Unleashing Happiness: The Power of a Licensed Recreational Therapist

Kind Reader, have you ever heard of a licensed recreational therapist? They are professionals who use recreational activities like music, art, and sports as a means to help individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses to improve their physical and emotional well-being. These therapists are trained to create customized treatment plans to help patients achieve their goals and enhance their overall quality of life. If you or someone you know can benefit from recreational therapy, read on to learn more about this exciting field and how it can help you.

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What is a Licensed Recreational Therapist?

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A licensed recreational therapist is a health professional who uses recreation and activity-based interventions to improve the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and leisure needs of individuals with illnesses and disabilities. As part of the healthcare team, recreational therapists apply evidence-based practices to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate therapeutic programming according to the unique strengths, interests, and goals of their clients. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, caregivers, families, and communities to optimize functional outcomes and enhance the quality of life for their clients. Recreational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, residential care facilities, schools, community centers, and private practice.

Benefits of Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy has numerous physical, emotional, cognitive, and social benefits for individuals of all ages and abilities. According to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), recreational therapy can:

No Benefits of Recreational Therapy
1 Improve functional abilities and independence
2 Enhance physiological and psychological health
3 Promote socialization and community integration
4 Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
5 Increase self-esteem and self-confidence
6 Facilitate cognitive and sensory-motor stimulation
7 Provide leisure education and lifelong skills

Requirements to Become a Licensed Recreational Therapist

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To become a licensed recreational therapist, you need to fulfill certain educational, clinical, and exam requirements. The specific requirements vary by state, but generally, you need to:

Educational Requirements

Have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in recreational therapy or a related field from an accredited institution. The degree program should include coursework in anatomy and physiology, human growth and development, psychology, therapeutic interventions, and ethics. A supervised internship or practicum in a clinical setting is typically part of the program.

Clinical Requirements

Complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours in recreational therapy under the supervision of a licensed recreational therapist. The number of hours varies by state but is typically around 480 hours for a bachelor’s degree and around 900 hours for a master’s degree. The clinical experience should cover various areas of practice, such as physical rehabilitation, mental health, geriatrics, pediatrics, and community-based services.

Exam Requirements

Pass the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) exam or an equivalent state exam. The exam assesses your knowledge, skills, and abilities in the field of recreational therapy and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. The passing score is 97 or higher. You need to renew your certification every five years through continuing education or re-examination.

Qualifications of a Licensed Recreational Therapist

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A Licensed Recreational Therapist is required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Recreational Therapy or a related field from an accredited institution. Accreditation is granted by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA). The degree program should include academic coursework of 18 credit hours specializing in Recreational Therapy, with an additional supervised internship of at least 480 hours. After completing the degree and internship program, the therapist must pass a certification examination conducted by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

Education and Internship

The degree program of a Licensed Recreational Therapist should primarily focus on Recreational Therapy courses and therapeutic recreation competency. The curriculum should cover the following topics at a minimum: therapeutic recreational intervention, recreational therapy assessment, human anatomy and physiology, medical and psychological terminology, recreational therapy administration, and therapy documentation. The supervised internship allows the therapist to gain practical experience working with patients in a healthcare setting. The internship should cover all aspects of administration, assessment, implementation, and documentation of therapeutic interventions. The internship length can vary between institutions, but it should complete a minimum of 480 hours.

Certification Examination

After completing the educational and internship requirements, a candidate for the Licensed Recreational Therapist position must pass an examination authorized by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). The examination consists of multiple-choice questions and requires candidates to demonstrate a deep understanding of the elements of Recreational Therapy. The examination serves as a measure of the candidate’s comprehension of theories, best practices, and related standards in the field of Recreational Therapy.

No Information
1 Definition
2 Educational requirements
3 Licensing requirements
4 Skills needed
5 Job outlook
6 Salary range

Education and Training Requirements

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To become a licensed recreational therapist, an individual must complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. It is recommended that individuals complete a program specifically designed for recreational therapy. These programs are accredited by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). After graduation, individuals must pass the certification exam administered by the NCTRC. Passing this exam confers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) designation.

