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Getting Back on Your Feet with Recreational Therapy

Meghana Giridhar - February 16, 2016 11:01 AM

February is Recreational Therapy Month. eCareDiary interviewed Karena Wu, owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York, New York. Karena is a physical therapist and is a graduate from Columbia University's Program in Physical Therapy. She has been in private practice for over 15 years with a specialization in sports/orthopedics, manual therapy, kinesiology taping and Pilates-based rehabilitation. She is also Director of Education for SpiderTech Kinesiology Tape. Her practice philosophy  is based on a holistic approach that looks at the whole person, and not just the injured body part.

1. Is recreational therapy and therapeutic recreation the same practice?

Therapeutic recreation is the field and recreational therapy is the practice.  The recreational therapist is the practitioner.

2. Can you give us an overview of what recreational therapists do?

RTs treat clients by restoring and rehabilitating a client's level of independence and functioning in activities of life and participation in life activities. Their treatment encompasses motor, social, emotional and cognitive function and leisure needs in order for the client to transfer skills learned in treatment settings out into the real world or community.

3. What kinds of clients do they serve?

RTs can treat all clients from pediatrics to geriatrics. They work with individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health issues, addictions and those under physical medicine and rehabilitation and general medicine.

4. How can recreational therapists help seniors in particular?

RTs can facilitate the transition back into the community once inpatient or outpatient services have ceased. Seniors might not be accustomed to exercise prescription and might not correlate the relationship between sets of exercises to a functional task. They might also not realize the social, emotional impact of an injury and return to the community. RTs can help by educating and working with the client to get them back into activities of daily living and facilitating performance and integration back in the community.

5. What qualifications should a recreational therapist possess?

A RT has a minimum of a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited university and is nationally certified through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Qualified RTs are then known as Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) and are referred to as Recreational Therapists. Credentialing is maintained every 5 years through the NCTRC.

6. What kinds of settings do they typically work in?

RTs are employed in multiple settings with an increase in the private practice setting. RTs can be employed by health care agencies. They work in traditional inpatient hospitals and health care facilities. More are being hired directly into residential facilities, substance abuse or mental health care facilities, adult day care, hospice care, community centers and in school systems.

7. What tips do you have for seniors who might be just starting this kind of therapy?

Understand that RTs are part of the standard treatment in rehabilitation services. A physician or other healthcare professional responsible for the client's care will make the referral for RT/TR. The CTRS will perform a full evaluation for the client's needs. All types of therapy have overlap into psychosocial/emotional realms but RT will address these areas further as they work on life activities, participation restrictions, community integration and recreational and leisure activities. Be as open as possible as it will facilitate therapeutic progress and promote better physical health, psychosocial status, cognitive status and improvement in life, recreational and community activities. The emphasis being on overall health and wellness.

8. Can you recommend resources that can provide additional information?

American Therapeutic Rehabilitation Association

National Council for Therapeutic Recreational Certification

Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Manager and is part of eCareDiary's founding team. In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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