What is Recreational Therapy?

Who delivers Recreational Therapy?

Where are recreational therapy services delivered?

Are Recreational Therapists reimbursable under the current healthcare system?

How large is the profession?

How does RT compare to activity therapists/workers, physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy?

What are some of the career opportunities in Recreational Therapy?

What is Recreational Therapy?  (back)
Recreational Therapy, also referred to as therapeutic recreation, is defined by the United States Department of Labor as a profession of specialists who utilize activities as a form of treatment for persons who are physically, mentally or emotionally disabled (Paraphrased, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1991). Differing from diversional or recreational services, recreational therapy utilizes various activities as a form of "active treatment" to promote the independent physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning of person's with disabilities resulting from trauma or disease, by enhancing current skills and facilitating the establishment of new skills for daily living and community functioning.

Who delivers Recreational Therapy? (back)
Recreational therapy treatment services are delivered by qualified professionals with training and education in recreational therapy service delivery and professionally certified by the National Council of Therapeutic Recreation certification (NCTRC). The professional certification designation is Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). The credential requires a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher education in the area of therapeutic recreation (recreational therapy), an approved internship under the supervision of a professionally credentialed CTRS, and the passing of a national certification examination administered for NCTRC by the Educational Testing Service. (ETS).

Where are recreational therapy services delivered? (back)
Recreational therapy services are delivered in a variety of setting depending on the needs of the consumer. Settings in which services are traditionally delivered include freestanding rehabilitation hospitals, rehabilitation units in general hospitals, long-term care or skilled nursing facilities, comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facilities, inpatient and outpatient mental health/psychiatric facilities, substance abuse rehabilitation facilities, home healthcare services, special recreation associations and residential facilities for persons with disabilities.

Are Recreational Therapists reimbursable under the current healthcare system? (back)
Recreational therapy services are reimbursed in the rehabilitation hospital setting under Medicare Part A. Medicare Part B covered Recreational therapy services in some circumstances such as Psychiatric partial Hospitalization. Medicaid reimbursement for Recreational therapy services is provided on a state to state basis. In some states recreational therapy services are covered both for inpatient and outpatient services.

How large is the profession? (back)
Recreational therapy represents over 39,000 positions in the United States in a variety of settings.

How does RT compare to activity therapists/workers, physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy? (back)
Recreational therapy services are an effective means of improving the functioning, independence and quality of life of persons with illness or disability. Recreational therapy specializes in utilizing activities in a prescriptive manner in order to attain the desired physical, cognitive or emotional outcome prescribed by the patient's physician an treatment team. Recreational therapists often treat patients in conjunction with other skilled rehabilitation modalities such as physical, occupational and speech therapy. Each discipline may have some goals in common and some unique to their discipline depending on the needs of the patient.

What are some of the career opportunities in Recreational Therapy?(back)
The majority of Therapeutic Recreation Specialists work as treatment team members in clinical settings. Hospitals and rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals, state institutions and long term care facilities have been stable employers of Therapeutic Recreation Specialists. RT positions are also available in the community within parks and recreation departments, independent living centers, and community reintegration programs.

North Carolina is highly supportive of Recreational Therapy with two very active professional organizations. There are over 650 nationally certified RT personnel in the state and over 600 who are certified through the North Carolina Therapeutic Recreation Certification Board. Locally, Greenville, the University, and its Medical School offer an excellent environment for health related experiences. Agencies providing RT experiences for students include a level one trauma hospital/rehabilitation center, substance abuse treatment center, community parks and recreation department, nursing homes, and state institutions for persons with developmental disabilities and psychiatric impairments.

The Career Center
701 East Fifth Street
Greenville, NC 27858-2402

Dr. David Loy LRT/CTRS
Carol G. Belk Building, Room 2405
Curry Court
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
(252) 328-2718


RCLS educates tomorrow's leaders in recreation, parks, tourism, and recreational therapy as well as provides scholarship and leadership to the region, state, and nation.


To be the model professional education and training program of the nation through scholarship, innovation, technical assistance, and outreach thereby helping learners to develop the necessary competencies, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking to lead the professions in the coming decades.


RCLS holds the following core values, which serve as the foundation for where we place our priorities in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service.