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On Staying Up-to-Date

David R. Austin, Ph.D., CTRS, FALS
Indiana University

What follows are some thoughts on recreation therapy for your review and possible reaction.

It is critical for RT's to remain competent in their knowledge and skills related to service delivery. Many recreation therapy practitioners make some attempt to keep their skills sharp and their knowledge current so that they may deliver the hightest quality in clinical services. These professionals become certified with NCTRC. They belong to ATRA and/or NTRS. They regularly attend state, regional and national conferences. They maintain a professional library which contains recent books and issues of The Annual in TR and/or TRJ. And, from time to time, they may check out Web sites for the latest information on recreation therapy.

While thousands of RT's make a concerted effort to keep up their skills and knowledge base, many of our colleagues who call themselves "professionals" do not do the things they need to do in order to remain current with their field. For example, while there are somewhere around 35,000 practicing RT's, only about 13,000 are nationally certified through NCTRC. Certification, of course, assures only a minimal standard for practice, which these practitioners do not maintain.

Of the 13,000 CTRS's, how many are members of their national professional societies? We know that many are not involved. ATRA, our largest society, has a professional membership of around 3,000 (and another 1,000 student members). NTRS has even fewer members. It is clear that many who term themselves to be professionals are not members of our professional societies.

How many professionals attend at least one state conference each year? How many attend regional or national conferences? While figures are not available for all conferences, we know that the largest conferences usually attract less than 1,000 participants. ATRA's Annual Conference runs somewhere over 800 participants. The Midwest TR Symposium usually has had less than 1,000 registered. It seems that many of the 35,000 RT's in the USA do not choose to attend professional meetings on a regular basis.

For those RT's who are not receiving materials from professional societies or who are not attending professional meetings, how do they keep up with the latest information from their profession? One might assume that they obtain books and journals and read them. It is doubtful, however, that these individuals are avid readers. To begin, how would they access literature? If they are not members of professional societies, it is unlikely that they are receiving information to make them aware of possible publications. Even those who are active often have to admit that their personal professional libraries are not as complete as they might be.

Are those RT professionals who visit WWW sites professionally active as reflected by NCTRC certification, membership in professional societies, attendance at professional meetings, and reading of professional literature? My guess is that it is exactly those who are the most professionally active that get on the Web. I believe Web users are some of our most active professionals.

In sum, many RT's do not strive to remain proficient practitioners. This is too bad for them as they do not continue to grow as professionals. But, more importantly, it is a shame because their clients do not receive the type of service delivery that might be expected to be provided by a true professional who stays current in his or her professional practice.

Do you share my thoughts regarding the professional involvement, or lack thereof, of may recreation therapists? If not, why not? If so, what can we do to help our colleagues realize the necessity to maintain and develop their professional proficiency?

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Archive of Responses


Dear Dr. Austin, I have several reasons why the RT profession has a lack of enthusiasm of trying to strive to stay up-to-date in this field: The first is the ridiculous cost and fee I have to pay to attend seminars, conferences, professional organization (and exam for an extremely low paying profession! Secondly I as recreation therapist lack the educational academia! The Recreation Therapy field should be a masterís level program instead of an undergraduate program! Thirdly, I lack respect in the treatment team, the other professions in the treatment team thinks when I go to a RT conference or seminar I am learning how to play Bingo in a new way! Finally, when you have other professions such as the Occupational Therapy fields over lapping the Recreation Therapy profession and being more noticeable and recognized in the healthcare profession it puts a damper on we Recreation Therapist. I feel like the Occupational Therapist are re-inventing the wheel with Recreation Therapist ideas and principle and sweeping our profession under the rug. As for you Dr. Austin, a major pawn in the Recreation Therapy field please is more aggressive in advocating for better standards and recognition so that you and your peers can encourage and motivate all the current and new Recreation Therapists!
Newark, NJ USA Kean UniversitySunday, May 29, 2011 at 17:08:28 (EDT), IP Address: 683995159

