In a therapeutic recreation program, you may learn how painting can be
used to help stroke victims regain the use of their hands. Or you may learn
how to plan a dance that would help nursing home residents feel better and
stay in shape.
Many universities and colleges offer programs in therapeutic recreation.
Most programs offer bachelor's degrees. Some also offer graduate and postgraduate
degrees. You can also get an associate's degree in the field.
"A therapeutic recreation professional has to be a very special person,
because of the stress and pressure that goes with the job," says Lawrence
Ham. He is a professor in the school of kinesiology and recreation studies
at James Madison University.
Students have to realize that they are going to be working daily with people
with disabilities, he says.
Programs cover a wide range of courses. These could include abnormal
psychology, recreation management, body mechanics and youth justice issues.
You may also spend a lot of time outdoors.
Entrance requirements vary. High school graduation is the minimum for many
programs. You may also have to undergo a criminal background check. Expect
to submit proof of your physical and mental health.
In high school, take biology. Courses in physical education and
kinesiology are also recommended.
Ian Thumlert works with the Center for Health and Human Services at a community
college. He recommends you also take social science courses like geography,
history and sociology. Psychology is also good, if your school offers
Recreation therapists spend a lot of time putting together brochures, posters,
reports and budgets. So get comfortable with word processors, spreadsheets
and graphic design programs.
Get into sports or other forms of recreation like hiking or dance.
It also helps if you know crafts or how to play an instrument.
A second language is also an asset. So are CPR, first aid and lifeguard
You should also volunteer. Many programs require volunteer experience.
Recreation centers, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are good places
to learn more about the field and its people. Being comfortable around all
kinds of different people is key if you want to work in this field.
You may need to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic
Recreation Certification (NCTRC).
To become certified, you need to get a bachelor's degree, pass an exam
and complete an internship of at least 480 hours under the supervision of
a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, says the Occupational Outlook
Besides tuition and books, you may have to budget for things like camping
gear, sports equipment and arts supplies.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Recreational
American Therapeutic Recreation Association
Resources for people in this field, including an internship directory
Ideas for recreation therapy