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Recreational Therapy Promotes Mental Health

Mental Health
Benefits of Recreational Therapy

Therapy is a concept that many people equate with sitting in an office and talking about their past, their family, and their feelings while a therapist takes notes and asks them questions. While this kind of work is often part of traditional therapy, therapy can take all forms, and some of those forms might not look like anything you would imagine. One example of this is recreational therapy, also sometimes called therapeutic recreation.

What is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy is a broad category of services that can involve utilizing many different techniques to promote wellness, including: 

  • Arts and crafts
  • Animals (dogs and horses are very commonly trained for this purpose)
  • Sports and games
  • Music and dance 
  • Drama
  • Community outings

Where recreational therapy is different from other therapeutic treatment options is that it can focus on spiritual, cognitive, physical, emotional and social skills, not just a narrow aspect of mental or physical health. Also, it does not always take place in an office setting at all. It might occur in a park, adapted sports program, hospital, school, care facility, or other location.

Despite its differences, recreational therapy is just like other forms of therapy in these ways: 

  • There needs to be a reason for the person to receive treatment. 
  • The person offering treatment is a licensed professional with specialized training to help the client navigate the barriers that are keeping them from achieving their goals. 
  • The therapist assesses the person before therapy begins to create an individualized treatment plan.
  • The therapist uses evidence-based practices to help the client work on their targeted conditions. 
  • Therapeutic recreation can be done in both individual or group settings. 
  • People of all ages, from very small children to elderly adults, can potentially benefit. 
  • Recreational therapists can also collaborate with a person’s doctors, nurses, psychologist, social worker, physical therapist, occupational therapist, family, and other members of their treatment team to determine what activities might be most beneficial for that specific client.

What are the Benefits of Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy can:

  • Engage clients in outcome-focused programming that allows them to see results from their efforts more rapidly than may be possible in other modalities.
  • Give people skills that they can transfer into other areas of their lives.
  • Provide clients with a way to express themselves that isn’t impacted by disabilities they may have. The ability to engage in talk therapies can sometimes be limited by a person’s physical conditions, mental health, or neurological differences, making recreational therapy a good alternative for many people.
  • Offer a more whole-person approach than other therapeutic modalities, which may focus solely on mental health or even just one piece of their mental health. This makes recreational therapy a good option to consider when a person has co-occurring conditions.
  • Increase independent functioning.
  • Enhance the range of coping skills a person has to choose from.

What Conditions can Recreational Therapy Treat?

A wide variety of mental and physical health diagnoses can benefit from recreational therapy. These include:

How is Recreational Therapy Different from Occupational Therapy?

While both recreational therapy and occupational therapy focus on the whole person and improving their quality of life, they are different from each other. Occupational therapy helps a person relearn skills they have lost as the result of an illness, injury, or something else. Occupational therapists use the environment around their clients to help them build a better life. Recreational therapists help a person to build new skills to increase their knowledge and the range of behaviors they are able to utilize to thrive in their environment.

How Can I Get Started with Recreational Therapy?

Many people are referred to recreational therapy by their family doctor or another member of their treatment team. If you think this could be a good option for you or your loved one, talking to the professionals already working with you can be a good place to start. Recreational therapy may or may not be covered by insurance, but other resources may be available to help fund  these services.

Highland Hospital is proud to offer recreational therapy options. If you would like to learn more about the specific ways our West Virginia team uses recreational therapy with our patients, please reach out to our caring team of professionals for more information.

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