Recreation Therapist

Careers in Mental Health

Guy Forson
Recreation Therapist

Generic Information

  • Assesses information on needs, interests, life experience, deficiencies, and recreational background of patients to provide an initial and comprehensive assessment to select appropriate treatment services.
  • Assesses resident’s/patient’s skills, proficiencies, and knowledge level of program resources to establish appropriate participation level; measures current functioning needs, skills, and limitations to assign an the appropriate treatment programs.
  • Observes patient behavior and interaction with peers to assess the needs of residents in relation to group activity development.
  • Designs and develops individual treatment programs which address patient’s functional needs; writes behavior objectives for patients defining desired behavioral changes
  • Uses physical activities to provide positive life experiences, opportunities for self-expression, and nonverbal communication.
  • Develops recreational treatment plans or utilizes existing plans for community integration which develop and reinforce appropriate behaviors.
  • Develops and maintains documentation strategies and methods which record residents’ progress.
  • Documents and reports patient progress toward treatment goals.
  • Works as a part of patient-centered interdisciplinary teams that include psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and other therapists.
  • Bachelor’s Degree (Master’s degree required in some states)
  • Licenses are issued by State of Oregon Health Licensing Board
  • Empathetic active listening skills
  • Clinical knowledge, skills, and abilities in working with persons with mental illness
  • Ability to function independently and as a part of a patient-centered interdisciplinary treatment team
  • Highly attentive to detail, confidentiality, and accuracy
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Outpatient mental health agencies
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Domestic violence and homeless shelters
  • Community agencies and nonprofit settings


Recreational therapy is an essential part of each patient-centered interdisciplinary care team at Oregon State Hospital because it provides an outlet for those who need access to therapy types beyond traditional talk therapy. Recreational Therapists provide opportunities for patients to participate in physically engaging activities, to improve self-esteem and self-confidence while enhancing patient’s motivation and work towards personal goals. Activities and skills that patients develop can help modify specific emotional, mental, and social behaviors.

Recreational Therapists develop a rapport with their patients and help them look toward community integration after discharge. Recreational therapists also help patients with physical disabilities find ways to be active and successful through adaptations of equipment or by finding activities that best suit them.

The Recreational Therapists provide individualized assessments and treatment programs of recreational therapy. These specialized treatment services are goal- oriented and directed toward rehabilitation and modification of specific physical, emotional, mental, or social behaviors. Based upon their clinical experiences with patients, they provide input to the patients’ recovery care plan. Recreational Therapists effectively support personal and relational treatment goals.

History at OSH

The Oregon State Hospital has valued recreational activities for patients since it opened in 1883. Reflecting on the principles of Moral Therapy, the original plans for the hospital featured separate recreational yards for male and female patients, located closely near their respective wards. This allowed patients access to the benefits of the outdoors while also having privacy. Beyond the walls of the Hospital, the landscape was design to create a park like setting where patients, staff, and members of the community could enjoy the outdoors. Marked paths, manicured lawns and shrubs, and other natural features were the backdrop for many walks, picnics, and other recreational pursuits. Sports such as tennis and baseball were also played on the grounds.

In addition to providing space on campus for outdoor recreation activities, the hospital has programs to bring patients into the community and natural settings. From short day trips to multi-day camping excursions, these outings provide unique therapeutic experiences that can help patients with recovery.

While recreational activities have been a part of the therapeutic environment at the hospital since it opened, it was not until the second half of the 20th century that Recreational Therapy existed as a profession.

For more information on the educational pathway to this and other healthcare careers follow this Link to the Educational Resource page.

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