Recreational Therapy students learn how to use recreation and other active treatment interventions to help people recover or strengthen physical and cognitive abilities; reduce depression, stress and anxiety; build confidence; or interact socially. Recreational therapists often work as part of a clinical treatment team in hospital settings, though others may work in areas such as day treatment, adventure-based therapy, or therapeutic recreation sections of parks and recreation departments. Treatment interventions may include areas such as physical activity, stress management and relaxation therapies, community integration, assertiveness, or pain management. WCU was the first accredited university in the country to offer a bachelor of science degree specifically in recreational therapy, and was the first to obtain CAAHEP accreditation through the Committee for the Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education.
Students take courses from faculty members who are experienced, certified and licensed recreational therapists. Basic coursework includes courses on assessing clients, writing treatment plans and learning documentation, and understanding treatment modalities. In addition, several upper-division courses include service-learning practice in areas such as older adults, adventure-based therapy, and behavioral health. To fulfill their degree programs, students complete full-time internships under the supervision of licensed recreational therapists at a wide variety of hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care facilities. In addition, WCU's Recreational Therapy Association hosts special events, service learning projects, guest speakers and field trips to exemplary recreational therapy programs in the region. Students also attend professional conferences hosted by organizations such as the North Carolina Recreational Therapy Association.
Graduates of WCU's program exceed all necessary requirements to sit for the exam leading to national certification and North Carolina licensure in recreational therapy. Employing recreational therapists are psychiatric hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, wilderness therapy programs, physical rehabilitation hospitals, adult day care center, prisons and juvenile care facilities and schools. Undergraduates in WCU's program are sought after by clinical agencies interested in hiring them to be work as 1:1 supports and in direct care positions; graduates are employed by hospitals and treatment centers throughout the region and across the nation.