inSERVICE: The Connection Between Recreation & Healing

Incorporated in 1984 by David Park, William Hillman Jr. and Key Ellis, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) is a national membership organization with a mission to empower the more than 10,000 recreational therapists who connect through ATRA as members or recipients of the association’s services and resources. 

According to ATRA’s website, recreational therapy (or therapeutic recreation) “… is a systemic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. It serves as a treatment that is “designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness, as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition.” 

Recreational therapists may engage in what looks like fun, but activities are carefully targeted to each patient’s needs. “Recreational therapists (RTs) seek to reduce depression, stress and anxiety in their clients and help them build confidence and socialize in their community.”

ATRA represents all RTs at the local, state and national levels and has five Guiding Principles:

  • Recreational therapy is a process provided in diverse settings.
  • Assessment, planning, intervention, evaluation, and documentation (APIED) are the foundations of recreational therapy.
  • The importance of evidence-based practice, professional credentialing and accreditation. 
  • The power of building powerful relationships to strengthen recreational therapy.
  • The importance of mentoring and developing professionals.  

Members of ATRA gain access to learning opportunities to help advance their careers, information on best practices across a variety of work settings, and mentoring and development for professionals and students. ATRA also serves as a voice of the profession on Capitol Hill and builds relationships with other organizations that help strengthen recreational therapy.

ATRA holds an annual conference, providing members the opportunity to engage in learning and networking. The 2024 ATRA Annual Conference will be held Oct. 13 to 15 in Kansas City, Mo., and will celebrate the association’s 40th birthday. 

Learn more at      RM