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Diverse health conditions are prevalent in the United States. For instance, mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, are increasingly recognized as significant concerns needing attention and support. 

Moreover, obesity rates continue to climb, contributing to a host of related health problems such as heart disease and joint issues. 

Likewise, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) confirms that almost half of the adults in the United States, that is, (47%) suffer from severe conditions like hypertension, with a significant number of cases going undiagnosed or inadequately managed. 

Plus, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in 2019, approximately 7.1% of adults in the United States encountered at least one significant depressive episode. 

Addressing these health challenges requires multifaceted approaches, including recreation therapy. Read on to learn more about recreation therapy activities. 

Recreation Therapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes recreational activities to address the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social needs of individuals with disabilities, illnesses, or other conditions. 

In fact, according to recent findings by the National Center for Health Statistics, participation in recreational therapy activities has shown a 30% impressive decrease in symptoms of hypertension and depression. 

Therefore, recreation therapists work with individuals across diverse settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, long-term care facilities, community centers, and schools. 

They assess the individual’s needs, interests, and abilities and develop customized treatment plans incorporating recreational activities called Recreation Therapy Activities. 

Did you know that the BetterHelp platform has licensed and professional recreation therapists available to provide support? 

Whether through outdoor adventures, artistic endeavors, or other recreational pursuits, these therapists can tailor activities to suit individual needs and preferences. 

Types of Recreation Therapy


1. Physical Recreation Therapy:

Physical recreation therapy aims to improve or maintain an individual’s physical abilities and overall fitness. 

These activities may include adapted sports, aquatic exercises, strength training, and outdoor pursuits like hiking or kayaking. 

The primary goals are to enhance mobility, flexibility, strength, endurance, and coordination. 

Physical recreation therapy is often used in rehabilitation settings for individuals recovering from injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions.

2. Cognitive Recreation Therapy: 

Cognitive recreation therapy stimulates and improves cognitive functions such as memory, attention, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. 

Activities like puzzles, board games, trivia, and brain teasers challenge and engage the mind. 

Such therapy proves advantageous for individuals facing cognitive impairments, such as those with dementia, traumatic brain injuries, or intellectual disabilities, aiding in the preservation and augmentation of their mental capacities.

2. Social Recreation Therapy:

Social recreation therapy emphasizes developing and strengthening social skills, interpersonal relationships, and community integration. 

Group activities like team sports, drama, dance, and music ensembles promote communication, cooperation, and social interaction. 

This therapy is precious for individuals grappling with mental health conditions, autism spectrum disorders, or challenges related to social isolation or confidence in social settings.

3. Emotional or Behavioral Recreation Therapy:

Emotional/behavioral recreation therapy utilizes recreational activities to address emotional and behavioral challenges. 

Activities like art therapy, expressive writing, and adventure-based counseling provide opportunities for self-expression, emotional regulation, and building coping mechanisms. 

This therapy is advantageous for individuals dealing with mental health conditions, behavioral disorders, or facing challenges such as stress, trauma, or grief.

4. Leisure Education:

Leisure education is a component of recreation therapy that helps you focus on the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue and enjoy leisure activities independently. 

This includes developing hobbies, learning about community resources, and fostering a balanced lifestyle. 

Leisure education aims to enhance overall well-being, promote self-esteem, and enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities or chronic conditions.

The Role of Recreation Therapist

1. Assessment and Treatment Planning:

One of the primary roles of a recreation therapist is to conduct comprehensive assessments to identify an individual’s strengths, limitations, interests, and therapeutic needs. 

Based on these assessments, the recreation therapist develops personalized treatment plans that outline specific goals and objectives to be addressed through carefully selected recreational activities. 

Regular evaluations and modifications to the treatment plan are carried out to ensure the individual’s progress and evolving needs are met effectively.

2. Activity Selection and Adaptation:

Recreation therapists are experts in selecting and adapting recreational activities to meet the unique needs and abilities of each individual they serve. 

They have a deep understanding of various recreational pursuits and their therapeutic benefits. Recreation therapists may modify equipment, rules, or environments to make activities accessible and challenging for individuals with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities. 

They also consider age, cultural background, and personal preferences when choosing and adapting activities.

3. Facilitation and Intervention:

During therapy sessions, recreation therapists take on the role of facilitators, guiding individuals through recreational activities in a supportive and engaging manner. 

They provide instructions, demonstrations, and encouragement to ensure active participation and therapeutic progress. 

Recreation therapists also observe and document the individual’s responses, behaviors, and interactions during the activities, using these observations to adjust the interventions or modify the treatment plan.

Recreation Therapy Activities for Mental Health: How Does It Work?

Recreation Therapy can be highly beneficial for individuals with mental health conditions, providing a structured and supportive environment for addressing emotional, cognitive, and social needs. 

1. Mental Health

Recreation therapists employ a range of therapeutic activities to support individuals with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction. 

These activities may include art therapy, expressive writing, music therapy, adventure-based counseling, and mindfulness practices. 

For example, art therapy fosters self-expression and emotional release through diverse artistic mediums, while expressive writing enables individuals to delve into and navigate their thoughts and emotions. 

Adventure-based pursuits like rock climbing or ropes courses facilitate stepping beyond comfort zones, fostering confidence, problem-solving abilities, and resilience. 

Mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation augment stress reduction, emotional management, and mindfulness in the present moment.

2. Overall Physical Health

Recreation therapists design and facilitate various physical activities tailored to each individual’s needs, abilities, and goals. 

These activities may include adapted sports, strength training, aquatic exercises, yoga, and outdoor pursuits like hiking or kayaking. 

Individuals can improve their cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination by engaging in these activities. 

Additionally, recreation therapy activities promote weight management. They decrease the likelihood of chronic illnesses and improve overall physical capabilities. 

