How do I Become a Recreational Therapy Assistant?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois
A recreational therapist is responsible for working directly with clients to improve the clients' health through recreational activity.
A recreational therapist is responsible for working directly with clients to improve the clients' health through recreational activity.

There are four items required to become a recreational therapy assistant: completion of post-secondary education, work experience, physical health, and interpersonal skills. A recreational therapy assistant works under the supervision of a recreational therapist. He or she is responsible for interacting directly with clients to improve their health through recreational activity.

A recreational therapist assistant may choose to perform stretching exercises for some patients.
A recreational therapist assistant may choose to perform stretching exercises for some patients.

Recreational therapy is a relatively new field, developed after World War I as a method of encouraging physical movement in badly injured soldiers. The basic principle was to improve the mental outlook and the physical strength through a range of recreational activities. The techniques developed for this group have been enhanced and expanded to include seniors and people with developmental and physical disabilities.

Recreational therapy for toddlers and young children often involves toys and games.
Recreational therapy for toddlers and young children often involves toys and games.

The first step to become a recreational therapy assistant is to locate a post-secondary program at a community or career college in recreational therapy. The programs offered at the university level are more theoretical in nature, and are required to become a recreational therapist. The therapy assistant programs are typically one to two years in length and combine classroom and work experience terms.

Recreational therapy assistants may work to keep the minds of elderly patients active.
Recreational therapy assistants may work to keep the minds of elderly patients active.

In order to gain admission to this program, students should have high school credits in communication and physical health. Part of the admissions process is a personal interview. A background in physical activities provides a wealth of knowledge on different techniques that improve hand-to-eye coordination and footwork. Personal experiences facing adversity are very valuable in this type of role, as empathy is a critical factor in patient recovery.

Recreational therapy may improve coordination, which is necessary for everyday tasks such as buckling or tying shoes.
Recreational therapy may improve coordination, which is necessary for everyday tasks such as buckling or tying shoes.

When selecting a program to become a recreational therapy assistant, check the schools' links to community organizations, the types of work terms available and the level of interaction with the recreational therapist training programs. The number and quality of work terms available have a direct impact on the opportunities available to you and the types of experiences that can be added to your resume. Almost all recreational therapy assistant programs offer a dedicated work term.

Recreational therapy assistants aid in a person's physical recovery.
Recreational therapy assistants aid in a person's physical recovery.

Work placement programs provide an opportunity to gain experience under the direct supervision of a recreational therapist. Potential placement locations include senior centers, programs for the developmentally delayed, and rehabilitation centers. The work term is a great opportunity to gain both valuable experience and references.

A high degree of physical fitness is required to become a recreational therapy assistant. This job is very physically demanding. Assistants may be expected to physically move and support clients through a series of exercises designed to challenge, strengthen, and stretch the body. A positive outlook and stable mental health are also very valuable in this role.

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    • A recreational therapist is responsible for working directly with clients to improve the clients' health through recreational activity.
      By: Jaren Wicklund
      A recreational therapist is responsible for working directly with clients to improve the clients' health through recreational activity.
    • A recreational therapist assistant may choose to perform stretching exercises for some patients.
      By: goodluz
      A recreational therapist assistant may choose to perform stretching exercises for some patients.
    • Recreational therapy for toddlers and young children often involves toys and games.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Recreational therapy for toddlers and young children often involves toys and games.
    • Recreational therapy assistants may work to keep the minds of elderly patients active.
      By: Konstantin Sutyagin
      Recreational therapy assistants may work to keep the minds of elderly patients active.
    • Recreational therapy may improve coordination, which is necessary for everyday tasks such as buckling or tying shoes.
      By: Monkey Business
      Recreational therapy may improve coordination, which is necessary for everyday tasks such as buckling or tying shoes.
    • Recreational therapy assistants aid in a person's physical recovery.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Recreational therapy assistants aid in a person's physical recovery.
    • Recreational therapy assistants might offer more personalized care than other rehabilitation physicians.
      By: lunamarina
      Recreational therapy assistants might offer more personalized care than other rehabilitation physicians.