How to Become a Recreational Therapist
Most recreational therapists need a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy or a related field.
Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor’s degree. Many employers require therapists to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).
Recreational therapists typically need a bachelor’s degree, usually in recreational therapy or a related field such as recreation and leisure studies.
Recreational therapy programs include courses in assessment, human anatomy, medical and psychiatric terminology, characteristics of illnesses and disabilities, and the use of assistive devices and technology. Bachelor’s degree programs usually include an internship.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most employers prefer to hire certified recreational therapists. The NCTRC offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. Candidates may qualify for certification through one of three pathways. The first option requires a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, completion of a supervised internship of at least 560 hours, and passing an exam. The other options also require passing an exam, but allow candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject to qualify with various combinations of education and work experience. In order to maintain certification, therapists must either pass an exam or complete work experience and continuing education requirements every 5 years.
The NCTRC also offers specialty certification in five areas of practice: behavioral health, community inclusion services, developmental disabilities, geriatrics, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. Therapists also may earn certificates from other organizations to show proficiency in specific therapy techniques, such as aquatic therapy or aromatherapy.
As of 2017, only a small number of states require licensure or otherwise regulate the work of recreational therapists. For specific requirements, contact the state’s medical board.
Compassion. Recreational therapists should be kind and empathetic when providing support to patients and their families. They may deal with patients who are in pain or under emotional stress.
Leadership skills. Recreational therapists must plan, develop, and implement intervention programs in an effective manner. They must be engaging and able to motivate patients to participate in a variety of therapeutic activities.
Listening skills. Recreational therapists must listen carefully to a patient’s problems and concerns. They can then determine an appropriate course of treatment for that patient.
Patience. Recreational therapists may work with some patients who require more time and special attention than others.
Resourcefulness. Recreational therapists customize treatment plans for patients. They must be both creative and flexible when adapting activities or programs to each patient’s needs.
Speaking skills. Recreational therapists need to communicate well with their patients. They must give clear directions during activities or instructions on healthy coping techniques.