Tells us how you got into this field:
While I was growing up, my family regularly went camping at a local campground. My sister and I would always participate in activities put on by the park’s naturalist (e.g. hiking, building birdhouses, making ice cream, watching movies). When I became old enough to realize that was somebody’s job to do these fun things in the park, I knew I wanted to do something similar. I went to Kent State University to study Parks & Recreation Management. I also had an interest in working with people who have disabilities since my mother is a speech therapist and regularly exposed me to the special needs population. I decided to complete a certificate program for Disability Studies and Community Inclusion alongside my major. Through the combination of these courses, I stumbled upon recreational therapy in one of my textbooks. Not only did I highly value the protection and use of parks and recreation resources, I wanted all members of the community to have access to those experiences and benefits. Some people just need a little extra help and I wanted to be that person for them, so recreational therapy felt like a perfect fit. I happened to have a professor who was already a CTRS and previously collaborated with faculty from Indiana University in the recreational therapy program. She highly recommended IU, so I took my chances and before I knew it I was moving to Bloomington. I completed their graduate program to obtain my Master’s Degree in Recreational Therapy, and now I’m a recreational therapist!
Tell us what you like best about your current position or career path:
I love that I’m able to incorporate my clients’ personal interests and hobbies into their therapy. It’s a lot more motivating to reach your goals when you’re having fun doing it! It’s also great that I’ve been able to work with the same group of people since I started at Pure Abilities. That way, I have the opportunity to build a strong relationship with them, truly understand all the domains involved in treating the person as a whole, and am lucky enough to see their progress firsthand.
Tell us what is most challenging about your current position, the industry, or the program:
For me, the most challenging aspect of providing recreational therapy services in a community setting is the instability of my schedule. Sometimes clients cancel last minute, their availability changes depending on appointments, school, jobs, day programs, living situations, and team members send emails after 9:00 PM. This job is very flexible, but as someone who thrives under structure, the level of unpredictability in this setting can be frustrating at times.
Share what skills and characteristics are most important to be successful in this field or program:
I believe the most important skills in my current position are patience, empathy, and versatility. I work with people who have developmental disabilities and they may need me to be patient while they take additional time to process information and make decisions, work through difficult emotions, communicate their wants and needs, and make progress towards their goals. Since recreational therapy is a caring profession, therapists should be empathetic and considerate towards human beings and their individual needs. Recreational therapy can be provided in a multitude of sessions and uses a wide range of activities, so therapists need to be versatile in how they interact with people and facilitate interventions.
Share a short-term goal you’re pursuing or working toward:
A short-term goal that I’m working on in my current position is contributing to the build-up of our professional network to increase the awareness of Pure Abilities as a company, and also the recreational therapy profession as a whole. I’ve been preparing to get involved with students at several universities in hopes of sharing more details about recreational therapy and future options. Another goal outside of what I’m doing now is thinking about what I want to do next. I’m still fresh in this career and am determined to broaden my skill set. Since recreational therapy can be utilized with a variety of settings and populations, I want to expose myself to new experiences and learn more for both personal and professional growth.
Tell us about an experience you had in college that prepared you most for your current career?
Since this profession is heavily involved in direct interactions with people, I think the best opportunities for preparation were volunteer or service experiences. In both my undergrad and graduate programs, I had classes that required me to go out into the community and complete volunteering and observation. This allowed me to see different settings such as recreation centers, skilled nursing facilities, summer camps, and hospitals. I view every experience as a learning opportunity, and exposure is the best way that helped guide me in my interests and determine the job type that best suited me.
Share any other piece of advice you have for a current student pursuing your same path:
As cliché as it sounds, the best advice I can give is to be true to yourself and do something you genuinely enjoy. All jobs have pros and cons, and some days are tougher than others. But if you can be involved in something you truly believe in and the purpose it serves, it is so much more motivating. Do some self-reflection – identify your skills, personality traits, and interests. Don’t try to fit yourself into a box and compromise parts of yourself for a job. Use those special things about you and find something that supplements those qualities to bring out the best version of yourself.