Recreational Therapy Bachelor’s Programs

Recreational therapy bachelor’s programs provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to become professional recreational therapists. They usually take four years to complete. These programs include education on human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and recreation programming. Additionally, students complete supervised internships to gain practical experience in the field of recreational therapy.

National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification Exam

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification Exam is a comprehensive exam that covers knowledge in the field of recreational therapy. The exam is based on five domains of practice, including assessment, treatment planning, implementation of interventions, evaluation, and documentation. Passing the exam grants the individual a certification as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).

Recertification Requirements for Licensed Recreational Therapist

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A licensed recreational therapist has to fulfill certain requirements for recertification to retain their license. These requirements play a crucial role in ensuring that the therapist offers the best service to the patient. Here are some of the requirements for recertification:

Continuing Education Credit

A licensed recreational therapist has to get 50 hours of continuing education credits every year to retain their license. These credits help the therapist to stay current with the latest trends, techniques, and practices of recreational therapy. These credits can be earned through attending conferences, workshops, and seminars related to the field

Passing the Written Exam

In order to recertify, the therapist must also pass a written exam that tests their knowledge and skills in the field. This test ensures that the therapist is following all the rules and regulations set up by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). This exam is mandatory for recertification.

“Continuing education credits and passing the written exam are requirements for recertification for licensed recreational therapists. These requirements ensure that the therapist is staying updated with the latest trends and techniques and is following the regulations set up by the NCTRC.”

Practice Standards

The therapist must follow all the practice standards set by the NCTRC. They must have proper conduct while working with patients and must respect individual differences. If the therapist is found to be in violation of any of these standards, their license may get revoked.

Complete Peer Review Requirements

The therapist must have peer reviews completed every five years. These reviews assess the therapist’s performance, professional growth, and ethical behavior in the field. These reviews ensure that the therapist is still complying with the standards set by the NCTRC.

No Requirements for Recertification
1 Get 50 hours of continuing education credits every year
2 Pass a written exam
3 Follow practice standards
4 Complete peer review requirements every 5 years

Up-to-Date Contact Information

The therapist must maintain up-to-date contact information and must inform NCTRC of any changes to their contact information within sixty days. Failing to do so can result in license revocation and make it difficult for NCTRC to contact them regarding their recertification or other critical information.

Job Duties of a Licensed Recreational Therapist

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As a licensed recreational therapist, duties vary depending on the clients and the goal of the session. Primarily, licensed recreational therapists use recreational activities to help clients with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses to improve their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional functions.

Physical Therapy

When a client needs physical therapy, a licensed recreational therapist may incorporate activities such as sports, dance, swimming, or outdoor exploration. These activities focus on body movements, coordination, balance, and flexibility. It is essential to ensure that each client has a tailored approach to physical therapy according to their abilities, needs, and physical limitations.

Cognitive Therapy

For clients who need cognitive therapy, a licensed recreational therapist can use games, puzzles, and activities that challenge their thinking and problem-solving abilities. Recreational activities that require planning, visualization, and memory can enhance cognitive functions and help maintain mental sharpness.

Social Therapy

Some clients may benefit from social therapy, which aims to improve social skills and build positive relationships. Activities such as team sports, group games, and social events facilitate communication, cooperation, and empathy among clients. Licensed recreational therapists create a friendly and comfortable atmosphere that fosters social interactions and supports clients’ emotional well-being.

Emotional Therapy

Emotional therapy focuses on addressing clients’ psychological needs, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma. Licensed recreational therapists can employ art therapy, music therapy, or drama therapy to help clients express their emotions creatively. These activities promote self-awareness, reduce stress, and enhance emotional regulation skills.

Client Evaluation

A licensed recreational therapist evaluates clients to identify their strengths, limitations, goals, and treatment plans. The evaluation is crucial to ensure that the therapy program meets clients’ individual needs and yields the desired outcomes. The therapist may use standardized assessment tools, interviews, or observations to evaluate clients’ physical, cognitive, social, and emotional status.

