Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

Therapeutic Recreation

Therapeutic Recreation

About Therapeutic Recreation 

therapeutic recreation

Therapeutic Recreation (TR), also referred to as Recreational Therapy (RT), is a health and human service profession.  TR uses activity-based interventions as a part of the systematic therapeutic recreation process that targets specific evidence-based outcomes.  Individual and group counseling techniques are implemented through prescribed play, recreation, experiential activity and psycho education processes to improve the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual functioning and well-being of individuals with injury, illness and/or disability to enable a greater quality of life.

The Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, also referred to as a Recreational Therapist, assist clients/participants in developing knowledge, skills, and behaviors to improve functioning for greater health and community engagement.  The therapist also works with the individual and his/her support systems to develop specific leisure skills and the necessary resources to promote overall well-being and life satisfaction. 

Qualified professionals must have both academic and applied training in TR/RT. In the State of Utah, to practice as a recreational therapist one must be licensed by the Department of Professional and Occupational Licensing (DOPL).  National certification by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) is also required for most positions in Utah and across the United States.


The therapeutic recreation curriculum is sequenced to address all requirements of the NCTRC Job Analysis and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association’s (ATRA) curriculum guidelines.  Students will develop a wide variety of clinical skills necessary for the recreational therapist such as: assessment, problem-solving, behavior analysis, appropriate intervention implementation, and evaluation.  Students acquire both theoretical and practical experiences and have an understanding of consumer health needs within community-based programs as well as treatment-based services. The University of Utah TR coursework prepares the student to take the NCTRC examination to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). Graduates of the U of U, PRT-TR emphasis consistently score higher than the national average on this certification exam.

Students seeking an emphasis in TR will need:

  • Effective communication skills,
  • Interpersonal skills, and
  • Stress management skills
  • Be able to:
  • Think independently, 
  • Receive and implement constructive feedback and be self-motivated with a commitment to learning.


Therapeutic Recreation is a very diverse profession and offers a variety of career opportunities in:

  • adult retirement communities
  • centers for physical medicine and rehabilitation
  • mental health agencies
  • residential treatment facilities
  • substance abuse treatment centers
  • correctional facilities
  • schools
  • specialty schools
  • after school programs
  • community recreation centers
  • outdoor recreation centers
  • wilderness programs
  • community-based non-profit agencies
  • veterans administration hospitals

"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded."  Maya Angelou