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How Recreational Therapy Benefits Mental Health

Recreational Therapy and Mental Health

Recreational therapy is a treatment option that supports physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Recreational therapists use a wide range of interventions to achieve this goal. At The Pavilion in Williamsburg, Virginia, recreational therapy is part of our whole-person approach to mental health.

What Recreational Therapy Looks Like

A certified recreational therapist is trained to use a variety of activities to support their patients’ well-being through individual and group activities. Some examples include:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Engaging with animals (dogs and horses are commonly utilized for recreational therapy)
  • Sports
  • Games
  • Dance
  • Music

How Recreational Therapy is Similar to Other Therapies

Like other types of therapy, recreational therapy involves:

  • A reason why the person is receiving treatment
  • A licensed professional with a professional degree and continuing education
  • Evidence-based practices that work toward specific goals outlined in a treatment plan
  • The ability to treat people of different ages
  • Collaboration between the recreational therapist and other professionals on the patient’s care team, including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and physical or occupational therapists. 

How Recreational Therapy Helps

While talk therapy for mental health is important, it often focuses on the narrow topic of mental well-being; recreational therapy takes a more holistic approach. Though it might just look like a bunch of people having fun together, recreational therapy also:

  • Helps people manage stress
  • Recovers motor abilities
  • Builds confidence
  • Supports socialization
  • Enhances reasoning abilities

Mental Health Diagnoses That Benefit from Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapy has been shown to be beneficial for people with both mental and physical health conditions. These includes:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – improved psychological well-being
  • Dementia – decreased delirium
  • Depression – reduced symptoms
  • Anxiety – reduced symptoms
  • ADHD – addressed attention fatigue and other symptoms

Recreational therapy can also benefit mental well-being by supporting the co-occurring physical health conditions that people with mental health conditions often experience.

The Differences Between Recreational Therapy and Occupational Therapy

Some people confuse recreational and occupational therapy or think they are different names for the same thing. Recreational and occupational therapies are often offered in similar settings, like a client’s home, hospitals, nursing facilities, doctor’s offices, and schools. They are also similar in that they are offered to people of all ages and seek to improve a person’s quality of life–but they also have important differences.

Occupational therapy – teaches people new ways to do things that they used to have the ability to do or would typically have developed the ability to do but cannot do because of an injury, illness, or other reason. Occupational therapists help people learn how to adapt. Some activities an occupational therapist might do with a person include:

  • Finding ways for the person to dress, bathe, or feed themselves
  • Helping the person access and use special equipment to make their lives easier
  • Training family members and caregivers on how to support the person’s goals
  • Developing a daily routine that helps a person obtain their work, school, leisure, or other goals
  • Devising techniques that help a person’s memory, concentration, and decision-making skills
  • Finding ways to prevent falls and other injuries in a person’s environment

Recreational therapy – uses activities and community engagement to develop skills, knowledge and behaviors that improve a person’s involvement in their community and quality of life. Recreational therapists strive to:

    • Develop interpersonal skills and social connections – group activities and shared experiences are used to teach communication, collaboration, empathy, and relationship building.
    • Teach emotional regulation – expressing emotions, utilizing effective coping strategies, reducing stress, and managing feelings are all part of this aspect of well-being.
    • Improve intellectual functioning – memory, attention, and problem-solving can all be improved through recreational therapy.
    • Promote spiritual well-being – mindfulness, self-reflection, and connection to nature can lead to increased inner peace, sense of purpose, and happiness.
    • Increase life skills – cooking, budgeting, time management, and navigating daily challenges can all be part of recreational therapy, and they can increase a person’s sense of self-worth, autonomy, and self-direction.
    • Develop a life worth livingby identifying individual strengths and passions, recreational therapists can help participants find increased fulfillment, purpose, and happiness.
  • Improve physical health and wellness – when people feel better physically, it improves their emotional well-being and enhances their overall quality of life. Staying active through recreational therapy can promote all of these outcomes.

At The Pavilion, we are always looking for ways to innovate and offer our clients more tools for emotional well-being. Recreational therapy is one piece of the full array of services we offer to the individuals we serve and their families. 

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About programs offered at The Pavilion at Williamsburg Place

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