Documentation and Reporting

As a part of the job, licensed recreational therapists record and document clients’ progress and sessions. Accurate documentation helps the therapist monitor the effectiveness of the therapy, modify the treatment plan if necessary, and communicate with clients’ families, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. Therapists also produce reports about clients’ progress, challenges, and future plans.

Job Prospects of Licensed Recreational Therapist

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The prospects for licensed recreational therapists are good. The demand for recreational therapists is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Aging baby boomers and individuals with disabilities are increasingly availing of the services of healthcare providers. As a result, there will be a higher demand for these healthcare providers’ services, including recreational therapy. As the healthcare system shifts to place greater emphasis on preventive care, healthcare providers will look to expand their use of recreational therapy as a preventive care measure.

Employment Settings of Licensed Recreational Therapist

Recreational therapists can work in various settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, schools, correctional facilities, community centers, and private practices. The work environments and job duties differ, depending on the type of employer. For instance, recreational therapists working in hospitals may work more with patients who have life-threatening conditions or acute illnesses and injuries, while therapists in nursing homes may work more with elderly patients. Similarly, a recreational therapist working in a school will develop activities for students of different grade levels.

Salary of Licensed Recreational Therapist

The salary of licensed recreational therapists varies depending on various factors such as location, job setting, experience, and education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for recreational therapists was $50,510 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,140. Recreational therapists working in nursing homes and hospitals typically earn more than those working in schools and community centers.

Salary of Licensed Recreational Therapist

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Like most healthcare professions, salary for a licensed recreational therapist varies with experience and qualifications, but on average a licensed recreational therapist can earn around $50,000 to $60,000 a year. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for recreational therapists was $48,220 in May 2019, but it varies from $31,610 for the lowest-paid 10 percent to $80,140 for the highest-paid 10 percent. Location, employer type, and the industry a licensed recreational therapist is working in can also affect their salary.

Location and Employer Type

The salary for a licensed recreational therapist differs based on several factors as it varies based on the location, employer, education, and experience. Certain parts of the country will pay higher salaries, such as big metropolitan cities. Rural areas tend to pay less, and nonprofit organizations pay less than for-profit companies.


The industry that a licensed recreational therapist works in can also affect their salary. The highest-paying industry for recreational therapists is State government, followed closely by Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals. Generally, hospitals pay more than other industries, whereas nursing care facilities tend to pay less.

Frequently Asked Questions about Licensed Recreational Therapists

Here are some frequently asked questions about licensed recreational therapists:

1. What is a licensed recreational therapist?

A licensed recreational therapist is a professional who uses therapeutic interventions through leisure and recreation activities to improve the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being of individuals with disabilities or illnesses.

2. How can licensed recreational therapists help me?

They can help you by designing and implementing individualized treatment plans that may include activities such as music, art, dance, sports, and games. These activities can help to improve your strength, mobility, memory, social skills, and overall quality of life.

3. How do I know if I need a licensed recreational therapist?

If you have a physical, cognitive, or emotional disability or illness that affects your ability to engage in leisure activities, a licensed recreational therapist can help you. Also, if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, a licensed recreational therapist can be beneficial.

4. How can I find a licensed recreational therapist?

You can search for a licensed recreational therapist in your area through your healthcare provider, insurance company, or professional organizations such as the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.

5. How much does it cost to see a licensed recreational therapist?

The cost may vary depending on your location, insurance coverage, and specific services needed. You can check with your insurance provider or contact a licensed recreational therapist near you for more information about fees and payment options.

6. How often do I need to see a licensed recreational therapist?

The frequency of your visits will depend on your individual treatment plan and your progress. Some people may need to see a licensed recreational therapist several times a week, while others may only need to go once a month or less.

7. What should I expect during my first appointment with a licensed recreational therapist?

Your initial appointment will likely involve a comprehensive assessment of your physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. The licensed recreational therapist will then work with you to design a treatment plan that meets your specific goals and preferences.

8. Is recreational therapy covered by insurance?

Many insurance plans cover recreational therapy as a form of medical treatment. You should check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered and what specific services are included.

