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What is a Recreational Therapist (RT)?

A recreational therapist is an allied health professional who uses activity-based interventions (recreation therapy) to address client treatment goals. Recreational therapists must earn the CTRS credential by passing the exam from NCTRC. Individuals who work in the recreation or adaptive recreation field without the CTRS credential, cannot be called a recreational therapist. RTs can also earn specialty designations from NCTRC in adaptive sports & recreation, behavioral health, community inclusion, developmental disabilities, geriatrics, pediatrics, and physical medicine/rehab.

Who do RTs work with?

Veterans, older adults, children, individuals with developmental disorders, cognitive disorders, physical disorders, and mental health disorders.

Where do RTs work?

Parks and recreation departments, hospitals, fitness centers, rehabilitation centers, long term care facilities, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, adult day programs, correctional centers, mental health centers, addiction treatment centers, behavioral health centers, adaptive sports programs, school systems, and private RT facilities.

What is the RT Scope of Practice?

“The primary purpose of recreation therapy practice is to improve health and quality of life by reducing impairments of body function and structure, reducing activity limitations, participation restrictions, and environmental barriers of the clients served. The ultimate goal of recreation therapy is to facilitate full and optimal involvement in community life. The scope of recreation therapy practice includes all patient/client services of assessments, planning, design, implementation, evaluation and documentation of specific therapeutic interventions, management, consultation, research, and education, for either individuals or groups that require specific therapeutic recreation or recreation therapy intervention. This scope of practice represents, at a minimum, the process and knowledge base delineated in the most recent National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) Job Analysis Study (Job Tasks and Knowledge Areas for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist) and delivered by a CTRS consistent with professional standards of practice, and codes of ethics with the intent of enhancing consumer safety.” (NCTRC)

Are there any state requirements/protections?

  • State licensure is required in:
    • District of Columbia
    • Utah
    • New Hampshire
    • New Jersey
    • North Carolina
    • Oklahoma
  • States that offer Recreation Therapy as part of their medicaid waiver system
    • Indiana
    • Texas

What are the professional guidelines?

ATRA Standards of Practice
NCTRC Certification Standards

Are there any professional organizations?

American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)
Illinois Recreation Therapy Association (ILRTA)

Which research journals are associated with this field?

American Journal of Recreational Therapy (AJRT)
Therapeutic Recreation Journal (TRJ)

How do I become a Recreational Therapist (CTRS)?

  1. Earn a Bachelor or higher degree in Recreation Therapy (RT) or Therapeutic Recreation (TR) or minor/specialization in RT/TR from an accredited college or university that includes the following coursework:
    • 1 course (3 hours) in Recreation
    • 6 courses (18 hours) in RT/TR
    • 1 course (3 hours) in Anatomy & Physiology (or a course in Anatomy + a course in physiology)
    • 1 course (3 hours) in Human Growth & Development Across the Lifespan
    • 1 course (3 hours) in Abnormal Psychology

2. Complete a 560 hour & 14 consecutive week academic internship under the supervision of a CTRS at the internship site and at the academic institution. The site supervisor must have the CTRS credential for a minimum of 1 year before supervising interns.

3. Pass the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) exam from NCTRC.

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