Therapeutic Recreation: Promoting Health Through Recreation


Recreation is an integral component of everyone’s lifestyle.

Its benefits are constant: intrinsic pleasure, a sense of tranquility, and most importantly, distance from stress and depression.

Recreation Therapists (RTs) are allied healthcare members working in traditional and non-traditional healthcare environments.

“Recreation Therapists can work in correctional facilities and aboard a cruise, like the Disney Cruise, too,” explains Samira Alam.

Samira completed the Therapeutic Recreation program at Georgian College. “RTs use recreational activities to improve and enhance multiple areas (including physical, social and emotional aspects) of a patient’s lifestyle. We adapt and modify their recreational interests, using their leisure activities towards their own therapy. This helps them feel less lost or disconnected,” she explains.

‘Paid to play’

An alumnus of the Bachelors of Life Science program from the University of Toronto-Scarborough, Samira always wanted to work in healthcare.

She came across the RT program slogan ‘get paid to play’ and the mantra was super-glued in her memory. “Initially, I wanted to pursue speech pathology. However, my volunteer session with a speech pathologist did not go too well,” she explains. “I did get second opinions from friends and researched the Therapeutic Recreation program before pursuing it,” she adds.

Work environment

A Recreation Therapist’s role differs based on where they work. “Based on your patient population, there are various assessment tools available to learn your client’s needs,” says Samira.

As part of her program, Samira completed an internship with a long-term care facility which had round-the-clock support for its patients.

“The patients had cognitive (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s) and physical concerns. When patients arrived, I did an initial assessment.  I observed their behaviours, aptitudes, and preferences to develop their individual Care Plan. This was followed up with quarterly and annual assessments. I also made a monthly recreation calendar which followed the Care Plans closely. Activities could involve hand-eye coordination or low-impact arm and leg movement,” she explains.

Is this right for me?

“Be comfortable working with the patient population that needs extra care. In Toronto, you can volunteer at places like Bloorview Kids Rehab, Toronto Rehab, Sunnybrook, or CAMH to see the patient diversity,” Samira explains. Other traits include outstanding interpersonal and communication skills and creativity (to match a program to individual needs).


As of 2009, the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation supported the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) as the approved certification for the profession. It is currently a voluntary certification. Moving forward, employers may mandate that Recreation Therapists be certified. Keep abreast of changes for RTs in Ontario.

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