Health Guide USA
America's Online Health Resource Guide

Recreational Therapists | What Do They Do?

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation programs for people with disabilities or illnesses. They use a variety of techniques, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and field trips. These activities help maintain or improve a client’s physical and emotional well-being.

Recreational therapists typically do the following:

  • Assess clients'needs through observations, medical records, standardized tests, and talking with medical staff, clients'families, and the clients
  • Work with other healthcare professionals to form treatment plans
  • Create programs that meet clients’ needs and interests
  • Plan and carry out interventions to prevent harm to a client
  • Engage clients in activities, such as games, drama, and field trips
  • Help clients learn social skills needed to become or remain independent
  • Explain to clients ways to cope with anxiety or depression
  • Record and analyze a client’s progress

Recreational therapists help people reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic physical and mental abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively. They help people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to use community resources and recreational activities.




Recreational therapists use activities, such as arts and crafts, dance and movement, or sports, to help their clients. For example, people who are paralyzed on one side may need therapists to teach them to recover basic motor skills, such as picking up a cup with their functional side.

Therapists may help people with disabilities by teaching them how to use community resources, such as public transportation or parks.

They may also provide interventions to clients who need help developing new coping skills. For example, they might encourage clients who have limited social skills to play games with others.

Recreational therapists work in places such as substance abuse centers, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, special education departments, and parks and recreation departments.

Therapists who work in hospitals and rehabilitation centers may work with physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. For more information, see the profiles on physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists..

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition


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