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The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) is the only national membership organization representing the interests and needs of therapeutic recreation specialists, also known as recreational therapists. Recreational therapists are healthcare providers who plan, direct, deliver, and evaluate recreation-based interventions for individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions. They provide research-informed interventions that are based on client assessments and targeted client outcomes.

ATRA, was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1984 as a non-profit, grassroots organization in response to a growing concern about the dramatic changes in the healthcare industry. As a result of this response, ATRA has grown from a membership of 60 individuals in June 1984 to 2,200 in 2014.



We envision a world where all people have access to Recreational Therapy.

Revised by ATRA Board of Directors | May 2015


We empower Recreational Therapists

Revised by ATRA Board of Directors | May 2015


Recreational therapy, also known as therapeutic recreation, is a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. 

Revised by ATRA Board of Directors | May 2015



(Supplemental description for use as needed) “Recreational Therapy means a treatment service designed to restore, remediate, and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness, as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition” (ATRA, 2009). 

Adopted by ATRA Board of Directors | May 2015


  • Therapeutic Recreation is the field
  • Recreational Therapy is the practice
  • Recreational Therapists are the practitioners
  • The CTRS (Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist) is the qualified provider


Adopted by ATRA Board of Directors | May 2015




We Believe…

  1.  Recreational Therapy is a process provided in diverse settings.
  2. Assessment, Planning, Intervention, Evaluation, and Documentation (APIED) are the foundation of Recreational Therapy.
  3. In Evidence Based Practice, Professional Credentialing, and Accreditation.
  4. In building powerful relationship to strengthen Recreational Therapy.
  5. In mentoring and developing professionals.

Adopted by ATRA Board of Directors | May 2015



The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) has an ongoing commitment to advancing diversity within the field of recreational therapy. We acknowledge that diversity includes any aspect of an individual that makes him or her unique. Our association values and actively promotes diverse and inclusive participation by its leaders, members and affiliates.

Further, the association works to educate its membership about diversity issues, and to foster an environment that acknowledges the contributions of all its members. We value the role that diversity plays in every aspect of service delivery, recognizing that diversity is vital to all elements of recreational therapy practice and education.

Revised by ATRA Board of Directors | September 2011



ATRA believes that a single form of academic program accreditation is essential in ensuring consistent content and rigor among undergraduate recreational therapy programs. One of ATRA’s Guiding Principles is our belief in “evidenced based practice, professional credentialing, and accreditation” (ATRA, 2015). Additionally, one of the key findings from the ATRA Higher Education Task Force was to strengthen and standardize undergraduate recreational therapy curricula.


Current Status

In support of our guiding principles, findings from the Higher Education Task Force, and in support of consistent RT educational experiences, ATRA sponsors the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education (CARTE). ATRA believes accreditation through CARTE is the best method for ensuring consistent content and rigor within undergraduate RT educational programs due to its sole focus on curriculum competencies related to recreational therapy.


Adopted by ATRA Board of Directors | August 2019


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10/17/2020 » 10/25/2020
2020 ATRA Virtual Conference

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