Department of Exercise, Health, and Sport Sciences

Recreation & Leisure Studies Program

What is Recreation Therapy?

  • 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 (ATRA, 2009).
  • “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 reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition” (ATRA, 2009). 


Further definition of Therapeutic Recreation as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. These therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts; drama, music, and dance; sports and games; aquatics; and community outings to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being. 

People who choose Therapeutic Recreation as their Profession:   

  • Have a passion for helping people with all abilities.
  • Want a rewarding career that increases the physical well-being of others.
  • Wish to make difference in the lives of others by using non-pharmacological interventions with a focus on recreation and nature.
  • Want hands-on learning experiences. In this program, you will be engaged with a variety of hands-on learning experiences both inside and out of the classroom. The Recreational Therapy curriculum will prepare you to work with children, adolescents, and adults with physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities in a variety of settings and specialty areas.

The Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies offers a student focused Baccalaureate Degree in Recreation and Leisure studies, with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation.  Our focus on student success is paramount, modeling the skill set required from students in the field.  In addition, the department offers minor degrees in:

  • Recreation Leadership
  • Nature Tourism
  • Disability Studies
  • Holistic Intergrated Health
  • Foundations for Holistic Health Certificate

And a certificate in Environmental Wellness and Outdoor leadership. 

Career Opportunities:

Recreational therapists assist clients in developing skills, knowledge and behaviors for daily living and community involvement in a variety of settings:

  • Long-Term Residential Care
  • Hospitals & Clinics
  • Community Park and Recreation Departments
  • Residential group homes
  • School systems
  • Correctional facilities
  • Home health
  • Outdoor Treatment Programs
  • Mental Health and Substance Use Programs
  • Respite and Hospice Centers
  • Veteran Services
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities


Salary Information:


Quick Facts: Recreational Therapists
2021 Median Pay $47,940 per year
$23.05 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 20,800
Job Outlook, 2020-30 10% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 2,200



Our Organizations:

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)

Maine Recreational Therapy Association (MERTA)

National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)


Our Partners (our partnerships continue to grow; this list is not inclusive):

Maine Adaptive

Maine Veteran’s Hospital

National Sports Center for the Disabled

New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland

Outdoors for All

Pappas Rehabilitation Hospital for Children

Portland Center for Therapeutic Recreation

Riverview Psychiatric Center

St. Mary’s Regional Health Care Center/Hospital

Veterans Adaptive Sports Training (VAST) – Pineland Farms

Numerous nursing homes also support our students' growth:  Sedgewood, The Cedars, The Barron Center, The Woods at Canco, Maine Veteran’s Home, and The Mooring, to name only a few.  We are grateful for your continued partnership with USM RLS.