Innovators Guide

Recreational Therapist Training

A bachelor's degree with a major or concentration in therapeutic recreation is the usual requirement. Some States regulate recreational therapists, but requirements vary.

Education and training. Most entry-level recreational therapists need a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation, or in recreation with a concentration in therapeutic recreation. A few may qualify with some combination of education, training, and work experience that would be equivalent to what is considered competent in the field. There are more than 100 academic programs that prepare students to become recreational therapists. Most offer bachelor's degrees, although some offer associate's, master's, or doctoral degrees. Therapeutic recreation programs include courses in assessment, treatment and program planning, intervention design, and evaluation. Students also study human anatomy, physiology, abnormal psychology, medical and psychiatric terminology, characteristics of illnesses and disabilities, professional ethics, and the use of assistive devices and technology. Bachelor's degree programs include an internship in the field as part of their curriculum.

Licensure. Some States regulate recreational therapists through licensure, registration, or regulation of titles. Requirements vary by State. In 2009, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Utah, and New Hampshire required licensure to practice as a recreational therapist. For specifics on regulations and requirements, contact the State�s medical board.

Certification and other qualifications. Although certification is voluntary, most employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified therapeutic recreation specialists. Work in clinical settings often requires certification by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. The council offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential to candidates who pass a written certification examination and complete a supervised internship of at least 480 hours. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy from an accredited institution is required for credentialing, but some may qualify with equivalent education, training, and experience. Therapists must meet additional requirements to maintain certification. For specific details on credentialing, contact the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. (See Sources of Additional Information below for address.)

Recreational therapists may dedicate themselves to a certain type of therapy. Therapists wanting to practice a concentration can also earn certifications in specific therapies, such as art therapy and aquatic therapy.

Recreational therapists must be comfortable working with people who are ill or disabled. Therapists must be patient, tactful, and persuasive when working with people who have a variety of special needs. Ingenuity, a sense of humor, and imagination are needed to adapt activities to individual needs, and good physical coordination is necessary to demonstrate or participate in recreational activities.

Advancement. Therapists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions. Some teach, conduct research, or consult for health or social services agencies.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Find related resources below:

Recreational Therapist Employment
Recreational Therapist Training
Recreational Therapist Job Outlook
Recreational Therapist Income


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