1. What Is Recreation Therapy (RT)?
Recreation therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity based interventions that are based upon the assessed needs of the individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions The purpose of the RT process is to improve or maintain physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual functioning in order to facilitate full participation in life.
In our rapidly changing society, recreation therapy has been designated as one of the fastest growing health care and human service occupations in the country.
2. What entities recognize Recreation Therapy?
RT is a recognized health care provider by major accrediting bodies. The Joint Commission on accreditation includes RT in inpatient and outpatient settings as standard treatment in physical rehabilitation, behavioral health, hospital based services, home health care, psychiatric rehabilitation, ambulatory services, substance abuse treatment, long term care, and assisted living facilities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) includes recreation therapy in the mix of treatment and rehabilitation services in skilled nursing rehabilitation, and long term care facilities. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF} identifies recreation therapists in their Medical Rehabilitation Standards, Behavioral Health Standards, and the Adult Day and Assisted Living Standards. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (DEA) includes recreation therapy as a related service for school and extended school year based interventions
The National Commission for Certifying Agencies accredits the The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential in addition, the California Board of Recreation and Park Certification (CBRPC)administers the Recreation Therapist Certified (RTC) credential.
3. What is the national and state presence of recreation therapists?
Recreation therapists held approximately 20,000 jobs in the United States in 2019. The average yearly salary for Recreation Therapists is $48,000. Entry educational level is a Bachelor’s degree. The job outlook for 2019-2029 is 8% (much faster than average). Most therapists are employed in hospital or personal care facilities but a growing number are being hired in residential facilities, community mental health centers, adult day care program, substance abuse centers, hospice care, prisons, community centers and in schools. According to the US Department of Labor rapid employment growth of recreation therapists is expected in assisted living outpatient physical and psychiatric rehabilitation and services for individuals with disabling conditions.
4. What is Certification of Recreation therapy?
Certification for Recreation Therapists assures the general public and employing agency of the competence of recreation and park professionals by certifying that they meet
prescribed standards. The Recreation Therapist Certificate is designed to certify that an individual is qualified by education and experience to conduct and administer Therapeutic Recreation/Recreation Therapy services.
5. Who certifies Recreation Therapists in California?
The California Board of Recreation and Park Certification (CBRPC) is the recognized body in California for recreation therapy certification. Once you have met all of the qualifications for certification you may use the title Recreation Therapist Certified (RTC). It is illegal to use this title and work as a recreation therapist without the proper certification.
6. How do I keep my RTC certification current?
You must recertify through CBRPC every two years. During that time you must obtain continuing education units (CEU’s) or contact hours of education. These can be obtained by attending conferences, workshops, seminars or college courses. Or you can take on-line courses that meet the renewal criteria. You must obtain 2.0 CEU’s or 20 contact hours every two years to stay current.
7. What is licensure of recreation therapy?
Licensure provides both job and title protection that is mandated by law. If state licensure is passed Recreation Therapists will be required to be licensed (instead of certified) in order to practice Recreation Therapy in the State of California. Licensure of Recreation Therapy will ensure that the best and safest services are being provided to the consumer by professionals who have attained the appropriate training required for a Recreation Therapist.
8. Why is licensure important for recreation therapy?
Licensure is essential to regulate the recreation therapy professionals in the state to assure that the services provided are effective and of a quality consistent with the standard of care within the profession and to safeguard the public against harm which may be caused by unqualified, impaired, or unlicensed practitioners.
9. How does licensure differ from certification?
Certification is a voluntary process for the professional and the organization at which the professional is employed. Licensure is mandatory for the professional to practice Recreation Therapy in/for any organization offering Recreation Therapy services. In addition, with licensure organizations are mandated to hire only licensed Recreation Therapists to provide Recreation Therapy services.
10. Why is California considering licensure for recreation therapy? What other states have licensure for Recreation Therapy?
California State facilities and other facilities in the state have abused the title of Recreation Therapist in their hiring practices. There have been instances of people using the title who do not meet the standards for care.
Licensure would stop this practice. Licensure assures people trained in RT are providing RT and legitimizes the field by holding professionals accountable. Licensure strengthens access to third party payments and entitlements thus providing clients more access to RT services and increasing the visibility of RT as a profession that protects clients from harm.
Some Recreation Therapists have been working on licensure for RT for years. California has the potential and the assistance through the California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS), California Board of Recreation and Park Certification (CBRPC), and the National Council on Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) to help follow through with licensure. Utah, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma currently have licensure and are willing to assist the task force with the successful steps they took to obtain licensure. Ten other states are currently in the process of seeking licensure.
11. How will licensure benefit consumers, Recreation Therapists, and the RT profession?
Licensure will benefit consumers, Recreation Therapists, and the RT profession tremendously in many different ways.
The primary purpose of licensure is to protect consumers, ensuring that they will receive quality Recreation Therapy services. For consumers, licensure will guarantee that only qualified professionals will provide Recreation Therapy services. Licensure also strengthens access to third party payments and entitlements, which provides consumers with more access to RT services
For Recreation Therapists, licensure requires that organizations provide legitimate Recreation Therapy services by qualified professionals if they claim to offer RT services. In other words, when we see a job advertisement for a “Recreation Therapist,” we can be sure that we will be expected to provide Recreation Therapy. In addition, organizations will need to offer appropriate wages for Recreation Therapists, in line with other rehabilitation professionals. Licensure legitimizes our profession by holding us just as accountable as other professions, consequently increasing respect and visibility of RT as a profession. It will also define the scope of practice for Recreation Therapy, eliminating any confusion of our duties as Recreation Therapists.
12. What is the process in other states that have RT licensure?
All states (Utah, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Oklahoma) use the NCTRC exam as the mechanism to become licensed. In California, either the CBRPC or the NCTRC exam will be the mechanism to become licensed.
13. Will California’s current Recreation Therapists be grandfathered into licensure?
Yes, current Recreation Therapists holding either state certification with CBRPC and/or national certification with NCTRC will be grandfathered into licensure.
14. What will be the cost of licensure to an individual?
There will be an initial registration fee and then an annual fee. Exact amounts have not been determined at this time.
15. What will be the cost of licensure to the state of California?
The cost of the program will include the administration of the licensure process, disciplinary actions (hearing), and a mechanism to check on the validity of licenses. Representatives from other states that currently have Recreation Therapy licensure confirmed that their licensure processes are cost neutral. California Recreation Therapy Licensure process will model these existing successful licensure programs in setting a fee structure to result in a cost neutral process.
16. Would an individual need to maintain CEU’s? If so, how many?
Yes, all individuals wishing to maintain a current license will be expected to obtain Continuing Education Units (CEU’s). The exact amount of CEU’s has not been determined at this time.
16. How can I help with the licensure process?
Contact Chair of Licensure Committee Laura McLachlan at Imclachlin@csuchico.edu or (530) 514-5217
17. How can I get additional information regarding recreational therapy practice?
Information about the professional practice of Recreation Therapy may be obtained at