Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy

Young girl in wheelchair playing basketball with an adult.

 

The Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy degree program at South prepares students to become certified recreational therapists. The mission of the Recreational Therapy Program is closely linked to the mission of the University of South Alabama. We are committed to impact the provision of health care with a global reach and focus on the Gulf Coast through the development of ethical and socially responsible individuals prepared to make a difference in the lives of those we serve and to the welfare of the recreational therapy profession.

What is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. Recreational therapy is rooted in the belief that purposeful activities can improve the well-being of people of all ages who are facing physical, mental, cognitive or emotional challenges. Working in this rewarding field, you may find yourself helping others through activities as varied as outdoor excursions, sports, arts and craft projects, dance or community events. 

The recreational therapy bachelor’s degree program at South will prepare you for work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, long term care, schools, mental health programs, substance abuse centers, programs for returning service members, and community-based recreation programs that serve children and adults with disabilities.

Why Study Recreational Therapy?

Do you have an interest in working with people who have a disability, are recovering from a serious illness or accident, or are struggling with mental health issues? Do you have a calling that is urging you to reach out to those who are dealing with physical, social, emotional, or cognitive challenges to help them reach a better quality of life? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, employment of recreational therapists is projected to grow eight percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. A CNN Money report identifies recreation therapy among the top ten "best jobs for saving the world." In particular, they note the profession's high benefit to society and high personal job satisfaction (CNN Money Magazine).

In addition to unique opportunities for student fieldwork, you will find that recreational therapy faculty at South are student oriented and professionally involved. This award winning group of professionals share a common goal to provide students with the very best educational experience possible that prepares graduates for the workforce of tomorrow. Faculty are committed to your success, to teaching effectively, and to keeping up with trends in the profession. USA recreational therapy students learn in the classroom, through practicum experiences, and spend 14-16 weeks in a full-time internship under the supervision of a qualified professional. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the national certification exam and become credentialed to work in the field. 

Careers in Recreational Therapy

Career opportunities for certified therapeutic recreation specialists include adaptive sports specialist; camp program director/recreational therapist; assisted living activities coordinator; mental and behavioral health; morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) director; physical rehabilitation; public parks and recreation; recreational therapist; schools; skilled nursing facilities; substance abuse rehabilitation; underserved youth or adult services provider; veteran services provider; and much more. Recreational therapy is also a good bachelor’s degree for students wishing to attend graduate school in occupational therapy, physical therapy, child life, recreational therapy, and other health professions.

 

▼   Recreational Therapy Program of Study

The recreational therapy undergraduate program is designed to prepare competent entry-level recreational therapists in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains. 

A recreational therapist utilizes a wide range of activity and community based interventions and techniques to improve the physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure needs of their clients. Recreational therapists assist clients to develop skills, knowledge, and behaviors for daily living and community involvement. The therapist works with the client and their family to incorporate specific interests and community resources into therapy to achieve optimal outcomes that transfer to their real life situation.

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. These therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts; drama, music, and dance; sports and games; aquatics; and community outings to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

The Bachelor of Science degree in recreational therapy at South has a clinical focus, which means that graduates can work side-by-side with physicians and nurses; occupational, physical, and speech therapists; counseling; and other members of an individual's treatment team in any setting. The goal is to help the patient/client achieve the highest level of functioning possible so as to experience life to the fullest. Observation and applied experience is a component of several courses. USA recreational therapy students learn in the classroom, through practicum experiences, and they spend 14-16 weeks in a full-time internship under the supervision of a qualified professional. Specific requirements are in the Internship Manual available at this link. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the national certification exam and become credentialed to work in the field. 

▼   What Does a Recreational Therapist’s Career Look Like?

Recreational therapists typically do the following:

  • Assess clients needs using observation, medical records, tests, and discussions with other healthcare professionals, families, and clients
  • Develop treatment plans and programs that meet a client’s needs and interests
  • Plan and implement interventions to support the client in meeting individual goals
  • Engage clients in therapeutic activities, such as exercise, games, and community outings. For example, a recreational therapist:
    • can help a patient who is paralyzed on one side of his or her body by teaching patients to adapt activities, such as casting a fishing rod or swinging a golf club, by using his or her functional side.
    • may use activities such as kayaking or a ropes course to teach patients to stay active, build confidence, and/or to develop social skills.
    • may use pet therapy to help clients manage or improve depression or anxiety; speech and language skills; or motor skills 
    • helps people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to access community resources such as public transportation and recreational activities. 
  • Help clients learn social skills needed to become or remain independent
  • Teach clients about ways to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Document and assess the client’s progress
  • Evaluate interventions for effectiveness
▼   Who Should Apply?

If you have an interest in improving quality of life and a passion for helping people become engaged in healthy and enjoyable life activities, then recreational therapy may be your calling! 

Recreational therapy is also a good bachelor’s degree for students wishing to attend graduate school in occupational therapy, physical therapy, child life, recreational therapy, and other health professions.

▼   Related Major Skills

People oriented, motor skills, patience, ability to design and implement recreational therapy programs, creativity, flexibility, good communication skills, perseverance, motivational skills, leadership, ability to plan and lead activities.

▼   Field Experience

Prior to registering for RTH 495 students are required to complete 200 hours of fieldwork experience. Click here to document RT Field Work Experience.

▼   Program Faculty

Dr. Ellen Broach
(251) 461-1454
ebroach@southalabama.edu

Ms. Susie Montgomery, MS, CTRS
(251) 341-3856
montgomery@southalabama.edu