When someone has a permanent injury or disability, it often seems like doors begin to close and opportunities dwindle, especially in the physical realm. After all, aren’t there severe limitations? But through therapeutic recreation, people can learn to overcome even severe physical limitations, doors can begin to open again, and opportunities can become boundless.
What is therapeutic recreation?
Therapeutic recreation, also known as recreational therapy, is the process where people with physical disabilities engage in activities to improve their overall physical and mental health and functioning. These activities are overseen by a trained therapist, who often leads the program directly, so the patient knows that everything is safe and tailored toward a real recovery, and it’s more than merely a trial.
Some of the more well-known therapeutic activities are sports, drama, music, and animal caretaking, but there are so many activities than can qualify as therapeutic recreation, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all program; rather, it’s a unique program for each individual, to meet her interests and see which activities will provide the most benefits cognitively, emotionally, and physically.
Taking it to the top
While any form of therapeutic recreation is meant to help the patient in some way, some activities challenge them to accomplish the seemingly impossible. For example, rock climbing. Someone who has a physical disability may think that something as physically demanding as rock climbing is out of the question, but there are therapeutic recreation programs that offer rock climbing classes, as well as other physically challenging activities, for people with disabilities. These programs offer intense training for the patients as well as many adaptions to make it possible for these people to do the activities, so even someone with a physical disability can do pretty much anything he wants.
Who is a recreational therapist?
A recreational therapist does more than simply offer recreation for the patient. They’re trained and certified to use a therapeutic model to help patients recover both physically and psychologically. So a music therapist, for example, uses music to improve a dementia patient’s emotional well-being, and a sports therapist uses adaptive sports to improve the physical well-being of a patient with a serious physical injury. Therapist go through their own intensive training so they gain expertise in their field and how to use it toward recovery. These therapists generally work out of a program that offers different types of activities. Facilities such as Sinai Post Acute Care Center for Rehabilitation offer therapeutic recreation as part of the rehabilitative process.
Becoming the norm
The idea of therapeutic recreation has been around for decades, but the use of it has been exploding in recent years. The benefits are many:
- Improving gross motor function
- Improving fine motor skills
- Increasing sociability
- Easing anxiety and depression
- Improving the immune system, and more.
As more people get involved and see the benefits, more programs are being funded and growing. The job market is increasing, so more people are training and finding tremendous job satisfaction in the field. And as studies have shown the efficacy and cost efficiency of the model, insurance companies are offering reimbursements for the activities, making it a great benefit to our healthcare system.