Recreational Therapist


Recreational therapists, also known as therapeutic recreational specialists, help to rehabilitate patients who have chronic physical, psychological or social handicaps. Activities may include sports, games, dance, drama, arts and crafts, music, and field trips. The recreational therapist encourages patients to develop interests and skills which will assist in recovering from and coping with illness or disability. Therapists help individuals reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively so that they can enjoy greater independence and reduce or eliminate the effects of their illness or disability.

In hospitals and rehabilitation centers, recreational therapists treat and rehabilitate patients with specific health conditions, usually in collaboration with physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. In long-term care facilities, recreational therapists use leisure activities to improve and maintain their clients’ general health and well-being.


Potential Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Community recreation departments

Work Environment

Recreational therapists provide services on an individual basis and as part of group activities. Services may be provided in special activity rooms, but also may take place in an office setting. Work may involve travel when working with clients during community integration programs.

Recreational therapists generally work a 40-hour week. Work hours may include some evenings, weekends, and holidays. Some therapists may work part time and for more than one employer.

Job Outlook

Employment of recreational therapists is expected to increase 15 percent through the year 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will stem from the therapy needs of an aging population. Reimbursement for recreational therapy services will continue to affect how and where therapeutic recreation is provided. Therapists are expected to experience competition for jobs.


  • Ability to direct group activities
  • Good verbal skills
  • Ability to relate to a variety of people and direct and influence others
  • Ability to make decisions and change easily from one task to another
  • Interest in recreational, musical, or artistic pursuits, depending on the types of therapy



A bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, music therapy, art therapy, or dance therapy, is generally the minimum requirement.  In some cases, art therapists are required to have a master’s degree.  Course work includes classes in assessment, treatment and program planning, intervention design, evaluation, human anatomy and physiology, abnormal psychology, medical and psychiatric terminology, characteristics of illnesses and disabilities, professional ethics, and the use of assistive devices and technology.  In addition to course work, 360 hours of internship under the supervision of a certified therapeutic recreationist may be required.

Certification is voluntary in Nebraska.  Optional national certification can be obtained through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.  Certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRSs) are recognized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as professionals who are qualified to provide recreation as a therapeutic service.

Programs in Nebraska

Related / Links

Other careers in therapy and rehabilitation:

Professional Associations

National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification

Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Recreation Therapists, on the Internet at