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About Recreational Therapy

What is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being.

The purpose of the RT process is to improve or maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual functioning in order to facilitate full participation in life. Services are provided or directly supervised by a “Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist” (CTRS).

Recreational therapy includes, but is not limited to, providing treatment services and recreation activities to individuals using a variety of techniques including arts and crafts, animals, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music, and community outings. Recreational therapists treat and help maintain the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their clients by seeking to reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively. Recreational therapists should not be confused with recreation workers, who organize recreational activities primarily for enjoyment.

The Profession of Therapeutic Recreation

Recreational Therapy has shown tremendous growth and development over the past two decades. The Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist has become the professional standard that exemplifies each professional’s dedication to quality standards and excellence in practice.

Today, the United States Department of Labor projects that there are over 19,000 recreational therapists in the United States. As of January 2023, there are 19,278 professionals who hold active, inactive, or eligible for re-entry status on the NCTRC registry. The CTRS credential is the most professionally advanced credential for the field of therapeutic recreation.

The United States Department of Labor suggests that therapeutic recreation will grow faster in those areas that address the healthcare concerns of older adults. As the demand for the CTRS increases from acute care hospitals to outpatient facilities, day treatment settings and community living situations, the certification of increasing numbers of recreational therapists is expected to enhance the recognition of the important role the CTRS plays in today’s healthcare and human services arena.

Benefits to the Public, Profession, Practitioner, and Organization

NCTRC was founded to protect the consumer of recreational therapy services and the public at large, resulting in many benefits to the public, the profession, the individual practitioner, and the organization.

The public benefits through the consistent application of the standards and the promotion of qualified professionals in the field of therapeutic recreation. NCTRC’s verification and disciplinary services ensure that employers and clients have access to information regarding the ability of the CTRS to provide quality recreational therapy services based on international standards with full respect to the health and safety of the consumer.

The profession has benefited significantly from the credentialing activities and research of NCTRC. The National Job Analysis provides the profession with the most accurate research on current job skills and knowledge required for competent practice in the profession. NCTRC’s position as an international leader in credentialing has brought the profession into the spotlight of related health and human service providers, funders, and advocacy groups.

The individual CTRS practitioner has greater standing in the healthcare and human service arena due to the quality of the therapeutic recreation professional credential and the efforts of NCTRC.

NCTRC works in concert with state regulatory authorities through adherence to consistent, fair and objective standards and full due process in its certification program. NCTRC complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the implementation of the certification program. In the event a state or other regulatory agency presents NCTRC with data concerning violation of local, state or federal laws or an agency reports gross or repeated negligence in practice, NCTRC institutes a thorough disciplinary process.