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Recreational Therapy Program

What is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy is the prescribed use of recreational and other activities as treatment interventions to improve the functional living competence of persons with mental, emotional, and/or social disadvantages. Often working as a member of a clinical treatment team, the recreational therapist uses a wide variety of techniques, including: 

  • Adaptive Sports 
  • Adventure-based Therapy 
  • Anger Management and Assertiveness Training 
  • Aquatic Therapy 
  • Cognitive Retraining 
  • Community Reintegration 
  • Leisure Education 
  • Pain Management 
  • Physical Activity 
  • Stress Management and Relaxation Therapy 

Recreational Therapy at WCU

Recreational therapy students learning about Aquatic Therapy at a pool


WCU was the first university in the country to offer an accredited Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree specifically in recreational therapy. Join our groundbreaking program and get started on a rewarding career in recreational therapy.

The goal of the Recreational Therapy Program is “To prepare competent entry-level recreational therapists in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains.” You’ll learn from primary faculty members who are all certified and licensed recreational therapists with many years' experience as healthcare professionals, consultants, and educators. Our support faculty are experts in their respective fields—human anatomy and physiology, counseling, psychology, pharmacology, medical sciences, child development, and family relations.

Recreational therapists must complete a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the field to meet national certification and state licensing requirements. We’re proud that the academic transcripts of students exiting our program exceed all necessary requirements to sit for the exam leading to national professional credentialing and North Carolina licensure in recreational therapy.

The Recreational Therapy, B.S. degree requires 42 hours in Liberal Studies, 70 major hours, and eight hours of general electives.

As a program accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs through the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education programs, Western Carolina University is required to publish program outcomes on their website.

The first of these outcomes is exam passage rates.  The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification oversees application and testing processes for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist exam.  Students are eligible to sit for this exam upon satisfactory completion of the WCU RT major program of study, including a 14 week, 560 hour internship with a credentialed recreational therapist.  You may find the composite scores of test takers for July through August 2015 here, and the composite scores for first-time test takers from 2013 – May 2015 here.

The second outcome is the Clinical Performance Summary score annual results for all graduates.  This data is collected by ratings from internship supervisors within two weeks after the student has completed the internship.  Data is available for 36 students for the 2015 annual year.  All 36 students met or exceeded expectations in all 10 categories. 

Careers in Recreational Therapy

Western Carolina University recreational therapy undergraduates are eagerly sought after by clinical agencies desiring their services as interns and by employers seeking additions to their staff. Graduates of our program are employed by hospitals and treatment centers throughout the region and across the nation.

Who employs recreational therapists?

  • Psychiatric hospitals 
  • Nursing/convalescent homes 
  • Community outreach programs 
  • Wilderness therapy programs 
  • Physical rehabilitation hospitals  
  • Adult day care centers 
  • Prisons/juvenile care facilities 
  • Schools 
  • Private consultancy 

For more information on careers in recreational therapy, consult the program director or visit WCU’s Career Services for additional resources.

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