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What Recreational Therapists Do

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation programs for people with disabilities or illnesses. They use a variety of techniques, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and field trips. These activities help maintain or improve a client’s physical and emotional well-being.


Recreational therapists typically do the following:

Recreational therapists help people reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic physical and mental abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively. They help people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to use community resources and recreational activities.

Recreational therapists use activities, such as arts and crafts, dance and movement, or sports, to help their clients. For example, people who are paralyzed on one side may need therapists to teach them to recover basic motor skills, such as picking up a cup with their functional side.

Therapists may help people with disabilities by teaching them how to use community resources, such as public transportation or parks.

They may also provide interventions to clients who need help developing new coping skills. For example, they might encourage clients who have limited social skills to play games with others.

Recreational therapists work in places such as substance abuse centers, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, special education departments, and parks and recreation departments.

Therapists who work in hospitals and rehabilitation centers may work with physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. For more information, see the profiles on physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

Recreational therapists are different from recreation workers, who organize recreational activities primarily for enjoyment. For more information, see the profile on recreation workers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition