Recreation Therapist vs. Activities Director
Do these careers overlap? And, what are the pathways to obtaining these careers?
1. What are the differences? While these two careers overlap in various aspects; there are significant differences between what a Recreational Therapist and/or a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist can do compared to an Activities Director. TR as a field of study aims to use recreation as a means to improve quality of life in people of ALL ages and abilities, by using their interests to obtain specific goals. In short, recreation therapists utilize recreational services to achieve a specific outcome. This could be, to improve fine motor skills by aiding someone in knitting who just had a stroke, develop social emotional skills to better associate with others with someone who has Autism, or while bowling help someone improve their balance and strength. These sessions, whether they be group or individuals are meaningful in the sense that TR has an end result (in most cases); similar to Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy. TR is aiming to lead people to live Independent Leisure Lifestyles. Therapeutic Recreation Specialists work in an array of areas from Nursing Homes, to psychiatric facilities, to rehab houses, and more.
Activity Directors are those trained to work in the field of geriatrics, and provide meaningful, engaging activities for seniors in a variety of settings from assisted living, to long term care, to even hospice. AD’s and their assistants use their knowledge to create person-centered programming for all residents in their facilities to target specific needs from social, physical, creative, religious and more.
Do these fields overlap? Of course they do, most noticeably in geriatric field. Though these professions are different in key aspects, they tend to overlap each other. While, TR’s ideal goal is to aid specific people in maintaining their highest level of functioning by means of recreation, it tends to get caught in the middle of other therapies geriatric facilities employ (PT, OT, etc.) TR seems to get lost in the mix. Therefore, depending on your facility the two fields might merge with TR care plans, but you’re still calling BINGO on Wednesdays! *cough cough* Overall, regardless of specifics both fields aim to improve quality of life for those we are serving and provide meaningful connections through fun, play and creativity!