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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. 


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. 

Recreational Therapy Undergraduate Program Outcomes

  1. To prepare competent, entry-level recreational therapists in the cognitive(knowledge), psychomotor (skills) and affective (behavior) learning domains.
  2. Students will meet entry-level clinical job task skills as identified on the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRCTM) Job Analysis.
  3. Students will assume an advocacy role for individuals with disabilities, injuries, illnesses, and underrepresented populations.
  4. Students will understand and assume the role of an active member and advocate for the profession.
  5. Students will demonstrate understanding of the requirements for gaining professional credentialing (Utah State Licensing and national certification by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)).

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


The University of Utah RT coursework prepares the student to take the NCTRC examination to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and obtain Utah state licensure. However, we cannot guarantee students will be eligible for the NCTRC exam and Utah state licensure. The most recent report from NCTRC (2022) indicates graduates of the U of U perform strongly on this exam (100% pass rate) and exceed the national average (84.5% pass rate) on this certification exam.


The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, upon the recommendation of the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education (CARTE), verifies that the following program

Recreational Therapy
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT

is judged to be in compliance with the nationally established standards and awarded Initial accreditation on September 17, 2021.

The Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education (CARTE), an organization created to develop minimal quality standards for accrediting university education programs in the field, was established in 2010 and is sponsored by ATRA.  CARTE is an approved accreditation program under the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

CAAHEP Location

9355 - 113th St N, #7709
Seminole, FL 33775-7709

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

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