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Therapeutic Recreation: Having Fun While Getting Well

Feb 12, 2019
Therapeutic Recreation

Everyone loves to have fun and play. I enjoy listening to music, playing music (poorly), cycling to faraway places and photography. Activities like these can give us a sense of identity and great satisfaction. They allow us to decompress when times are difficult and energize us when we’re well.

Therapeutic Recreation (TR) includes activities, often viewed as fun, that can provide tangible, positive, clinical outcomes for children. In school, along with my discovery of TR, I also learned about “fun” on a deeper level. A psychologist named Mihály Csíkszentmihály described it as “flow” or “highly focused mental state,” where time “flies.” His theory continues to influence on how we view activities and is widely referenced today.

What kind of activities qualify as therapeutic recreation?

Generally, TR activities are meaningful to an individual and promote wellness in physical, spiritual, emotional, social and cognitive ways. This can yield great outcomes, because when activities are meaningful, or fun, and applied to the right settings with appropriate goals, people can overcome barriers with minimal consequence.

These treatments could be gardening, running, meeting new people, meditating, rock climbing, singing, writing, playing soccer, acting, kickball, archery, goalball, nearly anything when the trained-self seems to take over the conscious self.

Who can it help?

When an activity is therapeutic, it increases quality of life and wellbeing. Recreational therapists tap into this flow or fun and use this as the means of treatment. We identify barriers and develop plans to help patients overcome health-related challenges such as anxiety or depression after spinal cord injury, global life changes resulting from cancer or other health concerns that often decrease quality of life.

TR has an important role in increasing quality of life and can provide outstanding effects in various areas of our communities—hospitals, schools, outdoor pursuits, city parks and recreation, behavioral health facilities and even prison systems.

How can it benefit people?

In part, thanks to TR, individuals with injuries that could leave them at risk for heart disease, obesity, depression and other health factors can go home after a hospital stay with a new, meaningful interest that can span a lifetime. Patients can learn about adaptive sports like rugby or track and field, coping skills, time management, social skills, and community resources to help combat these risk factors.

These organized activities can not only spur passion and a sense of accomplishment in individuals, but also bring them closer to their peers and family after a life-changing event. Simply put, a sparked interest can be invigorating.

Are there side effects to therapeutic recreation?

I like to think we prescribe leisure and recreation to our patients and in some ways we do. Side effects are typically tolerable such as connectivity, decreased blood pressure, sense of belonging, decreased anxiety, smiling, participation in community, and most importantly increased quality of life!

I encourage you to get out and…recreate!  Discover the flow in activities throughout the day.  And do it with vigor - therapist’s orders!

To learn more about Therapeutic Recreation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, click here.

VIDEO: Cooking as Therapy?
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Featured Expert

Trevor Miller
Trevor Miller
Therapeutic Recreation

Trevor Miller, BS, CTRS, is a therapeutic recreation specialist that graduated from the University of Toledo in 2008 with a degree in recreational therapy. Trevor primarily works in pediatric physical rehabilitation and has interests in quality of life, adaptive recreation, and unconscious bias. He is a member of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association and section chair of the Recreation Division with the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (OAPHERD). Trevor enjoys working with families throughout their physical rehab journey to ensure best outcomes and meaningful pursuits after life-changing events. 

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.