An Introduction to Therapeutic Recreation and Its Benefits

Posted: 7/7/2020 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare

When we think of therapy, there are probably a few forms that come to mind:
  • Occupational therapy
  • Emotional therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
Each has a powerful role in the treatment of and rehabilitation from a variety of challenges or health struggles. If you've ever gone through physical therapy after an injury or surgery, you would probably agree that some therapies can mean a lot of work!

Therapeutic recreation, also known as recreational therapy, is a unique form of therapy that produces big results through the use of activities and recreation (hence the name!). It's chosen for patients as a way to improve or maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual functioning to help them fully participate in life. 

Sounds pretty powerful, right? Let's dig a little deeper...

Why choose therapeutic recreation?

Recreation therapy is a powerful choice for individuals who struggle to engage with other forms of therapy. To start, therapeutic recreation often focuses on activities that patients ENJOY. By building therapy into activities that are fun, the success rate is much higher. 

After severe injuries, surgeries or health challenges, individuals can often feel lonely, despondent or even depressed. Integrating favorite activities into rehabilitation feels less "medical" and more "rewarding" for those who are struggling. Integrating therapeutic recreation into an overall therapy strategy that may include physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy can help improve overall success rates as well. 

Illness, injury or surgery can change how we are able to move in and interact with the world. When therapeutic recreation is successfully integrated into an overall therapy strategy, it can help individuals focus on what they CAN do, instead of what they cannot. 

Recreation therapy is often chosen to help benefit individuals with physical disabilities, seniors, those with developmental disabilities and children. Specifically, some of the most cited benefits of therapeutic recreation include:
  • Improved body image perception
  • Increased immune system activity
  • Reduced effects of social isolation
  • Developed/improved social skills
  • Reduced social anxiety, blood pressure depression, sleep disturbances
  • Increased participation in additional, appropriate activities  

What types of activities are included in therapeutic recreation?

Depending on the specific needs and abilities of patients, therapeutic recreation can include a range of activities to help improve quality of life, including:
  • Games. From board games to card games, throwing a ball and swinging a bat to games in the water, there are SO many possibilities!
  • Puzzles. Word puzzles, traditional puzzles, riddles -- puzzles are excellent for motor skills, cognitive thinking and more.
  • Art. Do you remember how much fun it was to color as a child? It is still fun, and can be a wonderful addition to a recreation therapy strategy. Painting, drawing and coloring are all excellent choices.
  • Gardening. Putting your hands in dirt and seeing beautiful flowers grow is extremely rewarding for many individuals. 
  • Music and dancing. Singing along with your favorite tunes, or even listening to music, can be extremely beneficial. And getting up to move along with your favorite music is especially beneficial -- not just for your physical health, but for your mental and emotional wellbeing. 
  • Pet therapy. Playing with, petting or even just sharing company with a trained therapy dog has been shown to have a dramatic impact.

How can I get myself or a relative started with therapeutic recreation?

Therapeutic recreation offers benefits for all ages and abilities. Here at Interim HealthCare, we structure our care around what we call HomeLife Enrichment®. By providing care with a focus on the elements of mind, body, spirit and family, we aim to treat the whole person, rather than a specific challenge. Many of the activities noted above are integrated into our home care strategies. To learn more about how Interim HealthCare can help you or your loved ones, contact the location nearest you