What Is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS)?

Therapeutic recreation specialists use games, art and sports to help people with disabilities or illnesses. Read on to learn more about this field, including job responsibilities and employment prospects. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Definition

As a therapeutic recreation specialist, you improve the well-being of individuals who have illnesses or disabilities through treatment services and recreation activities. Your therapy methods may use sports, arts and crafts, dance, music, and other techniques to reduce stress, improve functioning, and build confidence in your clients. You observe and document their reactions, participation, and progress. You may choose to specialize in a certain type of treatment, such as aquatic therapy or art therapy.

A certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS) is a professional who works to improve the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of sick or disabled individuals. A CTRS possesses certification by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). This credential serves as evidence to employers and clients that you are a service provider who adheres to quality standards.

Important Facts About Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRSs)

Licensure Only required in New Hampshire, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Utah; requirements vary by state
Key Skills Patience; empathy; leadership; active listening; clear communication; ingenuity
Work Environment Hospitals; nursing care facilities; government agencies; ambulatory healthcare services; continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly
Similar Occupations Occupational therapists; physical therapists; rehabilitation counselors; school and career counselors; special education teachers; speech-language pathologists

Path to Certification

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you do not have to be certified by the NCTRC to work as a therapeutic recreation specialist, but most employers prefer to hire certified professionals. Therapeutic recreations jobs in clinical settings frequently require certification.

To gain certification by the NCTRC, you must first earn a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy from an accredited college or university. Under certain circumstances, you can also qualify based on work experience. You must then pass a computer-based exam to demonstrate your competency in the field. The test is administered three times each year on specified dates.

Once you are certified, you must submit an annual maintenance application and fee. In addition, you must re-certify every five years. To do so, you have two options: complete 480 hours of work experience as a recreation therapist and 50 hours of continuing education, or pass the national certification exam.

Employment Outlook

The BLS predicted employment opportunities in therapeutic recreation would increase 7% from 2016 to 2026. This is due to an increasing aging population, whose members will need recreational therapy to improve their declining physical and mental abilities. Your annual salary will vary, depending on which type of facility you work in. As of May 2018, the median salary among recreational therapists was $47,860, with most professionals in the field earning between $29,590 and $77,050 per year.

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