What is Recreation Therapy?

Plato once said, “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a lifetime of conversation”. It is on this foundation that Recreation Therapy was built. Recreation and leisure are often the times in life when ones true character shows; how well does someone deal with adversity? How do they interact with others? How do they connect with the world at large? All of these questions and more can be answered through Recreation Therapy.

recreation therapy

Recreation Therapy is a systematic process of assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation through the lens of therapeutic outcomes. It begins and ends with the individual participant in mind. What strengths do they possess? What barriers do they experience? What goals do they have for their future well-being?

A licensed and certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (TRS) guides the participant through a prescribed intervention in order to help the individual gain the most insight and find the healing elements of the intervention. Through carefully applied processing techniques the value of the intervention is revealed.

While every human being is capable of having “fun”, it is the deliberate nature of Rec Therapy that turns “fun and games” in to “growth and learning”.

At Brighton Recovery Center we believe in the phrase “involve me and I will learn”, it is part of our mission statement and a corner stone to all the treatment we provide. This spirit is clearly embodied by the Recreation Therapy program. The theoretic foundations of the program are illustrated in every activity the individuals we serve participate in.

Testimonials from our alumni about the benefits of Recreation Therapy:

“What’s not to like about recreational therapy? It’s great for the community, it allows us to interact with people in a normal setting, outside of just recovery. It was a lot of fun exercise, I didn’t know I liked stuff like that.”

“I liked that Brighton was willing to take us out into the community and let us do things that normal people do, it made it easier to gauge where we were at and out readiness to go out into the community. We were given space and time to get out of our heads and we were able to go out and get to know each other on a social level instead of the more personal ways we got to know each other while in the house.”

“I had lost a lot of my skills, so going out makes me self-conscious, which caused me to isolate and to drink. Understanding that really helped me and I’m working still to overcome it. I was always scared before but once I’m out I have so much fun. I’ve never really had fun in my life until rec therapy. It pushed me to challenge myself, it’s a far better program than any other I have attended.”

Whether it is playing disc golf at a park, hiking in the majestic mountains surrounding our beautiful building, or painting ceramics at a local art studio, the concepts of the program are reinforced. The focus is on recovery and living a full and healthy life in recovery. Participants learn that by fully engaging in their lives, surrounding themselves with positive people, finding meaning and purpose to their lives, and celebrating achievements they are capable of making the right decisions to positively affect the outcomes of their lives. Contact us to learn more about our recreational therapy program.

Choosing Recreation Therapy

By Will Lindsay

Joseph Campbell, a writer whose work covers many aspects of the human experience, has a famous quote that states, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life, as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” These words have been important in many aspects of my life and are a big reason why I chose Recreation Therapy as a field.

My life from a young age was filled with adventures; I started skiing with my dad at the age of 4, rock climbing at the age of 6, and spent nearly all of my childhood in the woods. These adventures taught me more about life than any other experience, things like learning how to plan ahead, the value of determination, self-reliance, an all of the other psychological skills associated with a full life of experience. I started working in the outdoor sports industry at age 14 and always found ways to teach not only the physical skills of skiing and snowboarding to others, but those same psychological and emotional skills I had learned to appreciate. My students weren’t just learning to ski, they were learning how to live.

Recovery is a lifestyle, not a life sentence.After I moved to college I found myself struggling with the transition into young adulthood. I grappled with the stress of paying for school, working full-time while attending classes full-time, and much more complicated social situations. I found an escape in recreation and leisure, but also found that I could apply the same lessons to my life outside of those activities.

It wasn’t until I was much older and working in the mental health field that I found Recreation Therapy. Suddenly I knew what my path was in life and how I could make a difference in the world. When I started working at Brighton Recovery Center, all of my life’s experiences suddenly coalesced into a perfect recipe for the type of Recreation Therapy program I had always wanted to be a part of.

Recreation Therapy is More than Having Fun

I have always seen Recreation Therapy as capable of much more than teaching people how to have fun or simply distract themselves from life. Rather, the aim is to get participants to engage in an activity that shows them how they can face life on their terms and construct the tools to get through the tough times. Recreation Therapy is much more than just showing someone they can have fun sober; it is showing them that they can be present in their life despite the unpleasant times, and that those unpleasant times are important to growing.

Recreation Therapy at Brighton Recovery Center, Utah

Emotional states don’t have to become emotional traits.Brighton Recovery Center gave me the opportunity to build and design a Recreation Therapy program that was focused on taking psychological concepts, illustrating them through engaged experiences, and then processing the greater applications of those concepts to life in general; a program that emphasizes the clinical nature and therapeutic outcomes that Recreation Therapy is capable of; one that tracks and publishes measured outcomes in functioning and proves the therapeutic benefit; and a program, I am happy to say, that makes significant improvements in the lives of the individuals it serves.

Brighton Recovery Center focuses on two primary therapeutic models. The first is out of the Positive Psychology world, specifically the PERMA Model and the second is the OODA Loop concept from Col. John Boyd. Both of these concepts work in tandem to challenge perceptions of emotions, teach individuals that it is okay to experience strong emotion, learn how to engage in those feelings in a healthy way, and how to be more aware of the impact their reactions have on their circumstances, amongst many other lessons.

The program here also tracks outcome data from two assessment instruments: the PERMA Profiler and the World Health Organization Quality of Life Measure. From day one we noticed significant changes in overall functioning across all the domains assessed. As the program grew, so did the significance of those changes. The program is currently working on publishing the outcomes of the PERMA Profiler with assistance from the University Of Utah Recreation Therapy Research Lab.

recreation therapyAt Brighton Recovery Center we have a few tag lines we try to infuse into all our programming. The first is, “Emotional states don’t have to become emotional traits.” This phrase sums up the idea that one can experience strong emotions, but those emotions don’t have to become defining characteristics of the individual. Basically, I can experience sadness, grief, and anger without becoming a sad, grieving, and angry human being. Another tagline is, “Recovery is a lifestyle, not a life sentence.” This is saying that although there is no “end of the road to recovery”, there is joy in the journey. That by making recovery a lifestyle decision, one can embrace the work included in maintaining that lifestyle, thus turning Problem Solving into Problem Savoring.

Joseph Campbell taught us that life is about the experience; that life is meant to be savored and enjoyed, even if it is not at its most ideal. Life is oftentimes hard, but because of this, the individual that chooses to live it emerges stronger and more prepared for when life is hard again.

recreation therapy options
recreation therapy treatment
recreation therapy for addiction

Recreation Therapy Podcast