Is becoming a recreational therapist right for me?

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What do recreational therapists do?
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What are recreational therapists like?

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How to become a Recreational Therapist

Becoming a recreational therapist involves several steps, including completing the necessary education, gaining clinical experience, and obtaining licensure or certification. Here's an overview of the typical path to becoming a recreational therapist:

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: Start by obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Recreational Therapy, Therapeutic Recreation, or a related field accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). This undergraduate program provides foundational knowledge in recreational therapy principles, human anatomy and physiology, psychology, and therapeutic interventions.
  • Gain Clinical Experience: Many recreational therapy programs require students to complete supervised clinical internships or fieldwork experiences to gain hands-on experience working with clients in diverse settings. These internships provide valuable opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings, develop clinical skills, and work under the supervision of experienced recreational therapists.
  • Obtain a Master's Degree (Optional): While a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry-level positions in recreational therapy, some individuals may choose to pursue a Master's Degree in Recreational Therapy or a related field to enhance their knowledge, skills, and career opportunities. A master's degree may be particularly beneficial for individuals interested in advanced practice roles, research, teaching, or leadership positions.
  • Obtain Certification: After completing the required education and clinical experience, aspiring recreational therapists can pursue certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). The Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential demonstrates competence in the field and may be required for licensure in some states (see below).
  • Obtain State Licensure (Optional): While licensure requirements for recreational therapists vary by state, some states may require individuals to obtain a state license to practice professionally. Licensure requirements typically include completing an accredited educational program, gaining supervised clinical experience, and passing a licensure examination.

In the field of recreational therapy, certification is typically obtained through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). The primary certification offered by NCTRC is the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. This certification demonstrates that an individual has met the educational, clinical experience, and examination requirements necessary to practice as a recreational therapist.

To obtain the CTRS credential, individuals must meet the following requirements:

  • Education: Completion of a bachelor's degree from an accredited recreational therapy program or a related field that includes specific coursework in recreational therapy.
  • Clinical Experience: Completion of a supervised internship or fieldwork experience, typically totaling at least 480 hours, under the supervision of a qualified recreational therapist.
  • Passing the Certification Examination: Successful completion of the NCTRC certification examination, which assesses knowledge and competency in the field of recreational therapy.

Additionally, some specialized certifications or advanced credentials may be available for recreational therapists who wish to demonstrate expertise in specific areas of practice, such as pediatric recreational therapy, behavioral health, geriatrics, or aquatic therapy. These certifications may require additional education, training, clinical experience, and examination beyond the basic CTRS credential.

It's important for recreational therapists to maintain their certification by meeting ongoing continuing education requirements, which typically involve completing a certain number of continuing education units (CEUs) or participating in professional development activities to stay current with advancements in the field and maintain competency in practice.