Recreational Therapist Interviews

Hello all! My name is Taylor Gbur and I am pursuing my Masters in Leisure Studies with an emphasis in Recreational Therapy at Oklahoma State University. This blog is reported from the perspective of Recreational Therapists via interviews in person and through emails. I tried to talk to Recreational Therapists from a variety of settings and I asked all of them the same three questions:

  1. What advice do you have for students who want to work in your area of practice?
  2. What area of professional development would you recommend that students focus on?
  3. Is there anything you wish you would have known as a student?

If you do not want to read all the individual responses below, I found some common themes from the responses. They are:

  1. Be flexible and willing to work with all kinds of populations! Also, volunteer during your studies in the area you would like to work in the future to help get your foot in the door.
  2. Work on documentation skills and use of valid assessments, improve public speaking skills, participate in conferences and stay up to date with education, and have a variety of resources and activities in your tool box.
  3. Read, read, and read some more during school so you don’t have to play catch up later! If there are any certifications or extra degrees that you can pursue then do so to help advance your career. Finally, seek all opportunities and resources available to you and get INVOLVED because that experience is going to prepare you for your future career as a Recreational Therapist!

Sarah Sands, CTRS

Oklahoma City VA Health Care System

  1. Don’t be picky! Be open to working will all different ages and populations such as mental health to rehab to geriatrics.
  2. I would like to see students focus more on development of treatment goals, specific documentation, and note taking skills.
  3. I wish I could have had the choice between mental health or rehabilitation, but when I was in school those were not options. I would say to take all the opportunities that you can.


Cassie Tarin, CTRS

Behavioral Health in Enid, OK

  1. Have a very open mind and don’t take things too seriously.
  2. Your internship is going to prepare you with the most resources that you will use in practice. Collect as many resources as possible. Also, going to conferences allows you to learn more to add to your practice!
  3. I wish would have read and studied more while I was in school because I had to go back and read a lot. The Facilitating Techniques book by Austin (5th edition) helped me a lot.


Maggie Evans, CTRS

Children’s Therapeutic Specialist

Out & About is a community-based setting that offers Therapeutic Recreation programming for Adults and Kids with Developmental Disabilities.

  1. For students wanting to work in this setting, I would give advice that to successfully work or volunteer in a community-based setting individuals should take on the mindset of flexibility and being able to adapt to change. High energy, excitement, and support take our participants to the next level and really propel individuals to want to reach their full potential(s).
  2. Next, for this setting I think a huge part of professional development would be continuing education. Keeping up with conferences, CEU credit opportunities, and other opportunities professional organizations have to offer is important for any Therapeutic Recreation student continuing into the field, especially community-based, as there could be a lot of opportunity to partner with and further relationships with the community.
  3. Third, I wish I had more opportunities as a student to attend different conferences and get a bit more of a national-wide feel into the opportunities that TR presents. A larger scale view into things I was currently learning about would have been a great tie into work and practices I would be experiencing after graduation.


Kory Blair, CTRS

Director of Life Enrichment, Sabal Palms Children’s Center

  1. Get your foot in the door by working with your desired population; this could be through volunteering, internships, practicums, or work-experience. Special Education classrooms and Special Olympic programs are usually in constant need of volunteers. I would also suggest looking into training courses to become Certified Nursing Assistant or Personal Care Provider. Walking into a sub-acute setting can be overwhelming, tubes and IV poles, alarms constantly sounding, specialized equipment being used, and medical jargon abounds. It’s hard to feel comfortable in an environment when there are so many unknowns. I would also suggest students get experience working with typically developing children. It’s hard to know what goals to work on if you are on unaware of developmental milestones and the various stages of child development. Reading about it in a text book is one thing, putting the knowledge you learned into practical skills requires a different set of abilities. I would also stress the need to be open minded. Jobs working as a CTRS in a pediatric setting are few and far between. I believe the 2014 NCTRC Job Analysis report said less than 12% of CTRS worked with pediatrics and or adolescents. Volunteering with organizations is a great way to get your foot in the door and provides excellent experience.
  1. Child Development, Abnormal Psychology, and Motor Learning should all be keys areas of focus. Outside of the classroom knowing lots of different games, being up on the latest cartoons, and having a bit of sports trivia in your back pocket can help prepare you to work with a variety of ages and functioning abilities.
  2. I wish I had been more familiar with Child Life, looking back I would have tried to get dual certification, or at least would have taken a few Child Life classes as there is a lot of overlap with the professions especially when working in pediatrics.


Jeff Dick, CTRS

Community setting focusing on individuals with developmental and physical disabilities

  1. This may sound strange but one thing I’d strongly recommend is to know your TR service delivery models. As you look at different agencies and how they serve community members with disabilities, the service models can provide you with a guide for the delivery. They are a framework to ensure that you are staying true to the field and don’t take any “shortcuts” in the delivery of services. Another recommendation is to gain as much experience with as many populations as possible in as wide a variety of settings as possible. I use the many years I spent working in traditional, clinical settings frequently in delivery of community based programming. Finally, learn what resources are in your area that provide disability specific services and community education and take advantage of those agencies to create collaborations for the benefit of your mutual clientele.
  2. That’s a tough one. I’d suggest really, really immersing yourself in all TR specific areas of education and development available. Assessment skills and knowledge of available assessments and their use (nontraditional and formal), leadership, knowledge of anatomy and physiology, technical writing, public speaking…. all of these are essential at our agency.
  3. The only thing I can think of is to really put yourself out as much as possible regarding volunteer opportunities. Really taking advantage of each opportunity that comes up, regardless of whether you think you’ll ever need it or not (you will need it someday) and really immersing yourself in each experience. Looking for ways to implement those skills you’re learning and watching how others implement them as well.


Julianne Herrera MS, CTRS

In Patient Rehab & HBNF

Stroke & TBI Support Group
If you have questions about IRF, please contact:


IRF (in patient rehab facility) have a basic knowledge of the following:

  • Rehab terminology
  • FIM
  • IRF equipment/AD (assistive device) for instance RW, MSRW, PFRW, WC, Aux. Crutches, SPC, WBQC, etc.
  • Ortho/neuro/generalized debility precautions
  • Neuro VS ortho transfers & interventions

For Contract Services:

  • Calculate estimated expenses (gas, supplies, mal practice insurance, CUE etc.).
  • Set aside money for self-employment taxes.
  • Have a concrete grasp R/T time management.
  • Have a basic knowledge of variety Psychological & Physical Dx for pediatrics, adolescents, adults, & geriatrics.
  • Have a standardized bag of “tricks” to carry in your trunk.
  • EXTREME & RIGID book keeping R/T mileage, expenses/receipts, utilities, carmaintenance, etc.

2. Research R/T benefits of RT & a standardized RT assessment for IRF Px, licensure via NCTRC & state level, public speaking at conferences and para-professionals to educate what our field does VS OT, PT, ST, & Psyche.

3. Basic knowledge of the following: rehab terminology, equipment, ortho/neuro/generalized debility precautions, neuro VS ortho transfers & interventions.

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