What Recreational Therapists Do

Recreational therapists focus on their patients' past, present, and potential interests and formulate activities to help cultivate behaviors, skills, and knowledge to improve the quality of the patient's daily life. The goal is to help the patient emotionally, cognitively, and socially. Recreational therapists also try to make the therapy as sustainable and functional as possible by focusing on activities the patient enjoys of skills, they've expressed interest in learning, and by focusing on the patient's involvement with his or her family and community. This helps the patient translate aspects of the therapy into his or her daily life so that he or she can continue to reap the benefits of the therapy even after the recreational therapist and the healthcare team are no longer a source of direct support.

Types of Work Environments

  • Hospitals
  • Mental health centers
  • Substance abuse programs
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospices
  • Schools

Education and Training Requirements

Recreational therapists must achieve a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy, must complete an internship/field placement, and must pass the examination administered by the National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Recreational therapists must recertify every five years.

It is also possible to become a recreational therapist with a bachelor's degree in a field other than recreational therapy. Starting with this foundation and some experience with recreational therapy, it is possible to complete coursework equivalent to that of a bachelor's degree.

For more information on the specific coursework requirements for a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy and the equivalent courses, visit the National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for recreational therapists is approximately $57,120 per year.

Professional Organizations

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association

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