Bloomington / Normal, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Therapeutic Recreation


By Missy Rich, Meadows Achieve Program Director

Recreational therapists, also referred to as therapeutic recreation specialists, provide treatment services and recreation activities for individuals with disabilities of illnesses. Using a variety of techniques, including arts and crafts, animals, sports, games, dance and movement, drama, music, and community outings, therapists improve and maintain the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of their clients. Therapists help individuals reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively so that they can enjoy greater independence and reduce or eliminate the effects of their illness or disability. In addition, therapists help people with disabilities integrate into the community by teaching them how to use community resources and recreational activities. Recreational therapists are different from recreation workers, who organize recreational activities primarily for enjoyment.

In acute healthcare settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care, these therapists treat and rehabilitate individuals with specific health conditions, usually in conjunction or collaboration with physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists. In long-term and residential care facilities, recreational therapists use leisure activities —especially structured group programs — to improve and maintain their clients’ general health and wellbeing. They also may provide interventions to prevent the client from suffering further medical problems and complications.

Recreational therapists assess clients using information from observations, medical records, standardized assessments, the medical staff, the clients’ families, and the clients themselves. They then develop and carry out therapeutic interventions consistent with the clients’ needs and interests. For example, they may encourage clients who are isolated from others or who have limited social skills to play games with others, they may teach right-handed people with right-side paralysis how to use their unaffected left side to throw a ball or swing a racket. They may instruct patients in relaxation techniques to reduce stress and tension, stretching and limbering exercises, and proper body mechanics.

Community-based recreational therapists may work in park and recreation departments, special education programs, or assisted living and adult care. In these programs, therapists use interventions to develop specific skills while providing opportunities for exercise, mental stimulation, creativity, and fun.

Meadows offers a full-range of senior living options — Independent Living, Independent Living —Plus!. Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing Care, Memory Care, Respite Care, and Achieve! Wellness and Rehab Therapy — with two locations: Meadows Mennonite in Chenoa 309-747-3635 and Meadows at Mercy Creek in Normal 209-268-1501. To learn more about senior living options at Meadows,