Celebrating fun with Therapeutic Recreation Week
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A serious mental disorder or substance addiction requires an equally serious strategy for recovery. However, recovering one’s body and mind includes an ample amount of rest in addition to planning and commitment to a treatment program. Various versions of therapy incorporate an element of rest or recreation into the healing process, but one specific style places a higher importance on having a constant exposure to fun. This is known as recreational therapy.

In order to spread awareness of this developing treatment option, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) declared the second week of July National Therapeutic Recreation Week back in 1984. In addition, the National Recreation and Park Association have celebrated Park and Recreation Month in July for over 30 years. Overall, these two extended events aim to fill the summer days with all sorts of productive and proactive activities for anyone to enjoy.

What is recreational therapy?

ATRA defines recreational therapy as, “a treatment service designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition.” This classification encompasses a wide scope of uniquely different practices and alternative therapies. Specific services include:

  • Swimming
  • Adapted competitive sports, such as the Special Olympics or the Miracle League
  • Dancing
  • Equine therapy or horseback riding
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Pet therapy
  • Horticulture or gardening
  • Summer camps and outdoor adventure programs

A fair amount of recent research strengthens the evidence for recreation, especially in the case of managing stress and overall health. In a 2013 study from Meadville Medical Center in Pennsylvania, patients with excess stress related to their cardiovascular condition experienced a significant reduction of their anxiety by use of recreational music making. In addition, a study observing the effect of group recreation therapy on the elderly showed multiple areas of positive influence. Participants reported a significant reduction of depressive symptoms and a substantial increase of life satisfaction after treatment. In addition to treating mental and medical problems, a large focus in the field is aimed toward older generations, as maintaining physical exercise protects the body and brain’s course of aging.

According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), recreational therapists are well-versed in matters of educational, behavioral and activity-oriented strategies in addition to their foundation of recreational tools. A common goal shared by members of this profession is to enhance their clients’ functional performance and improve positive lifestyle behaviors. In order to impact large populations and new demographics, these treatment professionals can also be found in traditional health care and community-based health care systems.

How to get involved with recreational therapy

The practice of recreational therapy is professionally backed by the American Therapeutic Recreation Association. Formerly the National Therapeutic Recreation Society, a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association, the organization supports the interests and needs of the specialized profession as well as its external affairs, advocacy, treatment networking and educational services. The organization lists a number of opportunities a person can utilize in order play an active role in one’s own community.

Recreational therapists are trained to address any mental or physical issues that may arise during the therapeutic journey. In practice, this translates into a constant adaptation to changing needs on a day-to-day basis. As this can be stressful work at times, it is important to show support for events like National Therapeutic Recreation Week and Park and Recreation Month and to encourage those in need of support to give recreational therapy a try. Events and ideas for therapeutic recreation and general outdoor recreation are both available for individuals of all ages.

Sovereign Health Group is also dedicated to the therapeutic practice of recreation and other experiential forms of recovery like equine therapy. Our group of mental health experts is aware of the dynamic landscape of the treatment field and how integrating new, innovative therapies can benefit people in previously unexplored ways. If you, a friend or family member struggles with mental, behavioral or addictive problems, please contact our helpline anytime. Chat online or call us at any time to speak to a member of our team.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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