Sir, I am an Ayurvedic physician and Yoga teacher from India.I am also trained in Indian music and Dance.I am working in clinical field for the past 14 years.I know Ayurvedic massage too.Can you please advise which place is suitable for me to learn RT?Do I need to study 4 years to get employment in US?
Mary Smitha
Kochi, kerala India Naivedya Ayurveda HospitalMonday, February 28, 2011 at 21:55:54 (EST), IP Address: 1119270231
It is interesting that not much has changed with this issue over the years. In Canada, we are currently experiencing interesting times. Our National organization (the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association -CTRA), is looking to join up with the NCTRC and the CTRS designation as an international standard - this may occur as early as the Spring 2009. We have many provincial bodies -the one in Ontario is Therapeutic Recreation Ontario - TRO. They have a process of registration which has been ongoing for several years. The thought is with a minimum amount of points in professional contribution, education, professional affiliation and work experience, the person is able to be registered to this voluntary organization so that should they develop their own certification exam, they would have already gone through the process and be able to sit for it. The point being that members of each organization see continued education and upgrading as a means to some end vs. an opportunity to grow and become a better practitioner and human being. Many folks I have worked with are quite happy to work 9 - 5 and simply put in hours n eeded to collect their pay check. There is often a routine to their day (i.e., horseshoes on Tuesday morning, Trivia Thursday afternoon) that accomodates the therapists' schedule and without considering the clientele whatsoever. I mention the TRO and CTRA example to illustrate that this is endemic of the field here. With an individual being registered, they are able to write this as of yet developed (and paid for) certification exam. Because their education and professional contribution has been deemed as OK, they do not need to upgrade before writing this exam. So if it takes 5 years (on top of the five years this process has already taken) a person could theoretically sit for this exam without any continuing education or upgrading over the last ten years. What kind of message does this send to its members? Dave, it is not enough to tell people what they should or shouldn't be doing as CTRS's. They need to be taught the skills and be educated about the potential to become better for their clients but also for themselves. It is a bit of a buzz word/topic at the moment but Reflective Practice could be the way to deliver this ideal. Competencies have their place but if people could match their personal needs with the work that they do and their clients interests and needs as well, while following some sort of systematic theoretical foundation, they would/should be interested in Continuing Education and workshops because of the personal interest and value it would to her or him vs. just doing it because they are supposed to or need to for certification/registration/regulation. I am working on a thesis proposal around Reflective Practice and honestly believe it will be the saving grace to connect practitioners back to their values, their work and their clients to make what we do fresh, exciting and valuable to us again. Hope retirement is treating you well. Mike Latin
Michael Latin
Hamilton, Ontario canada Mohawk CollegeTuesday, October 07, 2008 at 20:49:05 (CDT), IP Address: 67163175144
Dear Dr. Austin, I read your article with interest.I have just completed my final year Bsc leisure and recreation management,read about your field of interest and am wishing to per sue the same.Please if possible send me more information.
Oliver Kirimi
Nairobi, Kenya Kenyatta UniversityThursday, June 26, 2008 at 08:42:47 (CDT), IP Address: 41223108242
Dear Dr. Austin, I read your article with interest and must agree that many professionals are not keeping up with the literature. I am a member of the psychology staff at NARH. Our department head is responsible for both psychology and recreation. The hospital provides opportunities for all staff to earn CE units. The curriculum however is primarily aimed at psychiatrists and concerned with pharmachology. We are very interested in updating our programing and our structure to support patients who are currently psychotic.
Christine Bridges MS cdbridges*
Huntsville, AL USA North Alabama Regional Hospital - Thursday, December 07, 2006 at 11:43:18 (CST)
I am a student in my final year Bsc leisure and recreation management,read about your field of intrest and am wishing to persue the same.Please if possible send me more information.
oliver kirimi oliverkirimi*
nairobi, kenya kenyatta university - Tuesday, April 04, 2006 at 04:28:06 (CDT)
Please email me where Suny has a Reacreation and Leisure course and how much the costs are of this program.
Kittie Parry i_am_kittie*
Whitesboro, NY USA Oneida Boces - Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 09:32:15 (CST)
I am responding to a comment from one of your readers. A comment was made about him/her feeling that a pitiful amount of people call themselves TR when they are not certified, or keep involved in the organization. I personally do not have my CTRS, or even a Bachelors degree in TR. I do refer to myself as a Activities Proffesional, B/c I do not have the credentials. The point i want to make is that in a field like TR, you either have the talent,creativity, and enthusiasm for it, or you don't. They can not teach you anything in school, that experience in the field hasn't shown me. I have worked for TR CTRS certified persons who had nothing to offer to the field. Also I have worked with people with little or no experience, that were the most creative and socially inclined people i have ever seen. Of course it does work both ways. The question i have is: Do you really need to be certified in TR to do your job right. I know my answer, but wanted a feedback from the other end. I love my job, and 4 years of college, and meetings for CEU's couldn't keep me away from it. Thank you for your time
Allison Cioffaletti Allicioffi*
Kings Park, N.Y USA None - Monday, January 30, 2006 at 23:48:27 (CST)

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