Therapeutic recreation is a health-oriented field. A degree in this field can lead to a career in a wide range of professions, including but not limited to community recreation programs, non-profit leisure organizations, specialists who assist families in coping with illness and life-changing events, and therapists who help individuals improve quality of life and social function through recreational activities.
Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Therapists also may provide interventions, such as introducing a therapy dog, to patients.
Therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to help maintain or improve a patient's physical, social, and emotional well-being. Therapists help people reduce depression, stress, and anxiety; recover basic physical and mental abilities; build confidence; and socialize effectively.
Why Study at Iowa?
Many campus resources relate to the therapeutic recreation major, including the Division of Recreational Services, the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, Student Health and Wellness, Disability Studies, and the Aging Studies Program. Visit the Health and Human Physiology website for links to other resources.
A bachelor's or master's degree in therapeutic recreation will qualify students to sit for the National Therapeutic Recreation Certification examination.
The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program in therapeutic recreation is offered through the Department of Health and Human Physiology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Course work includes foundation courses in therapeutic recreation (such as evaluation, programming, rehabilitation, and disabilities) and several courses in supporting disciplines such as anatomy, human development and behavior, human services, and psychology.
Students also must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences General Education requirements as well as a pre-internship seminar and internship.
See Therapeutic Recreation in the UI General Catalog for information about course requirements and graduating with honors.
Minor in Therapeutic Recreation
Review Therapeutic Recreation in the UI General Catalog for more details.
Therapeutic Recreation majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Admission Requirements Tabs
Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.
Recreational therapists work in both community-based and clinical settings with a wide variety of populations, but most frequently with persons with mental illness, spinal cord and brain injuries, frail older adults, substance abusers and youths at risk, and persons with developmental disabilities. Most therapists work full-time and some also work evenings or weekends to meet the needs of their patients.
Clinical settings tend to focus on rehabilitation, where the therapist works with a team of allied health professionals, or long-term care, where they provide services that enhance quality of life of residents in nursing homes, assisted living centers, or respite care agencies.
Community-based therapeutic recreation is the fastest-growing area of practice and the most varied. These therapists may work in community recreation departments, school systems, semi-independent living situations, and community mental health agencies. The goals of therapeutic recreation in community-based settings tend toward enhancing quality of life, health promotion, and integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities in regular recreation programs.
As the population ages, recreational therapists will be needed to help treat age-related injuries and illnesses as well as to help seniors remain active in their communities and maintain their independence later in life.
Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a therapeutic recreation major.