Episode 8: What is recreational therapy?

Marta A.: Welcome to the first episode of NARIC’s Spotlight Podcast’s second season! This is Marta Arnold, NARIC’s Spanish Reviewer, and, in this episode, I speak with Marta Garcia, NARIC’s Bilingual Information and Media Specialist about recreational therapy – a popular topic among the readers of our blog. Marta provides a general overview of recreational therapy, also known as rec therapy, and how it benefits those who receive it, among other rec therapy related topics. We look forward to sharing this episode with you!

Marta A.: What is recreational therapy?

Marta G.: According to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTPRC), recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is “a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of people with illness or disabilities, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery, and well-being”. In other words, recreational therapy uses the recreational activities that people with disabilities or chronic illnesses like to do to improve or maintain their physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and spiritual functioning in order to facilitate full participation in their communities and in life. Recreational therapy includes providing treatment services and recreation activities by using a variety of techniques that include arts and crafts, animals, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music, and community outings. Recreational therapy seeks to reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities; build confidence; and effective socialization.

Marta A.: What types of interventions are used during Rec Therapy?

Marta G.: There are many interventions and techniques that recreational therapists use to treat and help maintain the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of their clients with disabilities or chronic illnesses. These interventions and techniques can range from drawing and painting to singing and dancing to photography to playing games like bingo.

Marta A.: Rec Therapy looks like it’s just a fun activity. How does it benefit those who receive it?

Marta G.: Rec therapy is fun! And it is a fun way to receive the therapy that one may need. Each rec therapy program is individualized to each person, so the benefits are also going to be individual to each person who receives rec therapy. Benefits may include improving or maintaining cognitive abilities, hand-eye coordination, physical fitness, memory, social awareness and social ties to the community, spirituality, and build confidence, among others.

Marta A.: Are music therapy, art therapy, photography therapy, and other such types of therapy part of recreational therapy? Why or Why Not?

Marta G.: Those therapies are different from recreational therapy. Although rec therapy uses music, art, photography, and other similar types of activities for their therapeutic benefits, they are interventions within a rec therapy program. As therapies themselves, art, music, photography may be used as therapies themselves. Let me give you an example, a psychiatrist or psychologist may use art therapy or photography therapy as a means to help their client express their thoughts and feelings.

Marta A.: Sometimes bingo is played in rehabilitation settings. Is it really a part of recreational therapy?

Marta G.: Yes, it is! As part of a rec therapy program, bingo may help players with their hand-eye coordination, concentration, mental health, and much more! Rec therapists may also use bingo as a group recreational therapy to help each person within the group to socialize, support their mental health, improve their cognitive and physical skills, and much more. To learn more about how bingo is a beneficial rec therapy intervention, take a look at NARIC’s Ask A Librarian article on bingo being therapeutic.

Marta A.: For those interested in learning more about rec therapy, where can they learn more?

Marta G.: For those interested in learning more about rec therapy, there are several places where they can learn more. This includes NARIC’s Spotlight Blog and NARIC’s Ask a Librarian series are great places to start. For those interested in becoming recreational therapists, go to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association or ARTA to learn more about this profession.

Marta A.: This is Marta Arnold and I would like to thank all of our listeners for tuning in for this episode. I would also like to thank Marta Garcia for joining us today to discuss rec therapy. All the resources shared in the episode may be found in this episode’s description. Transcripts for this episode are available in English and Spanish in naric.com.