout the province. Recreation therapists registered as professional members of ATRA follow established code of ethics, competency profile, registration criteria and continuing education criteria in order to improve consistency, accountability and safety in practice.

In the absence of regulation of recreation therapy in Alberta, registration with ATRA remains voluntary, resulting in unidentified recreation therapists continuing to practice across the province with unknown education and competencies.

Background

Recreation therapists work with individuals who are accessing health services either voluntarily or involuntarily due to a decline or disruption in physical, mental, emotional, social or cognitive function or due to pre-existing medical conditions. Recreation therapists address complex medical co-morbidities and secondary conditions in order to prevent further impact of illness, injury or disease. Recreation therapists work with patients who may be vulnerable and at risk of further health decline and loss of control over their health.

Recreation therapy is identified as a practice requiring specialised skills and training that can harm or endanger public health and safety in the absence of a regulatory body to investigate and resolve allegations of impropriety (North Carolina Legislative Committee on New Licensing Boards, 2005). The greatest potential of harm can be caused by those lacking professional credentials engaging in direct delivery of recreation therapy services to persons in needs of rehabilitation and other health services.

As an unregulated profession, anyone can call themselves a recreation therapist and offer direct therapeutic recreation services to the public. Unregulated workers who do not understand the competencies of their profession may unknowingly perform activities that are beyond the extent of their knowledge and training. This impedes timely and seamless transition, referral or communication to other health professions when a patient condition is changing or declining, putting the patient, other team members and the public at risk.

Alberta is the first province in Canada to propose regulation for recreation therapy. Credentialing for recreation therapy has been in place in the United States since 1956.

Feedback

ATRA has engaged in stakeholder consultation and feedback processes since the mid-1990s regarding the proposed regulation of recreation therapy in Alberta. ATRA continues to encourage feedback from stakeholders by contacting the ATRA office.

Thank you,

ATRA Board of Directors