The duties of a recreation specialist vary depending on their employment setting. They are most often found in places where people live for extended terms, like assisted living facilities and prisons. Their job is to provide activities that improve the state of life and mental health for the people in their care.
The activities that a recreation specialist plan vary depending on the type of setting in which they are working. Any recreation specialist needs to evaluate their clients' physical and mental abilities, and plan activities around those unique abilities. Sometimes this involves meeting with family or other caretakers to determine the most appealing leisure activities for those individuals. Activities are generally group ones with individual attention given as needed. Recreation specialists found in a clinical setting like a hospital or mental health facility are often required to have a background in therapy or psychology.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are one of the most common places to find a recreation specialist. The specialist plans activities like arts and crafts, music sessions and special guests for the entertainment of the patients. Sometimes they organize field trips to local places of interest, and many have monthly or weekly restaurant trips.
In prison settings, a recreation specialist has some of the same duties, but with more emphasis on physical fitness and appropriate activities for this type of environment. Activities like organizing sporting games and booking concerts are more likely to be part of a recreational specialist's duties in a prison. The goal is to promote physical activity while improving the mental health of inmates. Outdoor activities are often stressed since inmates spend such a large portion of their time in small places indoors.
A therapeutic recreation specialist is a similar position that works with the mentally or physically ill to develop healthy ways to spend their leisure time. Group activities like outings, art or sports are usually encouraged. The concept behind this is that the mind and body are connected, and can influence each other's well being. Healthy social interaction with physical activity and use of mental functions can improve overall health.
The job prospects for recreation specialists look promising. Health care in general is a field that has consistent growth, and those with proper education, experience and enthusiasm are in consistent demand. The salary for this type of work is generally modest, but stable.