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National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) is the premier credentialing organization for the profession of Therapeutic Recreation.

Established in 1981, NCTRC is a non-profit, international organization dedicated to professional excellence for the protection of consumers through the certification of recreational therapists. Professional recognition is granted by NCTRC to individuals who apply and meet established standards for certification including education, experience, and continuing professional development. The Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential is offered to qualified individuals based on these stringent requirements.

NCTRC supports quality human service and healthcare standards and maintains recognition by the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). NCTRC provides credential verification services to employers and healthcare agencies. These services are strongly encouraged by NCTRC to monitor personnel adherence to the standards of the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

NCTRC is a charter member organization of the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE), formerly known as the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). NCTRC is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

NCTRC Then and Now

Today NCTRC is the internationally recognized credentialing organization for the profession of therapeutic recreation.

Credentialing of therapeutic recreation personnel began in 1956 with the establishment of the Commission for the Advancement of Hospital Recreation (CAHR). In 1967, with the formation of the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS), the NTRS Registration Board continued the voluntary registration program for therapeutic recreation personnel. NCTRC was founded in 1981 as an independent credentialing agency designed to meet national credentialing standards in the United States.

A volunteer leadership managed NCTRC in 1981. By 1985 three part-time staff members were added to manage the growing certification program. In September 1986, the first full-time Executive Director was hired along with two full-time clerical personnel. Today, NCTRC employs seven full and one part-time staff member.

Growing numbers of certified professionals

The number of certified professionals served by NCTRC has also shown steady growth over the past 33 years. The first registration by CAHR in 1959 credentialed 68 hospital recreation personnel. During NTRS’s management of the therapeutic recreation registration program the numbers grew from 260 in 1967 to just over 3,000 in 1981. NCTRC currently has over 19,000 certificants who hold active, inactive, or eligible for re-entry status on the registry, and receives approximately 1,500 new applications for certification each year.


Since NCTRC was founded to meet recognized standards for certifying agencies, the organization has followed the standards of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) and its accreditation branch, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCTRC has maintained its charter membership in ICE since 1987. In 1993, NCTRC’s program was first accredited by NCCA and it was recently reaccredited through March 2023.