9. What kind of degree does a licensed recreational therapist need?

Most licensed recreational therapists have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in therapeutic recreation, recreation management, or a related field. They also need to pass a national certification exam and meet state licensing requirements.

10. Can recreational therapy be done virtually?

Yes, licensed recreational therapists can conduct virtual sessions using video conferencing or other digital technologies. Virtual recreational therapy sessions can be helpful for people who are unable to attend in-person appointments due to physical or geographic limitations.

11. Are licensed recreational therapists allowed to prescribe medication?

No, licensed recreational therapists are not authorized to prescribe medication. However, they may work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals who can provide medication management services.

12. What is the difference between recreational therapy and physical therapy?

While both recreational therapy and physical therapy can help improve physical function, they differ in their approach and goals. Recreational therapy focuses on using leisure activities to enhance overall well-being, while physical therapy focuses on restoring specific physical functions.

13. Can recreational therapy be used for children with special needs?

Yes, recreational therapy can be especially helpful for children with special needs. It can help improve their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development, and provide opportunities for leisure and fun.

14. Can recreational therapy be used for older adults?

Yes, recreational therapy can be beneficial for older adults. It can help maintain their physical and cognitive abilities, prevent isolation and depression, and promote social engagement and enjoyment.

15. Are recreational therapists required to abide by ethical standards?

Yes, licensed recreational therapists are required to follow professional ethical standards and guidelines to ensure safe, effective, and responsible practice.

16. How do recreational therapists personalize treatment plans for individual clients?

By conducting a thorough assessment of their clients’ needs, interests, abilities, and limitations, recreational therapists can design tailored treatment plans that match their clients’ goals and preferences.

17. How can I prepare for a session with a licensed recreational therapist?

You can prepare by thinking about your personal goals and interests, wearing comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes, and bringing any necessary equipment or supplies. You should also inform your therapist of any physical, medical, or emotional conditions that may affect your participation.

18. Can recreational therapy be used as a complementary treatment for other medical conditions?

Yes, recreational therapy can be used as a complementary treatment for a variety of medical conditions, such as cancer, stroke, chronic pain, and dementia. It can help improve their quality of life and reduce symptoms and complications.

19. Is recreational therapy evidence-based?

Yes, many studies have shown the effectiveness of recreational therapy in improving physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being in diverse populations. Recreational therapists use evidence-based practices and interventions to achieve optimal outcomes.

20. Can recreational therapy be used for people with mental health conditions?

Yes, recreational therapy can help improve mental health outcomes by providing opportunities for self-expression, stress reduction, socialization, and positive emotions. Recreational therapists may collaborate with mental health professionals to provide integrated and holistic care.

21. What are some common recreational therapy activities?

Some common recreational therapy activities include music therapy, art therapy, sports and games, outdoor adventures, pet therapy, dance therapy, and expressive arts.

22. How does recreational therapy promote social interaction?

Recreational therapy provides opportunities for group activities and socializing that can help people develop new friendships, team-building skills, and communication abilities. It can also help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

23. Can recreational therapy help with substance abuse or addiction?

Yes, recreational therapy can play a role in addiction treatment by promoting healthy leisure activities, building coping skills, and providing alternatives to drug or alcohol use. It can also address underlying mental health issues that may contribute to addiction.

24. How can recreational therapy help families and caregivers?

Recreational therapy can help families and caregivers by providing respite care, education, and support services. It can also help improve their overall well-being and reduce caregiver stress and burnout.

25. Do recreational therapists work with other healthcare providers?

Yes, recreational therapists often work as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team that includes physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and mental health professionals. They collaborate and coordinate care to ensure the best possible outcomes for their clients.

If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in recreational therapy, check out this list of the best schools for the field.

Thank You for Strolling with Us, Kind Reader!

We appreciate you taking the time to learn about licensed recreational therapists and the crucial role they play in enhancing the quality of life for individuals. By incorporating leisure activities into treatment programs, these experts help patients overcome physical, emotional, or cognitive difficulties to achieve their goals. We hope this article provided valuable insights and inspired you to explore the world of recreational therapy further. Come back soon for more exciting topics! Farewell for now, and keep on living your best life!

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