Recreation therapists adapt equipment, rules, and environments to ensure accessibility and safety, allowing individuals with physical disabilities or limitations to participate and benefit from the activities. 

Through regular participation and gradual progression, individuals can experience improved mobility, increased energy levels, better sleep, and a heightened sense of well-being, ultimately leading to a higher quality of life.

3. Improvement of Social Skills

Recreation therapists facilitate group activities that foster social connections, communication, and teamwork, addressing the isolation and social challenges often associated with mental health conditions. 

Through careful observation and facilitation, recreation therapists can tailor activities to each individual’s specific needs and goals, gradually increasing the level of challenge and complexity as the individual progresses. 

The recreational setting also allows for transferring skills learned during therapy sessions to real-life situations, promoting overall well-being and quality of life.

Recreational Therapy Activities for Adolescent

Recreational therapy activities for adolescents are crucial in promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Engaging in outdoor activities also encourages physical exercise and helps adolescents build confidence, develop teamwork skills, and foster a sense of accomplishment. 

Art, music, and dance therapy also provide adolescents with creative outlets to express themselves, manage stress, and enhance their emotional resilience. 

These activities empower adolescents to explore their interests, develop new skills, and build positive peer relationships.

Furthermore, adventure-based activities, such as ropes courses, wilderness expeditions, and challenge courses, offer adolescents opportunities to conquer fears, overcome obstacles, and develop problem-solving skills. 

These activities promote self-confidence, resilience, and leadership skills as adolescents learn to navigate unfamiliar environments, work through challenges, and support one another in a team setting. 

Recreational therapy activities for adolescents are enjoyable and engaging. They are powerful tools for personal growth, self-discovery, and developing essential life skills that will benefit them well into adulthood.

Therapist for Recreation Therapy

playing outside

1. Nadine Collier

Nadine Collier, LPC, is a licensed Professional Counselor in West Michigan with over 25 years of experience. 

She often employs a Cognitive Behavioral Theoretical (CBT) or mindfulness-based therapeutic approach. 

However, she embraces that each individual is unique and maintains an eclectic “tool bag” to assist clients in their journeys. 

She has expertise in the areas of stress, anxiety, depression, grief, life transitions, relationship issues, parenting, and career development.

She provides a confidential and non-judgmental environment where clients can safely explore their issues. 

She strives to equip clients with the tools they need to cope and proactively deal with daily challenges. She looks forward to assisting clients on their journey.

2. Farah Westbrook

Farah Westbrook, LCMHC, LCPC, holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She continued her education and received a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. 

She is licensed in multiple states, a National Certified Counselor, a Certified Clinical Supervisor, and a Certified Clinical Telemental Health Provider. 

She has experience working with individuals of all ages, ethnicities, races, religions, sexual orientations, and genders.

Although she uses multiple counseling techniques (Narrative Therapy, Person-Centered, Solution Focused, etc.) to meet her client’s individual needs, her work with clients is primarily from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy perspective. 

She believes that the connections between rationality and emotion and mind and body are essential in achieving behavioral change through logical thinking. 

3. Brittany Zucco

Brittany Zucco, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Master CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) in New York State. 

She completed her Master of Arts degree in Psychology in 2008, Master’s degree in Social Work in 2018, and has held her CASAC since 2014. 

She has worked in the mental health and human service field for over 12 years in various capacities, including residential treatment, case management, outpatient and inpatient substance use disorder treatment, and currently in a school setting.

Her therapy style is calm and open. She does not depend on a sole modality for therapy, as she believes that different interventions work for different individuals; however, she is experienced with and often utilizes a combination of Solution-Focused Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, and Client/Person-Centered Therapy.

4. Veronica Cervantes

Veronica Cervantes, LPC is licensed in Texas with 12 years of professional work experience. She has experience in helping clients with stress and anxiety, coping with addictions, bipolar disorder, & depression. 

She believes in treating everyone with respect, sensitivity, and compassion. She will tailor the dialog and treatment plan to meet the client’s unique and specific needs. 

Taking the first step to sign up for therapy can take courage, and she is proud of her clients for getting started!

5. Blake Barney

Blake Barney, LPC is licensed in Arizona with 13 years of professional work experience. He has experience in helping clients with stress and anxiety and coping with addictions, trauma, and abuse. 

He also has experience working with anger management. He works with his clients to create an open and safe environment where thoughts and feelings can be shared without fear of judgment. 

Taking the first step to sign up for therapy can take courage, and he is proud of his clients for getting started!

Overall, you can find licensed and professional recreation therapists on the BetterHelp

These therapists offer expertise in utilizing recreational activities as therapeutic tools to address various mental health concerns and promote overall well-being. 


Why Leisure Activities are Crucial for Mental Health?

Leisure activities are important for mental health as they greatly impact physical and mental well-being.
Engaging in leisure activities can help uplift moods, reduce stress, and provide a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment, which are all beneficial for mental health.

What are Therapeutic Recreation Interventions?

Therapeutic recreation, or recreational therapy, is a structured way of using fun activities to help people with illnesses or disabilities.
The goal is to boost or keep up their physical, thinking, social, emotional, and spiritual abilities so they can fully take part in life and get better.

What is the Most Popular Recreational Activity?

The most popular recreational activities vary widely, but sports clubs and organized recreational activities are often associated with better mental health, alertness, and overall well-being.

How Do Recreational Activities Reduce Stress?

Recreational activities can reduce stress by providing a sense of daily structure, boosting self-esteem, and helping individuals regain confidence.
Engaging in activities one enjoys can also help reduce stress, improve mood, and provide a break from daily routines, all contributing to improved mental well-being.

Emma Loker

I attribute my extensive knowledge to a 1st Class Honours degree in Psychology and my current studies to become a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at the University of Cambridge.


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