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International Recreation Therapy Month

February 21, 2017 by Shannon Russell


It is the month of February and that means that it is International Recreation Therapy Month. Bradford Woods offers many different opportunities for children, families, and veterans to experience the many benefits of Recreation Therapy. However, if you happen to mention Recreation Therapy to a friend, family member, or colleague you may get the question “What is Recreation Therapy?” Before anyone can truly understand the purpose and value of this field they need to know its roots and how it came to be.

In 1889 the Hull House was co-founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Starr. It offered community services and recreation to those who could not afford, or did not have access to, typical means of recreation. In 1917 during World War I the Red Cross initiated recreational services to veterans in the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. After seeing the success of this service it quickly spread to other military and civilian hospitals in the United States. Recreation Therapy became more evident as a needed process in rehabilitation, especially after veterans would return from war in World War II as well as Vietnam. These veterans would go through a physical healing process, but their social, emotional, and cognitive needs were often neglected for true rehabilitation. Recreation Therapy was able to offer interventions to meet these veterans’ needs and improve quality of life.

The common theme in these recreation services is the demand for a well-rounded care system that included Recreation Therapy as a vital part of recovery, rehabilitation, and lifestyle. Since 1889 the field itself has grown to address a majority of issues that haven’t been included in the traditional health care system. Recreation Therapy provides treatment to address areas of improvement such as community integration, coping mechanisms, communication skills, emotional well-being, leisure education, leisure awareness, motor functioning, social/self-awareness and quality of life. Recreation Therapy can be done in a range of environments using a variety of interventions to address these issues. It can be practiced in hospitals, rehabilitation programs, long term care, day programs, mental health centers, parks and recreation, camps, and children’s treatment centers. The interventions utilized by Recreation Therapists include but are not limited to adapted games, sports, ground based initiatives, tai-chi, arts and crafts, outdoor adapted recreation and aromatherapy. Today in order to practice Recreation Therapy someone must become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) by going through the accreditation process with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Some states require licensure in addition to becoming certified.

Bradford Woods offers many different options for groups of people to experience the many outcomes of Recreation Therapy. Our RT Department is best known for its summer camps where we work with children and adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Bradford Woods has been host to Camp Riley which offers a traditional camping experience for children with disabilities for over 60 years! We also offer camps for children with craniofacial anomalies, Down syndrome, autism, sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders, and children with cancer or in remission from cancer. We work alongside many partner groups such as Riley Children’s Foundation, Little Red Door Cancer Agency, Easter Seals of Indianapolis, MDA, Champ Camp, Camp PossAbility and many more! The Recreation Therapy department also works closely with our Military & Family Programming Department which facilitates programs like Family Battle Buddies and Project Odyssey which serves our military and veteran families through Wounded Warrior Project and Indiana Veteran Affairs.

Bradford Woods will continue its commitment to being an advocate of Recreation Therapy. We plan to carry on our mission of improving quality of life for people of all abilities and backgrounds. We would like to thank all of our BW Recreation Therapists for their dedication to Bradford Woods and its vision, as well as all Recreation Therapists for their commitment to the field. Happy Recreation Therapy Month!
Manfield, Jeffery A., and Charles Dixon. “Therapeutic Recreation Timeline.” Therapeutic Recreation Timeline. Computer Internet Services Inc., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
“World War I and the American Red Cross.” American Red Cross. The American National Red Cross, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

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