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New York Health Careers

Recreational Therapists

What Do Recreational Therapists Do?

Recreation therapists (also known as therapeutic recreation specialists) provide treatment services and recreation activities to individuals with disabilities or illnesses. Recreational therapists use a variety of techniques, including arts and crafts, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music, activities with animals, and community outings to aid the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their clients. Recreational therapists’ efforts help individuals reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively so that they can enjoy greater independence and reduce the effects of their illness or disability. In addition, therapists help people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to use their neighborhood resources and recreational activities.

In acute care settings, recreational therapists treat and rehabilitate individuals with specific health conditions, usually in collaboration with physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists.

Recreational therapists assess clients using information from their medical staff and from their families, as well as observations, medical records, standardized assessments, and the clients themselves. They then develop and carry out therapeutic interventions consistent with clients’ needs and interests.

Finally, recreational therapists must be comfortable working with people who are ill or disabled. They must be patient, tactful, and persuasive when working with people who have a variety of special needs. Ingenuity, compassion, leadership skills, a sense of humor, and imagination are needed to adapt activities to an individual’s needs.

For more information, go to: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm.

Where Do Recreational Therapists Work?

The largest employer of recreational therapists is nursing care facilities. Recreational therapists also work at hospitals, residential care facilities, and state and local government agencies. Many work for more than one employer and some are self-employed. Most recreational therapists work full time and some recreational therapists work evenings and weekends to meet the needs of their clients.

What Do Recreational Therapists Earn?

In 2022, the average annual income reported by Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for recreational therapists in the United States was $56,310. The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) reports that, in 2023, recreational therapists in New York earned a median annual salary of $63,832 (recreational therapists in the 25th percentile made approximately $47,457 while those in the 75th percentile made approximately $74,733).

Supply and Demand

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for recreational therapists in the U.S. will increase by 4% between 2021 and 2031. The New York State Department of Labor projects that the number of jobs for  in the state will increase by 17% between 2020 and 2030.

Growing demand will likely result as the number of older adults in the U.S. continues to grow. This generation will need recreational therapists to help treat age-related injuries and illnesses, such as strokes, as well as to help maintain or improve age-related declines in physical and mental abilities.

For more information on the supply and demand for recreational therapists by New York State labor regions, 2018-2028, click here.

New York Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation is the usual educational requirement for recreational therapists. Programs in recreational therapy include courses in physiology, abnormal psychology, human anatomy, medical and psychiatric terminology, characteristic of illnesses and disabilities, treatment and program planning, intervention design, evaluation, and the use of assistive devices and technology.

New York Licensure Requirements

New York does not require recreational therapists to be licensed, however most employers prefer to hire those who have been certified. Individuals wishing to demonstrate proficiency in their occupation may receive certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification: www.nctrc.org. The NCTRC offers the certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS) credential to candidates who pass a written certification exam and complete a supervised internship of at least 480 hours.

Financial Support

Students seeking an education in recreational therapy should check with their college’s financial aid office for available scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Students can also apply for financial aid through a number of state and federal aid programs. More information is available at: www.highered.nysed.gov/NYLearns/finances.htm.

Education Programs in New York

Bronx Community College-CUNY
2155 University Ave
Bronx, NY 10453
(718) 289-5119
Lehman College
Department of Health Sciences
250 Bedford Park Blvd. West
Bronx, NY 10468
(718) 960-8000
Kingsborough Community College
City University of New York

2001 Oriental Blvd
Brooklyn, NY 11235
(718) 368-5831
St. Thomas Aquinas College
125 Route 340
Sparkill, NY 10976
(845) 398-4100
St. Joseph’s College
Brooklyn Campus
245 Clinton Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 940-5300
Long Island Campus
155 West Roe Blvd.
Patchogue, NY 11772
(631) 687-5100
The College at Brockport
Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies
350 New Campus Drive
Brockport, NY 14420
(585) 395-2994
SUNY Cortland
21 Graham Ave
Cortland, NY 13045
(607) 753-4941
Utica College
1600 Burrstone Road
Utica, NY 13502-4892
(315) 223-2576
LaGuardia Community College-CUNY
31-10 Thomson Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 482-7200

Additional Web Links

For more information about recreational therapists, go to the Web sites for

the New York State Therapeutic Recreation Association: http://www.nystra.org/

the American Therapeutic Recreation Association: http://www.atra-online.com;

and the National Therapeutic Recreation Society: http://www.nrpa.org.
(The National Therapeutic Recreation Society, is a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association)

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