What is Therapeutic Recreation and How Does it Impact Recovery?

It was the breakthrough she had been waiting for. Jan found it very difficult to share certain struggles with her counselor in ther one-on-one talk therapy sessions. But sitting here in front of a canvas, brush in hand, Jan was able to pour every emotion into her painting. When she finished, she explained it all to her counselor.

Every week, Dave remained silent during group therapy. He felt awkward and unsure about how to relate to people…so he kept to himself. All that changed when they walked onto the recreation field. Playing soccer and touch football changed the environment and interactions. Dave found himself feeling relaxed and more willing to open up to several guys in the group.

Making Recreation Therapeutic in Addiction Treatment

For many people who are dealing with substance abuse and addiction, traditional therapy isn’t enough. They need a different approach to get to the root issues. They need something more active. Something more physical.

The solution: therapeutic recreation.

This process uses activity-based interventions. By participating in one or more recreational activities, people move toward better physical and psychological health.

The recreation allows them to actively participate in their learning and growth. It helps them learn about themselves and others.

By participating in one or more recreational activities, people move toward better physical and psychological health.

Therapeutic recreation can include a variety of activities: arts and crafts, sports, dance, drama, animal interactions, games, and outings. By participating in these activities, people find outlets to express their emotions, work through trauma, and deal with anxiety.

It’s a form of therapy that can help people move forward in virtually every aspect of their lives – including recovery.

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Therapeutic Recreation Can Improve Health

Addiction negatively affects so many aspects of a person’s health. Therapeutic recreation can help to improve a wealth of these effects, including:

  • Physical Health: Addiction weakens the body. Therapeutic recreation involves physical activities that help strengthen the body, reduce pain, improve flexibility, and improve overall health.
  • Cognitive Health: Therapeutic recreation provides activities that keep the mind engaged. It can help improve alertness and awareness and reduce confusion. It can also enhance memory. People in recovery often struggle with these cognitive functions, so this type of therapy can be extremely helpful.
  • Mental Health: Therapeutic recreation can decrease the symptoms of depression. Since depression and substance abuse often go hand in hand, this can be very beneficial to those in recovery.
  • Social Health: Substance abuse often leads to isolation and it can be very hard for people in recovery to navigate relationships. Therapeutic recreation provides the opportunity to have healthy interactions, improve communication skills, and learn how to be social again without involving substances.
  • Emotional Health: Therapeutic recreation can help people confront their fears and overcome anxieties. It can offer an environment where they feel safe to open up and release these emotions. The result? They develop better coping skills and learn how to deal with triggers.

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…And Improve Skills

Recovering from addiction and living a life of sobriety is hard work. Certain life skills are essential.

By participating in therapeutic recreation, those in recovery can strengthen many of these skills including:

  • Coping Skills—Some therapeutic recreation activities help people learn how to manage stress and anxiety. These coping skills help them deal with day-to-day living without turning to substances.
  • Relaxation Skills—Often, people turn to substances as a way to relax or deal with stress. Therapeutic recreation teaches those in recovery other ways to relax that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.
  • Problem-solving Skills—Even the simple acts of playing a game or drawing a picture require problem-solving. As a person works through these challenges, they learn how to problem solve, overcome struggles, and think through situations. They discover how to work through problems rather than avoid them or make them worse with substance abuse.
  • Recovering from addiction and living a life of sobriety is hard work. Certain life skills are essential.

As these skills improve, participants also gain more confidence. They accomplish new things, develop new relationships, or create things they may have thought were impossible in the past. As this happens, their self-esteem improves, making them more confident to achieve even more. This healthy cycle continues to push them forward on the road to recovery.

To learn more about recovery options in your area, call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) .

Photos courtesy of Canva.

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