This is an excerpt from Foundations of Therapeutic Recreation-2nd Edition by Terry Long & Terry Robertson.
By Terry Robertson, Terry Long
Therapeutic recreation has emerged from a dynamic and ever-evolving mix of perspectives, converging schools of thought, borrowed and original theories, and unique interventions and services. This diverse background offers potential for a large variety of service applications. Some have referred to therapeutic recreation as being eclectic in nature. Others have referred to it as a strengths-based approach. Some suggest that therapeutic recreation is unique in that it involves use of recreation or leisure. Others say that it is a mix of philosophy, psychology, the arts, and physical therapy and occupational therapy techniques—all used by a trained professional to bring about functional change within another person or group of people.
Regardless of the perspective chosen, therapeutic recreation is a profession that has tremendous potential for growth and evolution. The diverse philosophical positions or perspectives within the profession provide numerous opportunities for flexible application and professional growth. This diversity tends to produce a well-rounded college graduate who is capable of working within, on the fringes of, or outside of therapeutic recreation. Likewise, therapeutic recreation training programs have traditionally been ideal for those seeking a bachelor's degree before moving into a graduate degree program. A therapeutic recreation degree has also helped professionals enter community-based recreation and administrative positions within a variety of fields. If you are searching for a degree that could prepare you for a wide variety of occupations or you are looking for a specific career, then therapeutic recreation may be right for you. Are you still interested?
Choosing a Profession
As a bright person capable of choosing from among many occupations, you should think about why you are interested in therapeutic recreation. Are you interested in helping others? Are you interested in physical activity or psychological processes? Do you or any members of your family have a disability? Are you deciding between this major and some other therapy-oriented degree such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or nursing? Maybe you are interested in broader topics such as social justice, aging, or health and wellness, or maybe you simply know someone in this major or profession. You are the only one who can answer the why questions. If you have not done so, try to answer the question for yourself right now—why choose this profession?
Your interest and motivation in this course and profession will have an effect on what you study, how you study, and whether you will succeed in your academic performance. Your motives can also influence who you might study or work with as well as where you might eventually work and ultimately live. So do you know where or with whom you might want to work? Do you know how this course could benefit you regardless of your major? If you answered no or have other questions, ask the course instructor and your advisor for some individual attention.
If the answer to either question is yes, then we would simply ask that you keep yourself open to more possibilities as you go through this text and course. If you are unsure about how all of this information is relevant to you, then we would ask that you try to focus a bit and select a temporary answer to these questions to help you reflect on and understand concepts as you move through the book and explore this profession. Whether you answered yes or no, before you try to finalize your decisions, you should learn the basic therapeutic recreation process, understand some of the basic techniques utilized during this process, and become familiar with what therapeutic recreation services have to offer clients who participate in this process (what benefits might come to clients from provision of this service). Later chapters will explore these topics in detail.
Finding a Personal Fit
Success in the therapeutic recreation profession requires commitment, forethought, and a willingness to engage others. The working professional generally has the ability to organize experiences, motivate others, be flexible, and work on several tasks simultaneously. The ability to communicate to diverse audiences (e.g., individuals, groups, and other professionals) in a variety of ways (e.g., oral, written, in person, electronically) and to be both understanding and assertive are also important characteristics. In plain words, therapeutic recreation is a people profession; a major job skill for a therapeutic recreation professional is to relate to people in an understanding and accepting way. Because creating effective interactions and experiences requires use of a systematic method, the successful professional must be competent at planning, organizing, solving problems, and managing several tasks and programs at once. To succeed in this profession, a person must be responsible, knowledgeable, and genuinely compassionate.
Therapeutic recreation specialists work in a variety of settings, and often those settings include a mix of clientele. Breaking down the profession based on client population reveals that about 37 percent work in mental health, 29 percent work in geriatrics, 20 percent work in physical medicine, and 14 percent work with individuals with developmental disabilities (National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification [NCTRC], 2015). The nature of therapeutic recreation services for each of these populations is addressed further in chapters 7 to 11, but this diversity is mentioned here to illustrate the options that are available to professionals. In addition, these categories are very general, and you will find that there are many specializations within each area.
Work-setting options for therapeutic recreation professionals are equally diverse and include hospitals, psychiatric facilities, long-term-care facilities, and community-based settings. It is also true that the boundaries between these settings are difficult if not impossible to define.