Recreational Therapists: Helping People Find Joy through Activities

Recreational Therapists: Helping People Find Joy through Activities

Recreational therapists are healthcare professionals responsible for helping people with disabilities or illnesses resume their normal activities and participate in leisure activities. Through various therapeutic activities, they help patients regain their physical and mental abilities and attain a better quality of life. If you’re considering this career path, this article will give you a brief overview of what it entails, some examples of what recreational therapists do, and what you need to get started.

What is a Recreational Therapist?

Recreational therapy is a type of healthcare that uses leisure activities to treat and support individuals with physical, emotional, cognitive, and mental disabilities or illnesses. A recreational therapist’s main goal is to improve the patient’s overall health and quality of life, as well as their physical and mental abilities. They plan and implement different activities such as sports, music, dance, crafts, games, and community outings to aid in the patient’s recovery.

Examples of What They Do

Recreational therapists work in various healthcare settings like hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and psychiatric facilities. Here are some examples of what they do:

  • Design and implement individualized care plans for patients with different disabilities and conditions.
  • Provide physical and psychological support for patients during activities to help them improve their health and daily living skills.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals in developing and implementing treatment plans.
  • Evaluate patients’ progress and adjust the treatment plan to meet their needs.
  • Plan and lead group activities for patients to improve their social interaction and communication skills.

Education and Training

The first step to becoming a recreational therapist is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy or a related field. Some colleges offer concentrations in therapeutic recreation, which will help you tailor your education to your career aspirations.

After graduating, you’ll need to complete an internship or supervised clinical experience to gain hands-on experience. This internship will be a requirement for certification and licensure.

Getting certified is the next step in a recreational therapist’s career path. Certification requirements vary by state, but you’ll typically need to pass a national certification exam. Certified recreational therapists are in more demand and are generally qualified for higher-paying roles.

Entering the Field

If you’re new to the field, there are various ways to get your foot in the door. You can start by volunteering or working at a nursing home, facility, or community center. You can also seek mentorship from professionals who work in the field. If you have a recreational therapy degree but are having a hard time finding employment, consider looking for roles in related fields like social work, psychology, or counseling.

Recreational Therapists: Job Level and Salary Data

Recreational therapists are professionals who use recreational activities as a way to treat individuals with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. The US national average salary for recreational therapists is $51,459.20 per year for all workers. In union recreational therapy jobs, the average salary is higher, at $62,795.20 per year, compared to non-union jobs, where the average salary is $52,270.40 per year. Recreational therapists who work full-time have an average salary of $54,891.20 per year, while those who are paid based on the time worked have an average salary of $54,620.80 per year.

The Effects of Union on Recreational Therapist Jobs

Being part of a union can have a positive impact on recreational therapist jobs. This is evident in the union average salary being higher than the non-union average salary, with union workers making around 20% more than their non-union counterparts. Unions can also help recreational therapists with matters related to their working conditions, benefits, and job-related issues.

Geographies Where Recreational Therapy Jobs are Best Paid

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paying states for recreational therapists are Nevada and California, with an average salary of $83,170 and $77,880 per year, respectively.

Geographies Where Recreational Therapy Jobs are Least Paid

The states where recreational therapists are least paid are Kentucky and Arkansas, with an average salary of $38,960 and $41,350 per year, respectively.


Recreational therapy is an excellent career choice for anyone passionate about helping others. It is a fulfilling role that allows you to work with people and help them lead meaningful and productive lives. Recreational therapists are an essential part of the healthcare system and play a significant role in improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities or illnesses.