Living with Chronic Pain

What Is Recreation Therapy?


Recreation therapy involves the use of leisure activities to promote health and wellness, restore levels of functioning, and reduce activity limitations caused by pain or a medical condition. Quite simply, recreation therapy is the adult version of “play therapy” for children.

What are the potential benefits of recreation therapy?

Recreation therapy can improve functional independence, increase strength and physical fitness, reduce symptoms of depression, boost self-esteem, strengthen cognitive abilities, enhance social connections, and improve quality of life. It can be helpful during treatment or recovery from various health conditions, including cancer, injury, illness, surgery, stroke, or a substance abuse disorder.

What does recreation therapy involve?

Recreation therapists work with the individual and members of their medical team to set and achieve specific goals. Activities are often adapted to allow for any limitations the individual may have.

Recreation therapy is tailored to the individual’s interests. The following activities can be part of recreation therapy:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Sports
  • Dance
  • Board games or video games
  • Music
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Dramatic arts
  • Creative writing

These activities provide a wide variety of benefits. For example, playing a team sport can improve social skills, help develop strength and endurance, and improve quality of life. Playing an instrument or other musical activities can promote the production of endorphins, provide distraction from pain, and reduce pain levels.

Recreation therapy is a valuable addition to a treatment plan for many health conditions. It can be done in a variety of settings, including hospitals, mental health facilities, substance abuse centers, skilled nursing or assisted living facilities, or community centers.

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