Recreational Therapist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Recreational Therapists Career Video



Plans, directs, or coordinates medically-approved recreation programs for patients in hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutions. Activities include sports, trips, dramatics, social activities, and arts and crafts. May assess a patient condition and recommend appropriate recreational activity.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Conducts therapy sessions to improve patients' mental and physical well-being.
  • Observes, analyzes, and records patients' participation, reactions, and progress during treatment sessions, modifying treatment programs as needed.
  • Plans, organizes, directs and participates in treatment programs and activities to facilitate patients' rehabilitation, help them integrate into the community and prevent further medical problems.
  • Develops treatment plan to meet needs of patient, based on needs assessment, patient interests and objectives of therapy.
  • Prepares and submits reports and charts to treatment team to reflect patients' reactions and evidence of progress or regression.
  • Obtains information from medical records, medical staff, family members and the patients themselves to assess patients' capabilities, needs and interests.
  • Counsel sand encourages patients to develop leisure activities.
  • Instructs patient in activities and techniques, such as sports, dance, music, art or relaxation techniques, designed to meet their specific physical or psychological needs.
  • Encourages clients with special needs and circumstances to acquire new skills and get involved in health-promoting leisure activities, such as sports, games, arts and crafts, and gardening.
  • Confers with members of treatment team to plan and evaluate therapy programs.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Related Careers


Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Exposed to hazardous situations involving possible injury such as cuts, bites, stings, and minor burns more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Activity Therapist -- Plans, organizes and carries out habilitation, rehabilitation, or socialization activities with individuals.
  • Adventure Therapist -- Blends and combines adventure experiences with psychotherapy in order to help patients learn something about themselves that will help them in their recovery.
  • Drama Therapist -- Combines techniques from the dramatic arts with psychotherapy to help clients achieve therapeutic goals.
  • Therapeutic Riding Instructor -- Helps people develop or regain mental, emotional and physical skills while experiencing the thrill of riding a horse.