Recreational therapy

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Rediscovering Your Capacity for Play

What do a musical instrument, a gardener’s shovel and an artist’s paintbrush have in common?  They are among the many tools used in therapeutic recreation services to improve health and well-being, thought processes, general functioning, and to help regain greater independence.


Recreational therapy is a type of therapy that helps you engage in areas of life that bring you pleasure through favorite activities such as arts and crafts, drama, humor, nature and gardening, music and dance or interacting with animals. Your recreational therapist may utilize leisure pursuits that were formerly of comfort to you as well as provide assistance in discovering new recreational pastimes.


About Health Insurance Coverage

Recreational therapy is usually conducted in a hospital or rehabilitation facility, where it is part of an overall package of services. Health insurance does not usually cover recreational therapy when it is a separate outpatient service. You may also find recreational therapists through the special recreation departments of some park districts.  Medicare does not cover outpatient recreational therapy but Medicaid may cover it in certain states.


Working with Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapy embraces a definition of “health” that goes far beyond the absence of illness. Your trained recreational therapist will assess your physical, social, communicative, emotional, cognitive and in some cases, even spiritual needs.  Your therapist, often in consultation with physical and occupational therapists or other staff at your hospital or rehabilitation facility, will devise an individualized treatment plan that is linked to your abilities, desires and interests.


Recreational therapists work with both large and small groups as well as one-on-one. The therapist you select may come to your bedside, supervise activities for you in a hospital common room, oversee light sports at a gym or take you on an outing. You will be given structured goals to improve physical, cognitive or emotional functions. Your therapist may also involve your family and friends in a joint project with you, such as storytelling, building a project or creating an original skit.


Recreational therapy may incorporate goals similar to a physical therapist’s work. For example, if you have a right-side paralysis, your recreational therapist may teach you how to use your left arm to throw a ball or swing a racket. Or you may learn relaxation exercises to reduce stress and tension. Depending on your goals, recreational therapy may help you to re-gain abilities, or you may find a completely new task that you very much enjoy.