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What is Therapeutic Recreation (TR)?

Therapeutic Recreation Ontario endorses the following definition: Therapeutic Recreation is a process that utilizes functional intervention, education and recreation participation to enable persons with physical, cognitive, emotional and/or social limitations to acquire and/or maintain the skills, knowledge and behaviours that will allow them to enjoy their leisure optimally, function independently with the least amount of assistance and participate as fully as possible in society. Therapeutic Recreation intervention is provided by trained professionals in clinical and/or community settings.

The purpose of TR is to enable all individuals to achieve quality of life and optimal health through meaningful participation in recreation and leisure. The profession recognizes the importance of the recreation experience and supports all individuals in having full access to and the freedom to choose recreation and leisure opportunities.

What do TR professionals do?

  • Work with persons who may benefit from assistance to improve their quality of life

  • Use recreation and leisure to help maximize an individual’s independence

  • Make necessary adaptations to recreation and leisure opportunities to allow for full participation

  • Educate individuals about the skills and resources required to participate in recreation and leisure

  • TR Professionals use recreation and leisure to help people to:

    • Improve physical and cognitive abilities

    • Increase confidence and self-esteem

    • Foster greater involvement in the community

    • Strengthen interpersonal skills and relationships

    • Improve coping and adaptation skills

    • Enhance wellbeing

    • Encourage a greater sense of accomplishment

    • Realize the benefits of a healthy leisure lifestyle

Where do TR Professionals work?

Recreation Therapists work in a variety of settings with a variety of populations. For example:

  • In hospitals

  • Rehabilitation programs

  • Long-term care and retirement homes

  • Day programs

  • Mental health centres

  • Children’s treatment centres

  • Disability programs

  • Private practice

What is the role of a TR professional?

TRO has also created an example role description for a Recreation Therapy Assistant.

  • RTAs work under the direction of a Recreation Therapist to deliver recreation therapy services.

  • They assist in the delivery of goal-oriented programs and services to meet the leisure-related needs of clients. 

  • RTAs work alongside the therapist(s) and contribute to the continuum of therapeutic services. 

  • The two main responsibilities of the RTA include: program development and program delivery as well as program observation and reporting, in addition to non-direct client activities. 

  • RTAs provide input, which will enable the Recreation Therapist to conduct assessments, develop intervention plans or evaluate a client’s progress in relation to the intervention plan.

  • The RTA will practice in accordance with the Standards of Practice set out by TRO. The Standards of Practice reflect the major functions and competencies for effective performance.

  • RTAs must also perform in accordance with the mission, vision, values and philosophy of the organization with which they are employed. 




The role of a Recreation Therapist:

Click here to view an example Recreation Therapist Role Description (The “Recreation Therapist” title was researched and endorsed by TRO in 2009):

  • The Recreation Therapist conducts an intensive needs assessment to determine the capacities of the population being served and the appropriate personalized interventions based on current best practices; 

  • In order to ensure appropriate service to individuals, the therapist must begin the Recreation Therapy process by developing a meaningful relationship with the individual receiving services; 

  • The Recreation Therapist and individual receiving services together determine the best way to assess current interests, abilities, needs, and barriers related to a meaningful leisure lifestyle; the assessment must look at the individual within the context of their family, environment, culture, friends, disability/illness, as well as the requirements of the agency/organization where the Recreation Therapist is employed; 

  • The Recreation Therapist works collaboratively to set realistic goals which can be achieved through engagement in recreation interventions and programs; 

  • The Recreation Therapist utilizes various facilitation techniques to engage the individual in a variety of opportunities designed to foster a meaningful leisure lifestyle; 

  • The Recreation Therapy process adheres to agency standards regarding documentation of the process and individual responses; 

  • To ensure efficacy, the Recreation Therapist systematically evaluates the outcomes of their services; wherever possible the individual receiving services should be involved in this process; 

  • Through on-going self-reflective practice, Recreation Therapists critically examine their personal and professional competencies to ensure best practices; 

  • Throughout the process, the Recreation Therapist is responsible for advocacy and developing relationships with key stakeholders to ensure that individuals are equally valued members of the community; 

  • The Recreation Therapist is responsible for community development through recreation and leisure; 

  • As a professional in a health care field, the Recreation Therapist is responsible for following TRO’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. 



TR related organizations & associations

TRO works together with other TR associations and related organizations including regional professional associations across the province, the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association (CTRA), other TR organizations throughout Canada and the United States as well as our partners such as Activity Professionals of Ontario (APO) and Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO). Please see below for a list of other organizations.


Regional Therapeutic Recreation Associations in Ontario


Therapeutic Recreation Associations in Canada


International Therapeutic Recreation Associations


International Therapeutic Recreation Credentialing


Other Related Organizations