Missy Hyatt, Chief Program Officer and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, recently shared more about recreational therapy and how it is the core of our Project Sanctuary retreat program:
National Therapeutic Recreation Month is observed in February to appreciate the work of recreation therapists. It also focuses on raising awareness of the importance of participating in activities that help people recover and heal.
I find it helpful to look at definitions when trying to understand something new! What is “Recreational Therapy”? Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being.
Project Sanctuary utilizes recreational therapy during our retreats, harnessing everyday recreational activities to foster positive change. While the terms "therapy" and "change" may typically carry negative connotations, our aim is to create a space for constructive change. Recognizing that people are always evolving, our hope is to deeply impact families by offering opportunities for learning and practicing new skills and approaches within the supportive environment of our retreats.
A common lesson at retreats is all about communication. Of course, we provide classes about communication but we also take the family out of the classroom and do a recreational activity so they can practice what they just learned. We could use something like a climbing wall for a committed couple, father/son, or two sisters to use some of the skills they just learned and communicate in a healthy way. And at the same time, we just introduced these individuals to a new leisure pursuit.
Project Sanctuary employs six CTRSs. I asked a few of them to tell me about their experience as a Recreational Therapist. Why did they pursue this career? Why do they think Recreation Therapy is impactful? Or share a favorite memory. I want to share them with you because I think you can see what Recreation Therapy is at Project Sanctuary by hearing from the people who provide it.
“Recreational Therapy is impactful because it utilizes recreational and leisure activities to promote health and wellness. Because the CTRS utilizes recreation and leisure activities as their interventions, we can treat not just one area such as physical health, but we can also treat the emotional, mental, social, and spiritual domains of the individual providing a holistic approach to wellness. What also makes RT so powerful is the RT can help the families tap into their own leisure pursuits that already exist in their lives and help them learn to utilize those interests to help achieve health and happiness. The RT helps individuals and families build new leisure pursuits that they can utilize to create a better quality of life. These resources are within all of us and with the help of CTRS we can enable them to discover these powerful tools themselves.”- Jeanne Hastings
“I was practicing recreation therapy long before I knew what Recreation Therapy was, even before I was old enough to attend kindergarten. One skill recreational therapist have is the ability to modify activities so anyone wanting to participate successfully can. Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age I learned early on how to adapt the activities that interested me, so I was able to participate. Throughout my youth and teenage years, I heard many times that it was ok if I sat out of an activity or that I couldn’t do a certain activity because of my diagnosis. Me being me and not wanting to be left out, I would always find a way to participate in some compacity.
I always knew I wanted to be of service with my professional career, but I wasn’t sure what. Once I learned, Recreational Therapy is an occupation, I knew that it was the right fit for me, heck I had many years of personal practice. I knew I wanted to help others enjoy life and reach their goals by positively influencing their overall health and well-being. One of my favorite quotes is “A physical therapist will give you the strength to get out of bed, an occupational therapist will teach you how to get out of bed, but a recreational therapist will give you a reason to get out of bed.”- Author Unknown
You don’t need to have a disability or a diagnosis to benefit from recreational therapy, everyone who wants to improve their well-being can benefit!” – Holly Potoeski-Daddario
“I have done recreational therapy for 10+ years. I feel like Rec therapy has been more of a calling than a career. Many times, you never know what a task or activity will lead to, and how it will hit the heart of different individuals. Rec therapy is experiences, doing, seeing, observing, feeling. I remember one retreat, a teenage daughter had not spoken to her father in person in years, after doing expressive journaling, being with her family, doing recreational activities, and with the aid of a Rec therapist and Counselor, the two reconciled. Rec therapy does wonders.” -Kami Muhlestein
If you are interested in finding Recreation Therapy in your area, please reach out to our Family Support department, and they can help you look for potential resources in your area!