Recreational Therapy - Central Texas Veterans Health Care System
Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

Central Texas Veterans Health Care System

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My HealtheVet badge
EBenefits Badge

Recreational Therapy

What do Recreational Therapists do?

A recreational therapist utilizes a wide range of activity and community based interventions and techniques to improve the physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure needs of their clients. Recreational therapists assist clients to develop skills, knowledge, and behaviors for daily living and community involvement. The therapist works with the client and their family to incorporate specific interests and community resources into therapy to achieve optimal outcomes that transfer to their real life situation.

What are the benefits of recreational therapy services?

Research indicates that recreational therapy services, provided by qualified professionals, offer a diversity of rehabilitation benefits addressing the needs of individuals with a range of disabling conditions. A recent conference, sponsored by Temple University and funded through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), evaluated the efficacy of therapeutic recreation services as a treatment modality on rehabilitation outcomes. Research has demonstrated the value of recreational therapy services for individuals with a range of diagnoses.

Recreational therapy is a component of comprehensive rehabilitation. Such comprehensive rehabilitation services have proven to be cost-effective. A survey conducted by the Health Insurance Association of America indicated a savings of $11 for every $1 spent on rehabilitation. In addition, other studies have indicated that quality comprehensive rehabilitation services reduce long-term hospitalization and nursing home stays for stroke patients and thus save the American economy $17,000 per year per patient. Recreational therapy services play a significant role in comprehensive efficient healthcare systems.

Recreational therapy services are an effective means for improving the functioning, independence, and quality of life of persons with illness or disability. The provision of recreational therapy services, in concert with related disciplines such as occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy, offer the client or patient comprehensive rehabilitation services. The proper mix of services and the therapist-client relationship proves to be of maximum benefit to the consumer.

Well managed and cost effective services are an investment in human potential. Recreational therapy services utilize both individual and small group intervention strategies; therefore, staff/patient ratios are cost-effective.  More patient treatment hours per therapist can be generated through the use of such small group interventions. Furthermore, recreational therapy services for older Americans are equally cost-effective. Recreational therapists play a significant role in assisting older adults to maintain current skills and re-establish previous levels of functioning in the least restrictive environment possible. Recreational therapists work in concert with and provide complement to other treatment modalities.

Recreational therapy plays a primary role in enhancing the quality of life and productivity of the consumer. Enjoyable activities and social relations are significant in promoting the quality of life and productivity of the individual with a disability. Recreational therapists offer individuals with disabilities the opportunity to resume normal life activities and to establish/re-establish skills for successful social integration. In addition, the therapist will employ treatment modalities which promote physical skill development, enhance feelings of well-being, foster successful experiences, facilitate continued involvement in the rehabilitation process, and establish new life activities for continued growth.

Why is Recreational Therapy important for your clients?

Research supports the concept that people with active, satisfying lifestyles will be happier and healthier. Recreational therapy provides services which are based on the individuals' interests and lifestyle, which allows them to better engage in therapy and apply these functional improvements to all areas of their life. Ultimately, it allows them to generalize their therapeutic outcomes to their life after the healthcare team is no longer involved resulting in greater health maintenance over time. Recreational therapy aims to improve an individual's functioning and keep them as active, healthy and independent as possible in their chosen life pursuits.

How are Recreational Therapy services different from other therapies?

Recreational therapy embraces a definition of "health" which includes not only the absence of "illness", but extends to enhancement of physical, cognitive, emotional, social and leisure development so individuals may participate fully and independently in chosen life pursuits. The unique feature of recreational therapy that makes it different from other therapies is the use of recreational modalities in the designed intervention strategies.

Recreational therapy is extremely individualized to each person by his or her past, present and future interests and lifestyle. The recreational therapist has a unique perspective regarding the social, cognitive, physical, and leisure needs of the patient. Incorporating client's interests, and the client's family and/or community makes the therapy process meaningful and relevant. Recreational therapists weave the concept of healthy living into treatment to ensure not only improved functioning, but also to enhance independence and successful involvement in all aspects of life. Recreational therapy staff functions as a member of the core rehabilitation treatment team.

Recreational therapy is listed as one of the physical rehabilitation services in the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) standards. Recreational therapists are standard treatment team members in psychiatric rehabilitation, substance abuse treatment, and physical rehabilitation services. In addition, recreational therapists are designated as members of the comprehensive core treatment team in the acute brain injury, the post-acute brain injury, and the inpatient rehabilitation standards of the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Since the 1940's, recreational therapists have served as active members of the interdisciplinary treatment team addressing the psychosocial and physical rehabilitation needs of the consumer. Recreational therapy will certainly have an active role in a managed care and managed competition system with emphasis on providing opportunities for meeting rehabilitation goals, accessing life skills and opportunities, and providing quality services in the most cost-efficient manner. These functions must be, performed on an on-going basis in concert with other allied health fields such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy and audiology. Although some overlap occurs between all disciplines in area such as activities of daily living, ocational and avocational adjustment, and application of motor performance skills in the natural environment, the disciplines mutually complement each other in the rehabilitation environment. For instance, each discipline may work on the development of physical skills and activities of daily living.

Much of the responsibility for community adjustment and integration efforts in the rehabilitation setting, however, has become the charge of the recreational therapist. In addition, recreational therapists assist the consumer in developing or re-developing social skills, discretionary time skills, decision making skills, coping abilities, self-advocacy, discharge planning for re-integration, and skills to enhance general quality of life. As with each allied health discipline, treatment goals are based upon individual needs. The ability to meet the physical and psychosocial needs of the person affected by a disability is critical to the pursuit of independent productivity in vocational and avocational endeavors.

Contact Info


  • Temple, Building 163, Room BB120
    Waco 4800 Memorial Drive, Waco, TX 76711
    Austin 7901 Metropolis Dr, Austin, TX 78744

Contact Number(s)

  • 254-743-2632

Hours of Operation

  • M-F, 8:00a - 4:30p