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“Working with people with disabilities in a recreational setting:” A look inside the therapeutic recreation major

Cait Kemp

Springfield College is known for its health-related programs, and attracts students from all over the country for majors such as Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, and Health Sciences. But what about the other multitude of majors that can be taken?

There are many other programs that are lesser known, but just as impressive and successful as the bigger ones. One of these programs is Therapeutic Recreation. 

It is also known as Recreational Therapy, and it is a program that works hand-in-hand with many of the other majors that are offered. 

“It’s working with people with disabilities in a recreational, leisurely setting to fulfill their needs and give them the best quality of life,” said Jocelyn Keough, a senior in the major. “So, we can work with any disability and population you can think of. From kids, to geriatrics, or amputees, PTSD, honestly anything.” 

The major is similar to physical therapy, but offers a different approach that can suit people better. 

“If they say they have anxiety, we work with that and plan an activity and program to help them over the [time] they are with us, which is cool. We work a lot with PTs and OTs, but we are kind of undermined, no one really thinks of us… no one really thinks of TR as a thing,” Keough said. 

Therapeutic Recreation is a unique program that offers a variety of settings and options to get involved with and focus on throughout a career. 

“A lot of other majors are that you are guaranteed to work in a clinical setting, or your guaranteed to work in a community based setting, what TR gives you is a wide variety of those settings and it allows you to work with people across a lifespan, from infancy all the way to older adulthood,” said TR professor, Rachel Keyworth. 

“We can work in hospital settings, nursing homes, adaptive sports, even jails, correctional facilities,” Keough added. 

Therapeutic Recreation uses a lot of the same classes as some of the other programs similar to it, but students in the major will take a very personalized course load in order to develop their interests. 

“The classes you take naturally track you based on your interests, so if you’re really thinking about clinical rehabilitation, you’re going to have clinically inclined classes with more of the medical model attached to those classes,” Keyworth said.

“If you’re thinking you want to specialize further in geriatrics, or older adults, there’s classes for that as well, so we really try to help students track themselves based on their areas of interest,” she added. 

The program is rigorous and very hands-on, allowing students to learn through experience, rather than the typical classroom environment all the time. With students’ interests in mind, they are able to focus on different areas in the community to gain more knowledge and practice their skills. 

“During classes, you’ll have service learning assignments that pair you with community organizations, so you’re planning therapeutic recreation programs for people in our community every semester. You get exposure early and often to the field, and classes aren’t just your traditional lectures,” Keyworth said. 

“You’re trying out the facilitation techniques, you’re working in group settings and you’re getting out into the community to just practice the skills and get better prepared for the national exam through hands on experiences,” she added.

Another unique feature of the recreational therapy program is that graduate school is not a requirement. The process of certification comes with experience hours and a national exam.

“We become a CTRS, which is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, and we do an internship that has to be 560 hours+ to get our certification to become a CTRS, and there is a huge exam we take to get certified. Once we have that title, we can start working in different fields,” said Keough. 

Helping people is a big theme here at Springfield College, and Therapeutic Recreation is another way the students here take action. 

The program is small, but members are hardworking and passionate about what they are doing. If you have any interest or questions about Therapeutic Recreation, reach out to Rachel Keyworth at

Photo: Bridge Center Facebook

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