When an individual suffers from a traumatic brain or spinal injury, the road to recovery is often full of physical, cognitive and emotional roadblocks. These injuries are life altering and require relearning how to do everything with new limitations and impairments.
Patients with these injuries must undergo rigorous therapy to regain movement, strength, function and skills necessary for daily life.
Throughout the recovery process, many patients are unable to participate in activities or community events they used to enjoy. While it seems small, we shape our identities around our passions, and the thought of losing those activities, possibly permanently, can be incredibly disheartening.
That’s where recreational therapy comes in. “The purpose of the recreational therapy process is to improve or maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual functioning in order to facilitate full participation in life,” according to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.
Why Recreational Therapy is Beneficial
Recreational therapy is individualized, not based on a patient’s injuries or needs, but on his or her passions and goals for the future.
“As recreational therapists, we design our treatment sessions around the patient’s previous interests and hobbies prior to entering the hospital,” says Sara Teel, a recreational therapist at INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation. “We use recreation and leisure activities that specifically interest an individual patient, so that each treatment session can be meaningful and effective. This also gives the patients and their families ideas of what they can do after they have completed their stay to continue working towards recovery. “
During a challenging time in a patient’s life, recreational therapy ignites motivation and positivity, because it taps into activities the individual loves and provides education so the patient can perform those activities moving forward. “Some people feel like they can’t do anything,” INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe recreational therapist Cody Jones says. “It’s almost like losing part of your identity.” Being able to participate in activities that make patients feel more like themselves, even in a modified way, can be incredibly motivating when facing a long road to recovery.
Recreational therapy is also beneficial because it allows patients to reintegrate into their communities. Recovering from a severe injury or stroke can be isolating, especially with long-term inpatient care. One of the biggest hurdles for patients suffering from a life-altering injury is navigating their community with new limitations, so recreational therapy helps to ease that transition and the stress that can come with it.
Who Benefits from Therapeutic Recreation
Recreational therapy can be used for any patient, but is especially useful for people suffering from traumatic brain injury, stroke or spinal cord injuries. These kinds of injuries are sometimes permanent, so recreational therapy helps to educate patients on the tools, facilities and laws in place to support them, while also creating a motivating activity to enjoy throughout recovery. Recreational therapy can be particularly helpful for patients feeling depressed or frustrated with the progress of their long-term recovery.
Types of Recreational Therapy
There are endless options for recreational therapy, because the treatment is determined by the individual’s previous interests. Typically, athletic activities are the first thing that comes to mind when people think about therapeutic recreation. However, there are many other possibilities.
Here is just a sampling of the recreational therapy programs offered by INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe to help educate patients on living a full life post recovery.
- Leisure education – teaches patients and their families about the benefits of leisure activities and why they are important for recovery.
- Disabilities rights education – educates patients and their families on The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), handicap accessibility in the community and advocacy.
- Community reintegration outings – depending on a patient’s goals, community outings can help the patient work on navigating signs inside stores, expressing needs and managing money in a local restaurant or learning how to manage a wheelchair for mobility.
“With recreation therapy, patients either gain knowledge of new leisure tasks to participate in once back home and out in the community, or they are able to reinforce their favorite activities and are able to use and/or modify those tasks to now be more therapeutic,” Teel says. “With community reintegration, I’ve had many patients report they feel more prepared for what to expect once they return home. Their confidence is higher and their anxiety has been lessened; they feel more prepared to return back to their life with their new normal.”
Other types of recreational therapy include animal-assisted or pet therapy, horticulture, arts and crafts, games, cooking, sports and music.
INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation offers a wide variety of therapy programs to help patients through recovery. Visit the website to learn more about the recreational therapy program.