The Scoop on Recreational Therapists
Recreational Therapy sounds like a lot more fun than some other jobs in the medical profession...it is!
What in the World Does a Recreational Therapist Do?
Recreational therapy is just that - recreation. If you're working as a recreational therapist then you'll be working with patients who have short-term and chronic illnesses who need a little "pick me up" in their treatment. Arts, crafts, music and dance are all tools of the Recreational Therapist who is trying to improve the overall well-being of a patient by using fun stuff to help them improve their condition.
Imagine working in a nursing home with patients who have broken hips or who don't move around too well. You could teach them dance, music and/or art to help improve not only their mental well-being but you could also be helping them to keep up with their fine motor skills and even their brain function. If you were working in a regular hospital you might be working with all sorts of patients, from adults to children, who are sick and need to work on their brain function and motor skills, but who also need to have some fun.
This sort of work requires a tough mind because you are trying to have as much fun as you can while at the same time working with people who might be very sick.
What Kind of Training Do I Need (A.K.A - Will I need to go to School?)
In order to get a job like this you have a couple options. You could get a Bachelor's Degree in Recreation (with an emphasis in Recreational Therapy) or you could actually get a Bachelor's Degree in Therapeutic Recreation. That's one of those small differences in wording that is only semantics...they're basically the same education. Now, the deal is that you have to finish a 4 year program, but not all states regulate your job. So, depending on where you live you may or may not need to get a license from the State Board and you may or may not have to pass the written exams, etc. It just depends on your State's rules.
Now, just because you don't need a license everywhere doesn't mean there aren't certification-type things you can do. Most employers will want to hire a "certified" therapist. This usually means getting certified through the National Council of Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Take their exam, go through their simple course and you're good to go. Remember this isn't required, but most people want the most "highly-qualified" people and this kind of certification makes you "highly-qualified".
How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?
Most therapists are working at hospitals or health clinics where they have the highest concentration of patients. However, this work also may include traveling outside the "brick and mortar" to playgrounds or parks to work with certain patients. Though this seems like the most obvious way to do this job, you could also take a unique route to working as a Recreational Therapist.
In certain school systems your services may be needed to aid P.E. or Art teachers with certain kids who are struggling or you may be able to work at the school system office helping to design the best ways for these kids to get the best care possible. You won't just be stuck at a hospital at a desk. This job requires you to move around and about.
Advancement in this career usually means getting into administration. You may end up managing other therapists or being "Director of Therapeutic Services" for a hospital or health clinic. Still other folks who want to get ahead may teach therapy or work in research with doctors and other professionals who are trying to find the newest ways to help patients get better.