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The History of Therapeutic Recreation

The history of therapeutic recreation began with the ancient Greeks and Egyptians; however, it did not become a profession until the 1940s. Therapeutic recreation in the 1970s was known as hospital recreation. Hospital recreation was offered by the Red Cross to soldiers. After World War II, hospital recreation expanded from soldiers to psychiatric hospitals.

Some facilities utilize a Wii system for recreational therapy.
Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

In 1948, the Hospital Recreation Section (HRS) of the American Recreation Society (ARS) was formed for the employees of military hospitals for the purpose of creating a recreation program. The National Association of Recreational Therapies (NART) was designed for the purpose of creating a tool to enhance treatment for mentally-challenged individuals in state schools and psychiatric hospitals. In 1952, the Recreation Therapy Section of the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAH PER) was created for people who were interested in being physically active.

In the late 1950s, therapeutic recreation was considered a social activity. In 1984, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) was created for the purpose of therapeutic recreation for clinical practice. Therapeutic recreation then became a profession that required training at a university and certification by the National Council on Therapeutic Recreation.

Today’s recreational therapists help people restore their physical health. These therapists also help the client mentally, socially, emotionally, and socially as well as leisurely. Families of the clients are also involved in the treatment of people receiving recreational therapy. The benefits of recreational therapy include a reduction in illness or injury effects as well as restored function.

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