Health & Wellness

What Is Recreation Therapy And How Can It Help You

By MSF Staff and reviewed by the MSF Medical Advisory Board

What is Recreation Therapy?

Recreation therapy is one of the fastest-growing professions today, yet many people have never heard of the term.

Recreation therapy (RT) is the use of leisure activity to achieve a treatment goal. Therapeutic activities can include art, friendship development, dance, outdoor experiences, therapeutic sports, and more. Recreation therapy can be done in may different settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, community parks departments and independent living centers.

The many benefits of recreation and leisure have been scientifically documented. These include improved physical fitness and coping skills, reduced stress, an improved sense of self-confidence and self-reliance, and enhanced self-esteem. While traditional therapies tend to treat illness, RT can help to develop and maintain good health. In contrast to regimented exercise program, RT focuses on activities that address a person's physical and emotional needs. For those with chronic conditions this is especially important, since physical abilities may change.

How Is Recreation Therapy Done?

Recreational therapists are certified professionals who work with doctors and rehabilitation specialists to assess a person's abilities and design a plan of activities. Activities are selected to achieve treatment goals, such as muscle strengthening or improved self-confidence, and to provide pleasure and satisfaction. Participants are encouraged to be involved in selecting the activities that bring the most enjoyment!

For the disabled, available recreation may be very limited. However, recreation therapy can provide a wider range of leisure activities. Some programs may offer special facilities for those with disabilities, or they may train the patient and their family how to adapt the activity to their abilities. With a little planning, most recreation can be adapted to suit people of many levels of ability.

What About The Cost?

A common barrier to participating in recreational activities is the cost since many people with disabilities live on limited income. However, RT does not have to be expensive. Some insurance may pay for a consultation with a recreational therapist, who can design a program involving low-cost activities. Local parks and recreation departments may have recreational therapists on staff and are generally within a person's budget.