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What is a Recreational Therapist?

What is a Recreational Therapist?

Recreational Therapy (RT) is a health and human service profession that uses activity-based interventions as a part of the systematic RT process that targets specific evidence-based outcomes. Recreational therapists use individual and group counseling techniques that are implemented through prescribed play, recreation, experiential activity and psycho education processes to improve the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual functioning and well-being of individuals with injury, illness and/or disability to enable a greater quality of life.

A Recreational Therapist, assists clients/participants in developing knowledge, skills, and behaviors to improve functioning for greater health and community engagement. The therapist also works with the individual and his/her support systems to develop specific leisure skills and the necessary resources to promote overall well-being and life satisfaction.

Qualified professionals must have both academic and applied training in recreational therapy. In the State of Utah, to practice as a recreational therapist one must be licensed by the Department of Professional and Occupational Licensing (DOPL). National certification by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) is also required for most positions in Utah and across the United States and Canada. Our program is proud to have a 97.5% pass rate for first-time test takers on the NCTRC certification examination.


The Recreational Therapy curriculum is sequenced to address all requirements of the NCTRC Job Analysis and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association’s (ATRA) curriculum guidelines. Students will develop a wide variety of clinical skills necessary for the recreational therapist such as: assessment, treatment planning, problem-solving, behavior analysis, appropriate intervention implementation, and evaluation. Students acquire both theoretical and practical experiences and have an understanding of consumer health needs within community-based programs as well as treatment-based services. The University of Utah RT coursework prepares the student to take the NCTRC examination to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). Graduates of the U of U have consistently scored higher than the national average on this certification exam.

What you will need

  • Effective communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Stress management skills
  • Be able to:
    • Think independently
    • Manage time
  • Receive and implement constructive feedback and be self-motivated with a commitment to learning

"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded."
Maya Angelou