February is National Therapeutic Recreation Month. If you’re wondering what therapeutic recreation is, you’re not alone. It’s the question recreational therapists get asked the most!
Therapeutic recreation uses recreational and leisure activities to promote well-being and overall fitness with the goal of improving, maintaining or restoring physical strength, cognition, and mobility for individuals with a disability or illness. Recreational therapists get to know each patient and what motivates them so they can participate in enjoyable leisure activities to address functional skills for recovery. In a rehabilitation setting, recreational therapists work closely with a patient’s rehabilitation team to help them achieve their therapy goals.
Recreational therapy, as it’s also known, encompasses a wide array of activities that focus on community integration, exercise and strength training, sports specific adaptations, and aquatic therapy/aquatic exercise. An activity is considered recreational therapy when it’s used as a treatment modality to maximize skill development and improve quality of life. For example, participating in a leisure activity in the community may increase life satisfaction while also connecting a person to community resources, improving time and money management skills, and increasing confidence in getting from one place to another.
Recreational therapy can be very beneficial for a person who has sustained a TBI. After a brain injury, a person may experience various lifestyle changes which may include a decrease in leisure participation, increase in free time, loss of income, decrease in social skills which affects old friendships and establishing new ones, a shift to more sedentary activities, and less social activities. Experiencing these changes can have a negative impact on life satisfaction and quality of life. When an individual is ready to return to leisure interests, recreational therapy can address these changes to help individuals find new ways to enjoy life which also positively impacts the recovery process.
Kristin Claerhout, CTRS, CBIS
Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
Special Tree Rehabilitation System
Brain + Spinal Cord Rehabilitation