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Challenges Facing Therapeutic Recreation

by Alistair MacKinnon, reproduced with permission.

Challenges Facing Therapeutic Recreation. The challenges facing Therapeutic Recreation at the moment are:

1. The lack of information on Therapeutic Recreation that is available to other professional bodies or organizations where Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist's find themselves working, and

2. The lack of professional and personal development of entering Therapeutic Recreation Specialists.

Firstly, the lack of information on TR creates a false picture of what TR is in the minds of fellow professionals. I have found that many professionals view TR as being merely diversionary and playful in nature. These ideas, that we are viewed as the people who play with the clients, that we are diversionary, need to be changed. This pervasive view is especially prominent among younger professionals in other fields. More mature professionals may have a better sense of the value of TR. What we are doing is essentially rehearsing, with the clients, actions, feelings, movements and attitudes that they may have deal with, within themselves or with others when they leave the facility.

I find this rehearsal or programming time is becoming problematic in the work place. Our fellow colleagues, unfortunately, use program time to do core work on units without the clients. This core work includes: strategic planning, departmental changes, model creation, etc. Most of this work is done with the CTRS busy working with the clients. The CTRS has no direct input on client care, departmental policy, and the laying of a positive foundation for the future of client services.

This issue can be addressed at the local level by in-service trainings, providing information from our professional bodies, and by the CTRS doing the best professional work possible. But do we have readily accessible information that is appropriate? Where is this information, and is it applicable to the individual TR unit?

Yes, we have TR week, posters and flyers, but in my opinion, a well trained TR person will create or leave a legacy far more effective than this superficial information. At the national level, bridges must be built between comparable professional bodies, e.g. counseling, medicine, rehabilitation sciences, etc. This is and must continue to be, part of the mandate of our organizations. One area, however, that is lacking is building bridges and interdepartmental communication at the University level.

Students and professors ought to actively educate while they are in other classes and on campus. Skills can be developed at school on how to best advocate for TR in professional settings. This awareness program may have to be continued on a yearly basis until TR is sufficiently in the minds of brother and sister professions that education at the professional level can function merely as a reminder to an already established base.

This means that as students or professionals we must be able to talk their language as well as our own. For if they debate with us or require information we must answer back and provide an adequate answer. Then we can bring them to way of perceiving how we view our clients, our profession and leisure. This leads to my second point.

The second problem, as I see it, is preparation for professional entry. This problem may be harder to consider. To adequately represent the profession, the entering CTRS ought to have as many broad based skills as is necessary to carry out functions as required. The functions that are required in all TR settings are the programming of activities and interventions, based on the ITP or the goals and objectives of the team.

As CTRS's we are trained in writing goals and objectives for groups and activities, but what I feel is lacking is the ability to deliver on the intervention and application of the goals and objectives, while the intervention is taking place. Emphasis on technical skills is essential for third party reimbursement, but to have successful groups or outcomes we must have knowledge of group dynamics, life experiences and failures. This may be part of the internship, but to fail too often may reflect a lack of training in the facilitation of groups and with people skills in general.

To counteract this, students ought to have as much group work as possible. This would be direct facilitation of groups, not just team orientated activity planning. This ought to be coupled with a class on personal growth and development or visits with groups that are on this path, e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Service organizations, Habitat for Humanity, self help groups or personal support groups for people with disabilities. A class on human growth and development is not adequate except for points of reference. An understanding of pain, internal suffering, and the ability to overcome, strike me as being much more appropriate to the task self actualization.

This is a holistic profession and as practitioners we ought to be walking our talk. This will place a larger burden on students, but it would be one that is reflected in better professional skills and better human beings helping other's. If we profess, as an end result, self actualization and growth as goals for our clients then we too must be on this path, if we are not, then we really do not understand where we are going or how to get there, let alone guide someone through the process.

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